God’s Tough Love

Yael Eckstein  |  July 14, 2023

A golden ark with two eagles on it.

The cherubim are to have their wings spread upward, overshadowing the cover with them. The cherubim are to face each other, looking toward the cover. — Exodus 25:20

These devotions explore the Jewish perspective of love. In Hebrew, the word for love is ahava, which comes from the root word, hav, “to give.” In Judaism, to love is to give. Giving to others enables us to love one another.

Most parents agree that the hardest part of parenting is discipline. My heart breaks when I’m forced to take away a privilege from my daughter or tell my son he can’t go on the trip he’s been dreaming about or cancel a family activity due to poor behavior. So why do I do it? My children may say I’m mean. In the hardest moments, they may even wonder if I care about them. But I punish my children because I love them.

One of the most important elements of the Tabernacle, and later the Temple, was the Ark of the Covenant, home to the Ten Commandments and the first Torah scroll, written by Moses. It was made of pure gold and topped with two cherubim—described as child-faced angels.

God’s Tough Love

Scripture dictated that these two cherubim “are to face each other.” According to Jewish tradition, they represented God and Israel. When the Israelites would ascend to the Temple on the festivals, the priests would roll up the curtain to show the people the two cherubim embracing and announce: “Behold your fondness before the Lord!”

However, the cherubim did not always demonstrate God’s affection; when the people acted appropriately, the cherubim faced each other, but when they rebelled, they turned away from each other. At the time of the destruction of the Second Temple, one would assume that the cherubim would have been back-to-back. After all, the Temple was destroyed because of the sins of the people.

Surprisingly, tradition teaches that when the Romans entered the Holy of Holies, they found the cherubim embracing. How is this possible? God was clearly furious at His people.

According to the Jewish sages, the embracing angels teach us that even when God punishes us, He loves us. In fact, perhaps it is because God loves us that He forces Himself to punish us, no matter how much it hurts us both. It is God’s tough love.

When I punish my kids, I pray that they will learn, grow, and become better people through the experience. I hope that my own “tough love” will provide them with wisdom and understanding that will protect them from harm in the future.

Your Turn:

Next time your loving Father in Heaven sends a challenge your way, picture the cherubim, face to face, and remember that He is sending you a lesson to help you grow.

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