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Can Love be Avodah Zarah (Idolatry)?

Rabbi Ari ShvatElul 27, 5772
431
Question
Dear rabbi, Thank you in advance for your answering. My question is multiple: Up to which point can love turn into avodah zarah? How can we identify that we can reach that point? And what to do to prevent it? Shelly
Answer
Shalom, Love for one’s family, nation, Land etc., can definitely not be avoda zara! As a matter of fact, the opposite is true. Our G-d is one of love and He purposely created the positive nature to love one’s spouse, children, nation, etc. “Love your neighbor as yourself (is continued by:) I am G-d” (Vayikra 19, 18). Davka in paganism, they saw love of god and love of family as contradicting and one at the expense of the other, and accordingly, they saw child-sacrifice as a great religious act. Contrarily, the Torah teaches us in Akeidat Yitzchak, that Hashem davka wanted to teach the world to stop that evil. “Don’t even touch the child”, meaning: “no more child-sacrifices!” Rav Kook in his Olat ReIya commentary on the siddur explains, that’s exactly the point: by us in monotheism, love of family and nation is an extension and expression of G-dly love, and surely not a contradiction to love of Hashem. Just as the perfect G-d is a giver (not a "taker"), and altruistically loves His children and His beloved spouse (Israel), as He loves all that He created, so too we are meant to emulate Him and do so, as well. G-d wants us to be loving people: lovers of G-d, Israel, family, ideals, mankind, nature, and actually everything. That way we will not only be good, moral and G-dly, but also happy, as every Father wants for his children. With Love of Israel, Rav Ari Shvat
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