This might be a difficult concept to understand, but love is an obligation, a duty. This is contrary to the image created by popular culture, from Ancient Greeks and Romans, to Shakespeare, to romantic movies on Netflix.
The mythical Amur, or Cupid, is a cute mischievous child armed with bow and arrows who blindly shoots unsuspecting mortals through their hearts and laughs his curly head off when they fall in love. A wealth of world art has been inspired by this little prankster. However, Judaism perceives love as “the emotional pleasure a human being experiences when he understands and focuses on the virtues of another human being.” Rabbi Noah Weinberg, the dean and founder of the worldwide educational organization Aish HaTorah, explains that “love, therefore, is overwhelmingly dependent upon how one views another person. If we choose to focus on a person’s virtues, we will love them. If we choose to focus on their deficiencies, we will dislike them” (N. Weinberg and Y. Solomon, The Power of Love). An Italian American, Dr Leo Buscaglia, widely known and popular as “Dr Love,” is of the same opinion, quoting Mother Theresa.
Surprisingly, the famous dictum to “love your neighbor as yourself” (Devorim 19:18) is only part of the Biblical injunction. The full posuk (verse) reads: “You shall not take revenge and you shall not bear a grudge; you shall love your neighbor as yourself, I am G-d.” Thank you, Dr Love, for delivering this message, but why does the verse end by this mysterious phrase “I am G-d?” The following story may give us an answer.
Two young men had grown up together and become very close friends. They were living at a time when the Roman Empire was split into two parts – one half controlled by an emperor in Rome and the other half ruled by an emperor in Syria. After each of the friends married, one moved to Rome and the other moved to Syria. Together they started an import-export business, and though they lived far apart, they remained very close friends.
One time, when the fellow from Rome was visiting in Syria, someone accused him of being a spy for Rome and plotting against the emperor. He was an innocent man – it was just a vicious rumor. So, they brought him to the Syrian Emperor, and he was subsequently sentenced to death.
When he was being led out to his execution, he was asked if he had any last requests. The accused man pleaded: “Please, I’m an innocent man, but I can’t prove it. So, if I’m going to die, at least let me go back to Rome first, settle my affairs, and say goodbye to my family. They don’t know my business, like who owes me money, where all my goods are. Let me just go back to Rome, put my affairs in order, and then I’ll come back and you can execute me.”
The Emperor laughed at him. “What are you, crazy? You think we’d let you go? What possible guarantee will we have that you’re going to come back?”
The Jew said, “Wait. I have a friend here in Syria who will stand in for me. He’ll be my guarantor. If I don’t come back, you can kill him instead.”
The Emperor was intrigued. “This I’ve got to see. Okay, bring in your friend.”
The fellow from Syria was called in. Sure enough, he agreed without hesitation to take the Roman Jew’s place in prison, and to be killed in his stead if the friend did not return.
The Emperor was so startled by this arrangement that he agreed to let the Roman Jew go. “I’ll give you 60 days. Put your affairs in order. If you’re not back by the dawn of the 60th day, your friend is dead.”
Off went the Roman Jew, racing back to his family to say goodbye and to put his affairs in order. After a lot of tears and goodbyes, he started back in plenty of time before the 60 days were up.
These were the days of sailing galleys, and sometimes you could sit for days waiting for the right wind to come up. As luck would have it, there was no wind for several days, the sailboat was delayed, and by the time the Jew arrived in Syria, dawn of the 60th day was breaking.
As agreed, the jailers took out the fellow from Syria for the execution. In those days, an execution was a gala affair, and early in the morning the crowds began to gather. Finally, as they were just about to perform the execution, the fellow from Rome came running in. “Wait! Stop! I’m back. Don’t kill him. I’m the real prisoner!”
The executioner let the fellow from Syria go and was about to take the Jew from Rome in his place. “Wait a minute,” the reprieved guarantor argued. “You can’t kill him. His time limit was up. I’m the guarantor. You’ve got to kill me instead!”
The two friends were equally adamant. “Kill me instead!” “No, kill me!” The executioner didn’t know what to do. The crowd was in an uproar, watching them fight it out.
Finally, the Emperor stepped in. In wonder and amazement, he turned to the two of them and said, “I’ll let both of you go free on one condition. That you make me your third friend!” (http://www.aish.com/sp/f/48971341.html)
When we go out of our way to love our neighbors, regardless of their flaws, G-d Himself becomes our third friend!
Following my grandmother, I express my love in the kitchen. I have presented to you, Beautiful People, a Zoodles appetizer (please see here), a Soudles soup (please see here), and a Toodles main course (please see here). To complete our Zoodles feast, we need a dessert – Chocoodles (you didn’t think I’d make a dessert without chocolate, did you?).
Setting my trusty spiralizer on Angel Hair, I make a pile of airy (unpeeled!) courgetti (thank you, dear Osyth, for this word – go visit her blog, Beautiful People; she is an awesome writer!). Put them aside for now.
You need to mix your dry ingredients first: spelt or GF flour with unsweetened cocoa, baking powder, and a pinch of salt. Now you have two bowls waiting on the side for you to cream Smart Balance with brown sugar, incorporate prostokvasha (for recipe, please click here) or Greek yogurt, if you want to go dairy, and add some olive oil and vanilla extract. In yet another bowl (are you keeping count?) whisk aquafaba or eggs and combine it with the wet ingredients. Gradually mix dry ingredients into the wet, and finally, mix it all with your courgetti.
I wouldn’t be myself, if I didn’t abide by my own Rules of Dessert, and Rule #2 clearly states: The more chocolate, the better! Before you put your Chocoodles cake into the oven, liberally sprinkle it with crushed walnuts and chocolate chips. While it’s baking, you can watch Golde, of the “Fiddler on the Roof” discover the meaning of love. She is flabbergasted when her husband of many years, Tevye, poses a simple question:
Brought up on the positive commandment to “love your neighbor as yourself” she has lived her life satisfying this requirement. Looking back at twenty years poor in material goods, but oh! so rich in emotional fulfillment, she finally comes to a realization, “Yes I love you!”
Super-moist, extra-chocolaty, and bursting with love, my Chocoodles cake makes the Zoodles series complete.
- 2 cups white spelt or GF flour
- 1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
- 1 teaspoon baking powder
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1 1/2 cups brown sugar
- 1/2 cup Smart Balance, room temperature
- 1/3 cup olive oil
- ¾ cup aquafaba or 2 large eggs
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 1/2 cup prostokvasha (clabbered milk) or Greek yogurt
- 2 medium or 3 small unpeeled zucchini, spiralized on Angel Hair setting or grated
- 1/2 cup dark chocolate chips
- 1/2 cup chopped walnuts
- Preheat oven to 325 F. Spray baking pan with oil.
- Mix dry ingredients. Put aside.
- Cream Smart Balance with sugar, add prostokvasha, olive oil, vanilla extract. Put aside.
- Whisk aquafaba or eggs, incorporate into wet ingredients, whisk together.
- Gradually add dry ingredients. Mix well. Fold in zucchini, transfer to baking pan.
- Sprinkle with chopped walnuts and chocolate chips.
- Bake at 325 F for 1 1/2 hour, or until toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.
- Cool on rack.