So we had some friends come visit last night.
They are religious Christians (brother and sister) who love the Jewish people, and one of them actually attends our synagogue on a regular basis.
We had a nice time talking and eating, and I also learned an interesting religious lesson.
The man told me how he understood that Judaism is very focused on rules (i.e. laws) that people are supposed to follow as laid out in the Torah.
But he said, it is also important to build a relationship with G-d.
The relationship being about sincerely knowing that G-d is there for us, that we are bound to him, that we express our gratitude for everything he does for us, and that we ask him for what we need.
I think the main difference in how he described it was that is was not in a rote and ritualistic type of way, but rather as in a real relationship, where we talk to G-d naturally and recognize him benevolently and lovingly.
As Jews, we know we cannot substitute a loving relationship with G-d for doing what we are commanded to do, but perhaps we can do both.
We can follow the rules–the do’s and don’ts–AND we can bind with G-d in a one on one relationship–where we are and feel bound to him not just because we must, but rather because we really love him for creating us, sustaining us, and he is the ultimate good in universe.
When we are in a “relationship” with G-d, it’s because he is someone we want to cling to, relate to, talk to, and yearn for.
This is a just little different than how I learned about this in yeshiva, where it was much more about loving and fearing G-d in a rule-based way–again because we are commanded to do it.
But perhaps it is nice also to love and fear G-d, because he is G-d and we are in a deep and growing relationship with him. 😉