Parents are supposed to love their children unconditionally, God is our father in heaven, shouldn’t God love us unconditionally? why is his love and commitment towards us contingent upon us following his rules?
In the opening words of this weeks Torah portion we read ” and it will be, because you will heed these ordinances and keep them and perform, that the Lord, your God, will keep for you the covenant and the kindness that He swore to your forefathers, oh well, there goes that whole unconditional thing, or does it ?
It is a widely accepted societal norm, that parents can establish rules and set boundaries for their children, and or assign consequences should their children fail to adhere. It is rather unsurprising and perhaps even expected, that children may sometimes complain to their parents, “why do I need to do this,” or “why can’t I do that,” but no sane adult would consider rules and consequences, applied by a parent to their child as somehow negating the inherent unconditional love the parent has for their child. Quite the opposite is true, parents who do not establish rules and set boundaries cause great harm to their children and themselves, as they completely retard the parent/child relationship, to the point where the entire relationship can fall apart.
God is our father in heaven, yet we give him such a hard time when he establishes rules and sets boundaries. We get even more upset when we are told that there will be consequences if we do things our own way. We challenge G-D and ask, “What kind of father behaves this way towards his children”?, wheres the love”?. We will often hear statements like, “I want nothing to do with a G-D that’s so petty,” or “What kind of G-D does things like this.” Statements such as these reflect a juvenile understanding of G-D no less so, than the protests of a child who is unhappy with a rule set by a parent.
The rules and boundaries set by G-D are not meant to limit our ability to enjoy and experience life to its fullest, on the contrary, they are meant to regulate our behaviors and tendencies and provide us with a moral and ethical compass, so we may live and experience that which really is a full and wholesome life. G-D’s love for us is truly unconditional, the trouble is that in order for us to have the opportunity to experience that love, or to have a healthy parent/child relationship with G-D, we must first get in the G-D zone altogether. G-D set rules and boundaries, so we can get in the G-D zone. Once we are there, we can now think about an enhanced relationship, we can think about G-D’s love and seek G-D’s blessing and mercy, the way a healthy child yearns for the approval and love of their parent.
There is no better illustration for this idea, then the life of addiction and recovery, in the context of a parent/child relationship. Parents with a child in active addiction, almost without exception, have a horrible relationship with their child. No matter what they try to placate their son or daughter never works, in fact the child continues to get more abusive, more demanding and less interested in the parent as time goes on. One would think that if parents are as permissive and cooperative with a troubled child, allowing him or her to do whatever they wish, that would have the best relationship possible, but it never works that way. It is only when the parent finally decides to lay down the law and hold the child accountable, making him or her suffer serious consequences for unacceptable behavior, that the child begin to reenter the parent/child “zone” again. The child now begins to recognize, that he or she actually have parents, and that what they think and want and care about actually matters. The parent/child relationship is by no means back to where it needs to be at this point, but there now exists the possibility of repairing it and getting it back its original loving status. The laying down of the law, and the painful consequences, were not implemented for the sake of limiting the child’s ability to enjoy life, they weren’t meant as punitive measures either, they were simply necessary to get the child back into the zone so the process of healing and recovery can hopefully begin.
G-D wants us in his zone so we can have a loving parent/child relationship, his laws and the consequences of not keeping them in order to make sure we don’t get lost and confused by all the materialistic, harmful and destructive possibilities that are available to us in this world, G-D lays down the law and the consequences of not following it. You ask “where’s the Love”? this is the highest form of love, its how every responsible loving parent regulates their child.