Word Study: Ahavah – “Love”

Let’s talk about ahavah (love), Biblical style! There are many stories of love in the Bible. Biblical love depicts God as the ultimate source and goal of all human love.

Ahavah means “love” in Hebrew. The Jewish mystics remark on the affinity between the word ahavah, “love,” and “echad,” one. The numerical value of their letters is the same: 13.

Oneness, unity, is the aspiration of love, and love emerges from a perception of unity.

This is what is meant by, “You are to know this day and take into your heart that HaShem is the Only G-D, in Heaven and On Earth.” The realization that the Law which governs the Universe is AHAVAH which emanates from, permeates and fills all things.

This insight is also expressed in the Shema: שְׁמַע, יִשְׂרָאֵל:  יְהוָה אֱלֹהֵינוּ, יְהוָה אֶחָד.

its first line declares God’s unity, and ends with the word “echad.” Then follows the mitzvah to love God. Love comes out of a sense of God’s unity pervading all things.

There are three commands to love in the Torah; First, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul and resources” (Deuteronomy 6:4); second, “love your neighbour as yourself” (Leviticus 19:18); and, third, “love the stranger as yourself” (Leviticus 19:34).

The first letter of Ahavah, the Aleph is constructed of “two yuds and a straight nun!” That is, the Nun Sofit!  This is to teach that HaShem is the Same, Eternal Kindness (is His Name) [Shmoth 3.15 ] (Echad, Oneness which also begins with the letter Aleph,) Desires Yichud (Oneness), which is expressed by the Torah’s phrase, “at the mouth [‘singular’] of two witnesses, that is, their marital testimony must agree (to the Ahavah) that HaShem is the Same, Constant One Who, “In the Kingdom – As Above, So Also in the Kingdom Below” Continually Forgives and Supports all the Fallen; as it says, “The L-RD upholdeth all that fall, and raiseth up all those that are bowed down.” Tehillim 145.14

Ahavah – begins with an Aleph which is composed, as we said, of two yud’s and a nun sofit – which teaches that HaShem’s love is constant, (as above so below); the yud is the beginning of the Name (HaVaYah) in the world above, so also in the world below (olam hazeh). The Nun is the first letter of the word Notzayr (Shmoth – Exodus 34.6-7) “Preserver of Kindness for a Thousand Generations.” Notzayr – This word comes to teach: Nun Tzaddi Reish – Netzer (a Sprout, Shoot or Branch) Tzaddaka (Charity or Righteousness) and Ratzon (Will) – that is, “the Will of HaVaYah is that Charity should Spring forth from Ahavah (Love)!” (The branch of My Planting Isaiah 60.21)

Notzayr – This defines one of the Thirteen Attributes of Mercy – remember, we said that Ahavah and Echad have the numerical value of 13. The gematria or numerical value of Notzayr is 340 which is the equivalent of Sepher (Book). Thus, charity acts as a book of life to guard those who practice it!

Yichud describes the unification, or becoming one, of two bodies or souls. Echad describes what is CONSTANT, UNCHANGING, Eternally the Same! “I have Loved you with an Everlasting Love!!” Jeremiah 31.3

Yichud is thus the process of “bringing back together” the two lost halves of what was initially a single entity.

Zechariah 14.9 And the L-RD shall be King over all the earth; in that day shall the L-RD be One, and His name one. (His name one: “As Above, So Below.”)

In this process of unification, the oneness or singularity of complete Ahavah may best be manifest in the essay, True Singularity: On Being the ‘Am Segulah‘ describing the Ahavah Avinu Ya’acov had for Rachel. There, Rabbi David Etengoff describes the word Segulah as special, unique or singular: “The word ‘singular’ means ‘being only one,’ ‘exceptional,’ ‘extraordinary’ and ‘separate.’ The word segulah in Hebrew similarly connotes singularity.

“Segulah may also describe relationships between people. For example, Jacob loved Rachel but he did not hate Leah, despite the verse, ‘And the Eternal saw that Leah was unloved’ (senuah, Sefer Bereishit 29:31). His bond to her merely suffered by comparison with Rachel … his relationship with Rachel was singular.’ There was a segulah dimension in this special love. It involved an intertwining of souls, a union beyond verbal description. It was more than emotional love; it was a oneness achieved, which is the highest rung of identification.” (Adapted from the writings of Rav Joseph B. Soloveitchik zatzal (1903-1993).)

Rabbi Maurice Lamm defines the Jewish Way in Love and Marriage as an on-going process, a learning to love. Something more than an emotional attachment.

He writes, “There is much in our historic character, echoed in the Bible and Talmud, that calls for that mysterious, undefinable binding love between man and wife. The qualification is that the romantic component of love must be transposed into complete, fulfilled love. [….]

Jacob was willing to spend seven years heroically doing menial work in order to marry his beloved and he never argued with his father-in-law about the exorbitant cost of that love.

Yichud: A Jewish Concept of Love

Yichud, the word most descriptive of the Jewish ideal of love, is defined as “together,” “alone, with no one else present,” [….] Before we can fully understand Yichud, we must clarify what it is not by contrasting it with Ahavah, the word traditionally associated with love in general. [….]

When Ahavah is used in the context of married love, it does not express the uncomplicated Jewish ideal of marital love but only connotes a comparison – the loved one as opposed to the “hated” one, [….] For example Jacob loved Rachel (…). Surely here was deep, abiding love. But the term Ahavah is used in anticipation of the statement […] “and he loved Rachel more than Leah.”

Thus, Ahavah almost always connotes a unilateral love that deals with relationships requiring an act of faith, …. In contrast, Yichud bespeaks an intimacy, a balanced, mutual relationship, and a love that is simpler, more natural, and lasting – ….”

It might best be expressed or summed up in the words of Melech Shlomo (King Solomon – Shir HaShirim 1.2): “Thy Love is better than wine.” יִשָּׁקֵנִי מִנְּשִׁיקוֹת פִּיהוּ, כִּי-טוֹבִים דֹּדֶיךָ מִיָּיִן.

One may describe wine, but the love between Ya’acov and Rachel is something one can not describe which may be why Melech Shlomo said that the way of a man with a maiden was too wonderful for him to comprehend. Mishlay (Proverbs) 30.19

*(This Article initially linked a video which quoted a Christian scripture about love but because it quoted a Christian Source, I edited the video out of the article so as to avoid confusion!)

One thought on “Word Study: Ahavah – “Love”

  1. And now we shall speak about the love of God. First, one should know that love is acquired through deeds. By giving presents to one’s friend, each and every gift one gives to one’s friend is like an arrow and a bullet that pierces a hole in one’s friend’s heart. And although one’s friend’s heart is like a stone, each and every bullet still punctures a hole, and from the many holes, a space is made. Then, the love of the giver of the presents enters within that space, and the warmth of the love attracts to it the sparks of love of one’s friend. Thus, from two loves, a clothing of love is made, and this clothing covers them both.
    — Baruch Ashlag, Dargot ha Sulam, Vol 1, essay 776

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