What is so important about our mortality? Why do we fight to stay alive?The real question is what makes an individual human being special?
Individuality is what gives human life its dignity and sanctity. Without it, we would not know love--for
love in its primary sense is always directed to a person; to this man, that woman, this child, in their
uniqueness. One who truly loves does not love abstractly. The lover in the Song of Songs never
tires of describing his beloved, her hair, her cheeks, her eyes, her mouth, the things that make her what she is.
She is not some woman in general.
It is also is what gives human love its particular pathos and vulnerability. We know that like us, our
beloved will eventually grow old and die, and that he or she can never be replaced. If we knew we
would never die, we would need no intimations of eternity.
Because we know we will one day die,
one of the greatest things that can happen to us is the moment beyond time (the one we know we
will never forget) when two souls touch and between them form a bridge over the abyss of mortality.
This is what the song of songs when it means when is says, "Love is as strong as death, its passion
as unyielding as the grave."
The moment when Adam turned to his wife and gave her a proper name, Chavah or Eve, was a
turning point in the history of civilization. It was then that G-d robed the couple in garments of light.
For it is only when we relate to one another as persons possessed of non-negotiable dignity, that we
respond to the "image of G-d" in the other. In a sense the whole of Judaism or at least the commands
between us and our fellow human beings-is an extended commentary to this idea. The rules of justice,
mercy, charity, compassion, regard for the poor, love for the neighbor and the stranger, delicacy of
speech and sensitivity to the easily injured feelings of others, are all variants on the theme of respect
for the human other as an image and likeness of the Divine Other.
The idea goes deeper still. There is an intimate connection between the way we relate to other people
and the way we related to G-d and this too is expressed in the difference between a noun and a name.
Judaism was much more than the discovery of monotheism, that there is only one G-d. That idea is
contained in the work Elokim. It was also the discovery that G-d is individual-- that the fact that we are
persons, with loves, fears, hopes and dreams, is not an accidental by-product of evolution, but is an echo
of the ultimate reality of the cosmos. We aer not gene-producing machines, but persons, each of unique,
irreplaceable, here because G-d wanted us to be. That is the world-transforming concept of Hashem-and
it was only when Adam responded to Eve as a person, that he could respond to G-d as a person. That is
why the commands between us and G-d are inseparable from the commands between us and our fellow