For the week of May 11, 2002 / 29 Iyar 5762
Torah: Bemidbar / Numbers 1:1 - 4:20
Haftarah:: Hosea 2:1-22
Replaced by: 1 Samuel 20:18-42

Brotherly Love

Then they (i.e. David and Jonathan) kissed each other and wept together-but David wept the most (1 Samuel 20:41).

One of the most misunderstood relationships in the Bible is that of David and Jonathan. The depth of their love and affection is something that many of us may have never experienced.

Over the past several years I have been more and more aware of the differences between various cultures. These differences are found in how we relate to life and to one another. Love and expressions of love greatly differ from culture to culture. The act of kissing, for example, referred to in this week's portion, means very different things to different cultures.

Depending on your upbringing, kissing may be something solely associated with romantic relationships. This is what may have been modeled for you from childhood. When you were small, you and your parents kissed each other. But as you reached your teen years, your parents, especially your father, and especially if you were a male, may have felt that this expression of affection was no longer appropriate.

Yet in many parts of the world, kissing isn't understood this way. In some cultures fathers and sons always greet each other with a kiss, and male acquaintances will also embrace and kiss each other in friendship. In these cultures physical closeness is associated with friendship and brotherly love. Physical distance is understood as relational distance.

Obviously not all cultures relate this way. In many cultures, physical closeness is reserved for very few relationships. When these cultures encounter the more affectionate cultures, there is opportunity for a lot of confusion.

Some of us may experience this kind of confusion when we encounter the story of David and Jonathan.

David's lament over Jonathan's death, which takes place some time after our portion, makes some people wonder what the nature of their relationship really was. David said,

I grieve for you, Jonathan my brother; you were very dear to me. Your love for me was wonderful, more wonderful than that of women (2 Samuel 1:26).

The depth of David's love for Jonathan doesn't imply that they were anything more than good friends. What their relationship demonstrates for us is the capacity of the human heart for intense intimate friendship.

God himself modeled this kind of relationship in the person of the Messiah. Yeshua gave himself completely for us. While on earth he didn't keep his distance from people. Rather he touched them and was touched by them. He loved us with his whole being to the point of death. His love for us is actually like that of David and Jonathan for one another.

I wonder if the way some of us were brought up is preventing us from experiencing the closeness of God in our lives. If we have never experienced this kind of brotherly love, then we may have a hard time understanding and receiving God's love for us.

Realizing this is the beginning of change. God wants to be your Jonathan or your David. He loves you with all his heart. As we allow him to love us in this way, we will find our hearts open to the loving relationships he desires for us.

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