The Grammar of Love

Friday, 16 August, 2019 - 9:35 am

I would like to take this opportunity to extend good wishes to my father, Rabbi Zelig Rivkin, upon his upcoming 70th birthday. Our sages associate this age with a passage in Psalms 92. So our wish paraphrases the words of King David, “May you, together with our mother, flourish like a palm, grow as a cedar, and develop with age while remaining fresh and well sated (materially and spiritually).”

If you would like to make a donation to Chabad of Louisiana in honor of Rabbi Rivkin’s birthday, please go to

This Parsha contains the Shema, during which we are commanded to love Hashem our G-d. The Hebrew term for love is Ahavah. Our tradition offers several deeper perspectives into the root of the word Ahavah.

The first is that it comes from the word Hav – meaning to give. The alef functions as a prefix with the root being hav. To love is to give. When you love someone, you give to them without expectations. Love is not about getting; it is about giving. If we love Hashem, then we must think about what we are giving to Hashem. The Torah tells us, that we give by following Hashem’s instructions, including those enumerated in that very same passage.

Another approach is that the root is Avah – meaning to desire. The hei functions as a letter that emphasizes the degree of desire. The sound made by a hei (similar to an H) is the sound of breath coming from deep within the heart to the outside. In this instance, to love is to desire a connection with the other. In the case of Hashem, it is to desire to have a connection with Hashem instilled within the heart. This is achieved by a person deeply contemplating that the G-d of Creation, my G-d, is the Infinite G-d of Transcendence. When that notion becomes ingrained within a person’s psyche and consciousness, it entirely transforms the way that person goes through life.  

May we merit to achieve Ahavah in both ways, thereby enjoying a profound relationship with Hashem and a meaningful life.

Shabbat Shalom
Rabbi Mendel Rivkin

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