“Thou shalt love thy fellow as thyself (Leviticus 19:18). Rabbi Akiva said: ‘This is a fundamental principle of the Torah.’” (Rashi)
Earlier this week, at the end of morning prayers, one of my congregants read the following quote from a book called “HaYom Yom.” (“HaYom Yom” was compiled by the Lubavitcher Rebbe, Rabbi Menachem Mendel Schneerson OBM, from sayings of his predecessor and father-in-law, the previous Chabad Rebbe, Rabbi Yosef Yitzchak Schneerson OBM.)
“Chassidim asked the Alter Rebbe: ‘Which is the superior avoda (service of G-d), love of G-d or love of Israel?’ He replied: ‘Both love of G-d and love of Israel are equally engraved in every Jew’s neshama, ruach, and nefesh (three levels of the soul). Scripture is explicit: “I have loved you, says the L-rd.” It follows that love of Israel is superior — for you love whom your beloved loves.’”
To explore the topic, and for some personal entertainment, I posed the above question to our new friend ChatGPT, to see its prowess in the fundamentals of Judaism. My question was simple and the response flowed immediately:
Q: Which is the superior love, love of G-d or love of Israel?
ChatGPT: As an AI language model, I don’t have personal beliefs or values, but I can provide an objective answer based on religious and philosophical teachings.
In Jewish tradition, love of God and love of Israel are both important and interconnected. The commandment to love God is central to Judaism, and it is considered the foundation of all other commandments. This love is expressed through the performance of mitzvot (commandments) and the study of Torah. Love of Israel, on the other hand, refers to the love of the Jewish people as a whole, and it is also an essential component of Judaism.
However, it’s not a question of one being superior to the other. Love of God and love of Israel are interdependent, and they reinforce one another. In fact, the Talmud teaches that “He who loves the people of Israel is beloved by God” (Talmud Brachot 6b). Similarly, the medieval Jewish philosopher Maimonides wrote that “Love of God and love of humanity are one and the same” (Mishneh Torah, Hilchot Yesodei HaTorah 2:10).
Therefore, it’s not a matter of choosing between the two, but rather striving to cultivate both loves in our hearts and actions. Loving God should lead us to love our fellow human beings, especially our fellow Jews, and loving the Jewish people should deepen our connection to God and His commandments.”
I was immediately impressed by this thoughtful answer, but questioned the quote of Maimonides that the “Love of God and love of humanity are one and the same.” So I checked the reference given in Hilchot Yesodei HaTorah and found no such quote. Maimonides does say that G-d and all his creations are One and G-d knows all creation as He knows Himself, but he does not speak about the love of G-d and humanity at all.
At this point, I started questioning the Talmudic source as well and, lo and behold, there is no teaching in Berachot 6B that “He who loves the people of Israel is beloved by God.”
Wanting to know where ChatGPT gets its sources from, I Googled both statements, but no Torah sources were listed; rather the first page of the Google results were all Christian sources.
“Kedoshim’’ means to be holy and that our learning, love of G-d and love of our fellow Jew should be through mediums of holiness!
Not only is the AI incorrect in assuming that love of G-d and of Israel is equal and neither is superior to the other, its sources and ideas might not be based in holiness and Torah at all. ChatGPT thinks that love of G-d is considered the foundation of Judaism, but we all know that Rabbi Akiva and Hillel both said that the entire Torah is about love of a fellow Jew.
Love of our fellow Jew, as quoted above from “HaYom Yom,” is greater than the love of G-d. Furthermore the holiness that we experience as Jews is to be found in the holy Torah and in the teachings of other human beings who have become holy through the Torah they’ve learned and the mitzvot they’ve done.
ChatGPT and AI might be the best collective perspective of world understanding but Torah is a holy perspective that transcends the worldly outlook. Only a holy human being, like the Alter Rebbe, who transformed darkness into light and bitter into sweet, can appreciate that love of man is greater than the love of G-d.
Soon AI will recognize this truth because the entire world will see this as well. This is our mission — to stay true to the holiness of the Torah and our human sages who have been our guiding light throughout history. We need to transform the collective world understanding to a knowledge of G-d that fills the world as water fills the sea. Where our entire world will be a dwelling place for G-d and will be perfectly holy! PJC
Rabbi Elchonon Friedman is the spiritual leader of Bnai Emunoh Chabad. This column is a service of the Vaad Harabanim of Greater Pittsburgh.