Ahava / Love as reflected in Jewish prayer known as Shema

There is no remedy for love but to love more.
—Henry David Thoreau

The first two of these commandments —
love for God and love for our fellow humans —
are actualized through mitzvot, a system that shapes ideals
into behavior and is deepened through communal norms.
— Joanna Samuels

Love God. Love God with everything you are: heart, mind, soul, strength. Love God with your life. — Kathryn M. Schifferdecker,
SONGS about AHAVA/LOVE
Ahava by Yonina (ballad): https://youtu.be/XqDH6RH5jas
Love/Ahava by Daniel Jawahar (Indian pop Christian): https://youtu.be/x11r5-7ciQs
Ahavat Olam performed by Platt Brothers (Hebrew worship): https://youtu.be/1yhk_obX7CQ
Ahava by Liran Notik (pop): https://youtu.be/mVKAwm3uaqs
Love Ahava by Everything Worship (Christian): https://youtu.be/Xy50VuvdYqM
Ahava Ka’zo (A Love Like This) by Idan Raichel (pop ballad): https://youtu.be/zkyorHkaJUA
Shir Ahava Bedui (A Bedouin Love Song) by David Broza (folk rock): https://youtu.be/z5mCVtcc8Hg
Some Love / Kama Ahava by Kobi Peretz (pop): https://youtu.be/XkpdFicK5As
Oceans (Where Feet May Fail) performed by The Voice of One Calling (Hebrew/Arabic Christian): https://youtu.be/ZHW0uTpzsCM
Shema by Misha Goetz & Shae Wilbur (Jewish contemporary): https://youtu.be/81HSXFtYMRs
Shir Ahava (Love Song) performed by David Seguin (Hebrew Christian worship): https://youtu.be/UEX83Irhag4

SONGS about LOVE
Somebody to Love by Jefferson Airplane (rock): https://youtu.be/5Jj3wZVc7nw
All You Need is Love by The Beatles (rock): https://youtu.be/_7xMfIp-irg
I Will Always Love You by Dolly Parton (country): https://youtu.be/lKsQR72HY0s
Love Is All performed by Playing for Change children’s choir (pop anthem): https://youtu.be/q4T37EaW4eU
Lean on Me by Bill Withers (rock): https://youtu.be/qkaexjc-1os
What’s Love Got to Do with It? by Tina Turner (rock): https://youtu.be/oGpFcHTxjZs
Vision of Love by Mariah Carey (pop ballad): https://youtu.be/tov22NtCMC4
The Book of Love by the Magnetic Fields (rock ballad): https://youtu.be/jkjXr9SrzQE
That’s How Strong My Love Is by Otis Redding (rock ballad): https://youtu.be/l7T9HKmERv0
I Say a Little Prayer by Aretha Franklin: https://youtu.be/7Ifw8JhDBvs
Cheek to Cheek by Ella Fitzgerald (ballad): https://youtu.be/GeisCvjwBMo
It Had to be You by Harry Conick Jr (jazz): https://youtu.be/_UnQOfPwZfs

Love Is the Most Ancient Law: A Blessing  — Jan Richardson
Open to it and you will know
how love is its own blessing
and most ancient of laws.
Pursue it entirely
with everything in you—
your heart (all)
your soul (all)
your mind (all).
Spend it all—
this love so generous
this love that goes out
to each it finds
this love that gives itself
in lavish and unimagined measure
everywhere and to all—
yourself not least.
Resources:
* Ahava / Love by the Bible Project (animated video): https://bibleproject.com/explore/video/ahavah-love/
* Agape / Love by the Bible Project (animated video): https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=slyevQ1LW7A
AHAVA REFLECTIONS

The greatest commandment is to love God and the best way I know to love God is to love what God loves—which is everything! Surely this is the way that Jesus loves. To love as Jesus loves, we too must be connected to the Source of love. … If you don’t live from within your own center of connection and communion with God, you’ll go spinning around many other things. The true goal of all religion is to lead you back to the place where everything is one, to the experience of radical unity with all of humanity and all of creation, and hence to the experience of unity with God, who is the Great Includer of all else…  — Fr. Richard Rohr, Center for Action & Contemplation, https://cac.org/radical-simplicity-2020-06-29/

