Sunday, October 25, 2015

Rav Sadiya Gaon: Mistaken imperative to surrender to love for personal growth and to serve G-d

We have discussed the issue of marriages breaking up because the husband or wife has fallen in love with someone else or has fallen out of love with one's spouse. We have discussed the issue of extramarital affairs, pedophila, pedastry, bestiality and homosexual relations. In modern times all these are justified by the imperative to follow one's heart as the supreme value.

There is a mistaken notion that the idea that love conquers all and that it justifies all - originated with Hollywood. Some think it originated in the Middle Ages. In fact it goes back to the Greeks. In the following essay from Rav Sadiya Gaon, he attacks those who feel that submitting to  love is the royal road to spiritual refinement as well as a necessity in learning to serve G-d. It also seems to be an attack on marriage based on a predestined - beshert or knowing it's the right person because you are in love.

Rav Saadia Gaon (Emuna v’De’os 10:7.4 –Cheshech/romantic love):Even though it is repulsive to discuss sexual desire [outside of marriage] - the topic of this chapter - but it is not more repulsive than discussing the views of kofrim (those who deny Judaism). So just as we discussed the views of kofrim in order to refute them and protect people from having doubts – therefore we will discuss extramarital sexual desire in order to refute improper views and to protect people from error. 

There are people who view sexual desire and love – without regard to its object - as the most important activity that man can be involved in. They mistakenly believe that any strong love refines the spirit and improves the personality until it becomes exquisitely sensitive and responsive from this great refinement.

They claim that this refinement process of love is extremely delicate as a result of the natural processes. It involves a substance which is created by the look of the eyes which is poured into the heart which arouses desire which becomes strengthened with the addition of other elements until it becomes firmly established.

They reinforce their view of the power of love by claiming that it involves the influence of the stars. Thus they claim that if two people were born under certain astrological events it is inevitable that there should be love and affection between them. 

They further reinforce this theory of love by claiming that the love is ultimately caused by G d. They claim that when G-d created the souls, He made them as spheres which He divided into two. He then placed the 2 halves into two people. Because of this division of the soul into two parts, when the soul of one person finds its missing half in another person, the first person becomes strongly attracted to the second person. 

They further reinforce the power of this theory of absolute love by claiming that it is an obligation to surrender to passion and its consequences. They claim that surrendering to the attraction of love to all others is a test to teach submission to G d and serving Him.

[Prof Rosenblatt translation]

Now the advocates of all that has been mentioned above are really thoughtless and without intelligence. I, therefore, deem it proper in this chapter, first of all, effectively to refute the spurious doctrines propounded by them. After that, I shall demonstrate the very opposite  of the theories to which they cling to be true. 

I say then, that so far as the thing they ascribe to our Lord, magnified and exalted be He, is concerned, it is inconceivable that He should use as a means of trial something that has been prohibited by Him. Indeed, it is as Scripture has said: God imputeth not 31 unseemliness (Job 24: 12), and also: For Thou art not a God that hath pleasure in wickedness; evil shall not sojourn with Thee (Ps. 5: 5). As for the doctrine of the division of the spheres to which they cling so tenaciously, since we have already refuted that in our refutation of the theory of uncreated spiritual <296> beings,32 making it clear that the soul of every human being is created simultaneously with the perfection of his form33 this theory has become completely null and void. 

As for their allegation in regard to the influence of the stars and the tallying of the two parts of the love-match, as well as of the constellations, if it were really as they say, it could never happen that Zeid should love Arnr without Arnr's reciprocation, seeing that they are both equal. We do not, however, find the matter to be so. 

As for their assertion, again, that this emotion originates from a look, after which desire is generated in the heart, I say that it was precisely on that account that our Lord, exalted and magnified be He, commanded us to devote both our eyes and our hearts to His service, as Scripture says: My son, give me thy heart, and let thine eyes observe my ways (Prov. 23: 26). He also forbade us to employ them in rebellion against him, when He said: And go not about after your own heart and your own eyes, after which ye use to go astray (Num. I5: 39). 

This latter warning was issued against the consolidation of this state in the heart to the point where it would hold the subject in its grip and have such dominance over him that he would cut down on his eating and drinking and all other functions basic to his well-being. The consequence [of such a course] would be that his flesh would waste away and his body fall off and maladies would make their inroads on him in all their severity. And what about the inflammation and the fainting and the heart throbs and the worry and the excitement and the agitation, of which Scripture says: For they have made ready their heart like an oven, while they lie in wait? (Hos. 7: 6.) 

These effects are sometimes carried to the brain, weakening the faculties of imagination, reflection, and memory, and sometimes even destroying the powers of sensation and motion. It m:Iy also happen that, upon catching sight of his beloved, the lover should swoon away and fall into a dead faint, his spirit leaving his body for twenty-four hours,34 so that he would be thought dead and be carried out and buried.f" Again it is possible that upon seeing his beloved or hearing him mentioned, the lover might emit a rattle and really die, thus proving the truth of the parable coined by the proverbist: For she hath cast down many wounded; yea, a mighty host are all her slain (Prov. 7: 26). 

How now can a person allow himself and his reason to be taken prisoner [by his passion] to the point where he will not know that he has a Master, nor any strength, nor <297> this world nor the next, outside of that passion, as Scripture has put it: But they that are godless in heart lay up anger; they cry not for help when He bin detli them? (Job 36: I3.) And what about the slavish submissiveness to the object of one's passion and to his retinue, and the sitting at the gates and waiting upon him everywhere, as Scripture expresses it: Lift up thine eyes unto the high hills, and see: Where hast thou not been lain with? By the ways hast thou sat for them? (Ier .. 1: 2.) And what about the vigils at night and the rising at dawn and the secrecy practiced so as not to be surprised in the act, and the deaths one dies whenever one is discovered in one's shame?

It is just as Scripture has expressed it: The eye also of the adulterer waiteth for the twilight, saying: "No eye shall see me"; and he putteth a covering on his face (Job 24: 15)' And what about the murder of the lover or the beloved or of one of their retinue or of both them and those attached to them and of a great many human beings together with them that often results from being madly in love, as Scripture says: Because they are adulteresses, and blood is in their hands? (Ezek. 23: 45.) 

Again, if he should one day be successful in attaining the object of his quest and realize in adequate measure that for which his soul has made such strenuous efforts, he might be filled with remorse and hate what he had loved to an even greater degree than he had loved it, as Scripture remarks: And Amnon hated her with exceeding great hatred; for the hatred wherewith he hated her was greater than the love wherewith he had loved /W' (II Sam. 13: 15)

It should, therefore, be clear to a person that he has sold his soul and his religion and all his senses, as well as his reason, once this arrow has been released that cannot be taken back by him any more, as has also been expressed by Scripture in its remark: Till an arrow strike through his liver; as II bird hasteneth to the snare (Prov. 7: 23). This emotional state, therefore, has its appropriate place only in the relationship between husband and wife. They should be affectionate to each other for the sake of the maintenance of the world, as Scripture says: A lovely hind and a graceful doe, let her breasts satisfy thee at all times; with her love be thou ravished always (Prov. 5: J9). A husband should give vent to his desire for his wife in accordance with the dictates of reason and religion and to the extent required in order to bind them closely together but restrain it vigorously and forcefully beyond that point. 

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