Irina Sheynfeld in Sh’ma Now

The latest issue of Sh’ma Now is out. This month’s conversation: Ahava (אַהַבָה).

Jewish Art Salon arranged a Call for Art for Sh’ma. In response, Irina Sheynfeld‘s artwork was selected by Susan Berrin, Sh’ma’s editor. “Kisses” was inspired by the song “A Thousand Kisses Deep” by Leonard Cohen.

Her work accompanies “The Many Acts of Love,” an article by Rabbi Joanna Samuels. Rabbi Samuels, the director of the Manny Cantor Center in downtown Manhattan, has revitalized Jewish culture on the Lower East Side.

Following, the editor remarks on why she chose Ahava as a theme for this month’s issue, and introduces Rabbi Samuels’ work:

Love is complicated: We might experience it with a friend or an intimate; as a palpitating rush, an abiding connection or a foreboding ache. Our experiences of love may be profound or pedestrian; the object of that love another person—or a place, a song, a book, an experience, a pet. Initially, I avoided “love” as a theme because it felt so huge, so impossible to cover fully. But then, I reconsidered.

Over the course of this editorial year we have examined “the evil impulse/yetzer ha’ra,” “constructive disputation/machloket l’shem shamayim,” “rebuke/tochecha,” “showing up/Hineni,” “creative re-interpretation/chidush,” “what ‘enough’ means/dayenu,” “distinctions/havdil”—all multifaceted topics that compel us to address larger societal issues through a particular Jewish lens. I decided to tackle the theme of “ahava”“love” by exploring the various ways we love in Judaism — loving God, loving others, loving the stranger, loving the Jewish people (ahavat ha’am), and loving Israel (ahavat Yisrael).

This month, Sh’ma Now includes:

  • Rabbi Joanna Samuels introduces readers to some of the rich source material on “ahava” — “love.” She explains the Torah’s three commandments to love and then focuses on the third command: to love the stranger. Loving the stranger demands a radical empathy for those “thrust into the vulnerable circumstance we have known.” She complicates this notion by stating, “Loving the stranger on the basis of our shared understanding of estrangement returns us to a remembered version of our own vulnerability and displacement. But what have we done for the stranger with this love?” And she asks: “What are the needs of the stranger, such that our love is a salve?” Her essay raises several important questions: What is the difference between loving the stranger because of our own Jewish experiences of being strangers, and loving the stranger because of their position of need? How does this way of responding to the stranger in need activate us?

See Irina’s work and read Rabbi Samuels’ article here.