Love God. Love God with everything you are: heart, soul, strength. Love God with your life (perhaps a better translation than “soul,” since Israel didn’t conceive of a disembodied soul). Many scholars would say that “love” here is not primarily an emotion. They point to examples of political treaties known from the ancient Near East. To “love” one’s sovereign in these ancient political covenants was to be loyal to him … Such ancient political treaties are undoubtedly in the background of this passage. To “love” God as one would “love” a human sovereign entails primarily action, not emotion. To love is to be faithful and loyal in fulfilling the obligations of the covenant … Still, there is another realm of life in which the language of love and covenant abounds. The metaphor of marriage, though not as explicit in Deuteronomy as in other biblical books, provides a central biblical paradigm for understanding the relationship of God and Israel. —   Kathryn M. Schifferdecker, https://www.workingpreacher.org/commentaries/revised-common-lectionary/ordinary-31-2/commentary-on-deuteronomy-61-9

The laws are made for us, not us for the laws… We do not serve a distant God, but one who actually cares about how you treat people and how you are treated. People matter. Relationships matter. The dignity of human beings matters. — Nadia Bolz-Weber

The ancient Hebrew word “ahava” that is often translated as “love” in the Bible has a unique meaning too.  Sadly, this amazing Hebrew word is hidden behind the nonchalant English term that everyone uses for everything. Love or “ahava” in the Hebraic mind is very different in today’s culture. In the Hebrew, love is connected directly with action and obedience. Strong’s Exhaustive Dictionary defines ahava as “to have affection, sexually or otherwise, love, like, to befriend, to be intimate.”  It brings to mind the idea of longing for or breathing for another. Hebraically ahava is a verb and a noun, it is an act of doing. Ahava is not just a feeling. To get a clear understanding of ahava, let’s examine the Hebrew word itself and learn how to love Hebraically. — Daniel Rendelman, https://myemail.constantcontact.com/Hebrew-Word-Study–Ahavah.html?soid=1101268607427&aid=aDzDQxelEmk

Ahava: This is Commitment Love. It is a ferocious love. We describe this as the, I’m-not-going anywhere kind of love. It is when you say, “I know that I’ll mess up, but you’ll still be there for me” kind of love.” It is not, “I will be with you for as long as you make me feel good, but once you are dull, mean, rude or old then see you later.” This is the primary kind of love that God has for his children. Ahava anchors you down to the one you love. — Charles Schuman, https://www.fortgordonnews.com/articles/true-definition-of-love-given-by-god/

Whereas other biblical nouns and verbs convey a particular type of love, such as ion (hesed) which often designates kindness and loyalty, or p^n (hesheq), which denotes desire or passion, nnx (ahv, verb) is employed in a wide variety of social, political, and spiritual contexts. Ahv and ahavah (noun) occur over 200 times in biblical narratives and poetry. They convey notions of attachment, passion, affection, preference, loyalty, and yearning. https://what-when-how.com/love-in-world-religions/ahavah/

Taken together the command to love God with all our heart, soul, and might seems clearly to encompass every aspect of our being as well as all of our exertions of energy. All of our lives, all of our identity. And all of our actions. All of who we are, our gifts, our capacities to act. And not just a portion, a slice. All. Every last capacity. No part of our lives is to be segmented apart from full devotion to God, to obey and follow His precepts. This is the path to the greatest blessing … God will not compel their love. True love requires choice. Coerced relationship is abuse. God is love. With the clear direction of what path is in their best interest, God provides freedom. Freedom is the ability to choose …
https://thebiblesays.com/commentary/deut/deut-6/deuteronomy-64-5/

