In Upon These Three Things: Jewish Perspectives on Loving God, Dr. Jeff Levin presents a thoughtful introduction to Jewish moral theology and applied social ethics. He summarizes what normative Judaism says about what it means to love God, how we go about doing so, and how this affects our lives and our world. For Jews, loving God is morally constructed and outwardly focused, grounded in a covenant that outlines obligations to God, to one another, and to the world.
Drawing on biblical and rabbinic sources and the writings of both sages and contemporary scholars, this book offers a d’rash, or commentary, on the famous words of Rabbi Shimon the just in Pirke Avot that “upon three things the world stands.” Dr. Levin discusses the importance of a life devoted to torah (learning), avodah (worship), and g’milut chasadim (acts of lovingkindness) as the truest expression of traditional Jewish morality and the surest pathway to both personal and cultural transformation. Accordingly, Jewish religious observance and social consciousness are not mutually exclusive but rather are inseparable expressions of the Jewish covenant with God.
Praise for Upon These Three Things:
“In Upon These Three Things, Jeff Levin knowingly and intelligently demonstrates that Jewish belief in God demands that Jews emulate the divine attributes of justice and mercy that mark the essence of Jewish faith. By serving as partners with God in the work of tikkun olam, the presence of God is realized in the world. To paraphrase the words of Rav Kook in his Orot Hakodesh, Levin, in this book, expands the song of the Jewish people “beyond the limits of Israel” and causes Jewish tradition to “sing the song of God to all humanity.”
Rabbi David Ellenson, Ph.D., Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion
“Jeff Levin magnificently combines the wisdom of Torah, Talmud, and the great Jewish minds ancient and modern to clarify the dynamic implications of love for God. This love requires study as well as prayer and worship. Yet its ultimate manifestation is in the activity of loving God’s children and repairing an unjust world. Love for God is to be active in the world through hospitality and kindness. A renowned epidemiologist as well as a deeply probing theo-philosopher of perennial Jewish ideas, Levin has written a book that will stand the test of time. The love of which he writes is the true path to psychological and spiritual happiness, although such benefits are by-products rather than directly sought after. I have read no contemporary work on the topic that is as significant as Upon These Three Things.”
Stephen G. Post, Ph.D., Stony Brook University
“Jeff Levin has composed a lively and attractive introduction to Jewish theology, skillfully drawing on the spiritual wisdom of Jewish sages down the centuries and from across the traditions, tying these back to their core principles in the Scriptures. This is a beautiful book, a wonderful meditation on loving God and our neighbor with the whole of an integrated life. I recommend it as a superb short course in living faith, with much to enrich and deepen the understanding and grateful affections of Christian as well as Jewish readers.”
David Lyle Jeffrey, Ph.D., Baylor University
“What does it mean to love God? In this beautiful, heartfelt book, Levin writes not as the distinguished epidemiologist he is, but as a devoted Jew with the soul of a Talmudic scholar. Loving God, he stresses, is first and foremost about action, about making the world a better place. His book shines a bright unapologetic light on the distinctive contributions the Jewish commandment to love God has made and continues to make not only to Jews but to humankind.”
Kenneth I. Pargament, Ph.D., Bowling Green State University