Judaism Is a Religion of the Heart (Shai Held, 3/22/24, WSJ)

We have all heard it a thousand times. Christianity is about love, we are told, but Judaism is about…something else, like law or justice. In a similar vein, we often hear that whereas Christianity cares about how you feel and what you believe, Judaism cares only about what you do. Judaism is a religion of action, we’ve been taught, not emotion; a religion of deeds, of rote rituals, not inwardness.

Centuries of Christian anti-Judaic polemics are not the only source of such distortions and misapprehensions; they are also part of a broader phenomenon in American Jewish life. Perhaps because of anxiety about assimilation, American Jews long ago began to define Judaism as whatever they thought Christianity was not. So because Christianity was about love, Judaism was, well, not about love. […]

The Torah issues three dramatic love commands. We are charged to love our neighbor, a fellow member of the covenant between God and Israel; to love the stranger, someone who lives among us despite not being part of our kin group and who is therefore vulnerable to exploitation; and to love God, who created the world, redeemed us from slavery, and gave us the Torah as an act of love and commitment. Later Jewish sources clarify that we have an additional obligation to love all human beings, who were created in the image of God and who are part of the same single human family as we are.