One Today — Richard Blanco
One sun rose on us today, kindled over our shores,
peeking over the Smokies, greeting the faces
of the Great Lakes, spreading a simple truth
across the Great Plains, then charging across the Rockies.
One light, waking up rooftops, under each one, a story
told by our silent gestures moving behind windows.
My face, your face, millions of faces in morning’s mirrors,
each one yawning to life, crescendoing into our day:
pencil-yellow school buses, the rhythm of traffic lights,
fruit stands: apples, limes, and oranges arrayed like rainbows
begging our praise. Silver trucks heavy with oil or paper—
bricks or milk, teeming over highways alongside us,
on our way to clean tables, read ledgers, or save lives—
to teach geometry, or ring-up groceries as my mother did
for twenty years, so I could write this poem.
All of us as vital as the one light we move through,
the same light on blackboards with lessons for the day:
equations to solve, history to question, or atoms imagined,
the “I have a dream” we keep dreaming,
or the impossible vocabulary of sorrow that won’t explain
the empty desks of twenty children marked absent
today, and forever. Many prayers, but one light
breathing color into stained glass windows,
life into the faces of bronze statues, warmth
onto the steps of our museums and park benches
as mothers watch children slide into the day.
One ground. Our ground, rooting us to every stalk
of corn, every head of wheat sown by sweat
and hands, hands gleaning coal or planting windmills
in deserts and hilltops that keep us warm, hands
digging trenches, routing pipes and cables, hands
as worn as my father’s cutting sugarcane
so my brother and I could have books and shoes.
The dust of farms and deserts, cities and plains
mingled by one wind—our breath. Breathe. Hear it
through the day’s gorgeous din of honking cabs,
buses launching down avenues, the symphony
of footsteps, guitars, and screeching subways,
the unexpected song bird on your clothes line.
Hear: squeaky playground swings, trains whistling,
or whispers across café tables, Hear: the doors we open
for each other all day, saying: hello / shalom,
buon giorno / howdy / namaste / or buenos días
in the language my mother taught me—in every language
spoken into one wind carrying our lives
without prejudice, as these words break from my lips.
One sky: since the Appalachians and Sierras claimed
their majesty, and the Mississippi and Colorado worked
their way to the sea. Thank the work of our hands:
weaving steel into bridges, finishing one more report
for the boss on time, stitching another wound
or uniform, the first brush stroke on a portrait,
or the last floor on the Freedom Tower
jutting into a sky that yields to our resilience.
One sky, toward which we sometimes lift our eyes
tired from work: some days guessing at the weather
of our lives, some days giving thanks for a love
that loves you back, sometimes praising a mother
who knew how to give, or forgiving a father
who couldn’t give what you wanted.
We head home: through the gloss of rain or weight
of snow, or the plum blush of dusk, but always—home,
always under one sky, our sky. And always one moon
like a silent drum tapping on every rooftop
and every window, of one country—all of us—
facing the stars
hope—a new constellation
waiting for us to map it,
waiting for us to name it—together

AHAVA: Meditations on Holy Love & Human Love

Ahava Love is the risky, vulnerable, uninsured act of donatng what I prize most. Me. — Steven Daugherty

Love is unselfishly choosing for another’s good. — CS Lewis

The only way I know how to teach anyone to love God, and how I myself can love God, is to love what God loves, which is everything and everyone, including you and including me! — Fr. Richard Rohr

… according to Ahava, the woman described in Proverbs 31 is not some ideal that exists out there; she is present in each one of us when we do even the smallest things with valor. ― Rachel Held Evans

What was new and remarkable in the Bible was the idea that love, not just fairness, is the driving principle of the moral life. – Rabbi Jonathan Sacks

As we perform these acts of love, they form in us a new memory — not of our vulnerability or nostalgia, but of our capacity to act. These mitzvot of love will become, we hope, as familiar as our established mitzvot already are. They hold open the invitation, always, for depth, intention, and truth.— Joanna Samuels
le’ehov ze klum, lihiot ne’ehav ze mashehu, aval le’ehov velihiot ne’ehav ze hakol לאהוב זה כלום. להיות נאהב זה משהו. אבל לאהוב ולהיות נאהב זה הכל. To love is nothing. To be loved is something. But to love and be loved is everything. — Saying in Hebrew, unattributed

Most of us were taught that God would love us if and when we change. In fact, God loves you so that you can change. What empowers change, what makes you desirous of change is the experience of love. It is that inherent experience of love that becomes the engine of change. ― Fr  Richard Rohr
ahava hi kmo ruach, yi efshar lirot ota, akh nitan lehargish ota אהבה היא כמו רוח, אי אפשר לראות אותה, אך ניתן להרגיש אותה. Love is like the wind, you can’t see it, but you can feel it. — Saying in Hebrew, unattributed

We are made for goodness. We are made for love. We are made for friendliness. We are made for togetherness. We are made for all of the beautiful things that you and I know. We are made to tell the world that there are no outsiders. All are welcome: black, white, red, yellow, rich, poor, educated, not educated, male, female, gay, straight, all, all, all. We all belong to this family, this human family, God’s family. ― Archbishop Desmond Tutu

The first element of true love is loving kindness. The essence of loving kindness is being able to offer happiness. You can be the sunshine for another person. You can’t offer happiness until you have it for yourself. So build a home inside by accepting yourself and learning to love and heal yourself. Learn how to practice mindfulness in such a way that you can create moments of happiness and joy for your own nourishment. Then you have something to offer the other person. ― Thích Nhất Hạnh

Jesus has loved his followers so that they may love each other. Love calls for love in turn. Love makes love imperative. — Allen Dwight Callahan

And only when we see ourselves and others as Jesus’ friends is it possible to love with the heart of God. … then all other competing claims about who we are simply melt away. You are no longer male or female, Jew or Greek, gay or straight, urban or suburban, republican or democrat, rich or poor you are simply the one whom Jesus loves. You are the beloved disciple. You are the one whom Jesus has called friend. And this unchangeable and unassailable identity you have as the one whom Jesus loves is the basis by which you too are afforded the honor of being loved by others as Jesus’ Friend. For you are who Christ chose and named as such. And nothing else gets to tell you who you are. — Nadia Bolz-Weber

Every morning, my father and I would get up early and say the prayers. Today, when I say these prayers, I wonder how I could have said that then? It was hypocrisy. It was a lie to say there that our God is a God of mercy. There is a sentence, Ahava rabbah Ahavtainu, with great love You have loved us; what great love You have given us and You loved us, and Your compassion was not only great but excessive. There? Yet we said it. — Eli Wiesel, Night, holocaust survivor

We continue to live in a fractured world filled with sinat hinam (baseless hatred), which each of us has an individual responsibility to counter with ahavat hinam (baseless love). The first step to repairing the world is for more of us to re-imagine it, particularly in relating to the other. Through acceptance, respect, and love, we invite the other in to share a safe space where we can become our best selves together. — Rabbi Yehoshua Looks

… abounding with ahava and shalom, love and peace, and a year made complete by the purpose to serve one another in joy. — Rabbi Max Miller

Sometimes the love of God is 12 inches from being real, the distance from the head to the heart. — David Ivey

… When I came to the Buddhist article in that issue of Parabola, I was struck by how similar to ‘agape’ is the word ‘metta’ from the ancient Pali language of India. The author, the Buddhist monk, Venerable Bhikkhu Bodhi, said the closest he could come to an English translation of ‘metta’ is ‘loving-kindness.’ … — Bob West

Christ’s message is one of pure love.  Loving for the sick, the poor, the oppressed that is what we are called to do … Christ has commanded us to show this love to every single human being on this planet.
… Our goal must be to, as Pope Francis has said, be a field hospital for those in a battle that rages all around us. The battle goes on in the form of war, famine, poverty, persecution, and it is our job to show the love of Christ to those afflicted. We are to walk alongside those who are walking down rough pathways in their lives…. Instead, we must have as a first goal to love and help each individual on earth …  — Devan, religion student, Emory and Henry College

I Did Think, Let’s Go About This Slowly
— Mary Oliver

I did think, let’s go about this slowly.

This is important. This should take

some really deep thought. We should take

small thoughtful steps.

But, bless us, we didn’t.

Advent Daily Devotional: Day 22 – Week of Love

Sunday, Dec 20 – DAY 22

Love glows bright as the focus of this week’s reflections. As we light our candles, we prepare to welcome holy love into our homes and lives.
            Can you imagine a love more determined than the one that chooses to show up in our messy and imperfect world? To be born human?
            It takes a stubborn love to move toward us, because we cannot ever quite reach that love itself. That is what our holy stories translate to us. Love chooses to be with us and among us in this season. And every day.
            The holy love narrated in our scriptures points toward agape. Agape is a love greater than ourselves. It is different than erotic or passionate love, larger and deeper than love for friends or family.
            Agape gives of itself. And part of that giving begins with movement. Holy love has turned to us and returned to us, chosen us over and over, meeting us where we are, coming to this world and time in which we live.
 — Rev Gail

But as for me, my prayer is to you, O Lord. At an acceptable time, O God, in the abundance of your steadfast love, answer me. — Psalm 69:13

Agape doesn’t love somebody because they’re worthy. Agape makes them worthy by the strength and power of its love. Agape doesn’t love somebody because they’re beautiful. Agape loves in such a way that it makes them beautiful. — Rob Bell

Reflections on covenants made with love, themes from 1 Corinthians 13.

This week we celebrate the renewal of Ray & Arden’s Wedding Vows during the year of their 60th anniversary: such vows are bound as a covenant made in the sight and presence of holy love (agape).


This is our great covenant: To dwell together in peace,
To seek the truth in love, And to help one another.  
— James Vila Blake

Link to scripture, focusing on verses 4-8a and 13. For prior reflections on agape (holy love) contrasted with other forms of love, visit this post.

Questions to consider:

  • What vows, oaths, pledges and promises have you made to an individual, entity or organization?
  • Which covenants and promises have included a promise of love?
  • What promises were made to you in return? Did those reciprocal vows or promises also include love?
  • What practices support your ability to keep your promise?
  • What symbols signify those promises? Do you wear or carry them on your person?
  • What is the difference between a covenant and a contract?

Are you fleeing from Love because of a single humiliation?What do you know of Love except the name?
… Since Love is loyal, it purchases one who is loyal:
it has no interest in a disloyal companion.
The human being resembles a tree; its root is a covenant with God:
that root must be cherished with all one’s might.
A weak covenant is a rotten root, without grace or fruit.
Though the boughs and leaves of the date palm are green,
greenness brings no benefit if the root is corrupt.
If a branch is without green leaves, yet has a good root,
a hundred leaves will put forth their hands in the end.
— Rumi

Appalachian Elegy (Section 6)— bell hooks

listen little sister / angels make their hope here
in these hills / follow me
I will guide you / careful now / no trespass
I will guide you / word for word / mouth for mouth
all the holy ones / embracing us
all our kin / making home here
renegade marooned / lawless fugitives / grace these mountains
we have earth to bind us
the covenant / between us / can never be broken
vows to live and let live

On Covenants

To every people the land is given on condition. Perceived or not, there is a Covenant, beyond the constitution, beyond sovereign guarantee, beyond the nation’s sweetest dreams of itself. — Leonard Cohen

When you look in the dictionary for the most important word, do you know what it is? It could be remember. Because all of you have made covenants — you know what to do and you know how to do it — our greatest need is to remember. — Spencer W. Kimball

Mother Earth needs us to keep our covenant. We will do this in courts, we will do this on our radio station, and we will commit to our descendants to work hard to protect this land and water for them. Whether you have feet, wings, fins, or roots, we are all in it together. — Winona LaDuke

The word ‘slavery’ and ‘right’ are contradictory, they cancel each other out. Whether as between one man and another, or between one man and a whole people, it would always be absurd to say: “I hereby make a covenant with you which is wholly at your expense and wholly to my advantage; I will respect it so long as I please and you shall respect it as long as I wish. — Jean-Jacques Rousseau

Peace does not rest in the charters and covenants alone. It lies in the hearts and minds of all people. So let us not rest all our hopes on parchment and on paper, let us strive to build peace, a desire for peace, a willingness to work for peace in the hearts and minds of all of our people. I believe that we can. I believe the problems of human destiny are not beyond the reach of human beings. — John F. Kennedy

Some men look at constitutions with sanctimonious reverence and deem them like the Ark of the Covenant, too sacred to be touched. They ascribe to men of the preceding age a wisdom more than human and suppose what they did to be beyond amendment. — Edmund Morgan

The best way to strengthen a home, current or future, is to keep covenants.  — Linda K. Burton

Sociologists argue that in contemporary Western society the marketplace has become so dominant that the consumer model increasingly characterizes most relationships that historically were covenantal, including marriage. Today we stay connected to people only as long as they are meeting our particular needs at an acceptable cost to us. When we cease to make a profit – that is, when the relationship appears to require more love and affirmation from us than we are getting back – then we “cut our losses” and drop the relationship. This has also been called “commodification,” a process by which social relationships are reduced to economic exchange relationships, and so the very idea of “covenant” is disappearing in our culture. ― Timothy Keller

Dalai Lama’s Commentary

With a wish to free all beings
I shall always go for refuge
to the Buddha, Dharma and Sangha
until I reach full enlightenment.

Enthused by wisdom and compassion,
today in the Buddha’s presence
I generate the Mind for Full Awakening
for the benefit of all sentient beings.

As long as space endures,
as long as sentient being remain,
until then, may I too remain
and dispel the miseries of the world.

In conclusion, those who like myself, consider themselves to be followers of Buddha, should practice as much as we can.

To followers of other religious traditions, I would like to say, “Please practice your own religion seriously and sincerely.”

And to non-believers, I request you to try to be warm-hearted. I ask this of you because these mental attitudes actually bring us happiness. As I have mentioned before, taking care of others actually benefits you. — 14th Dalai Lama

Holy Covenants: Jewish & Christian Commentary

In legal language, a covenant generally denotes an agreement between two or more parties. But in a religious context, a covenant is much more significant. It is a sacred promise with God. [God] fixes the terms. — Russell M. Nelson

God doesn’t want us to have rigid rituals with Him. In the new covenant, He is more interested in having a relationship with us. — Joseph Prince

The Israelites frequently forsook God, and he as frequently forsook them. But when they repented and returned to him, he remembered his covenant and delivered them from their distresses. — Adoniram Judson

A covenant made with God should be regarded not as restrictive but as protective. — Russell M. Nelson

The work of man is to respond to the Covenant by obeying the commandments of the Torah, those commandments that can be obeyed here and now. — David Novak

Then God establishes his Covenant with Noah, and with his sons, “and with every living creature.” Many recall the Covenant with Noah, but forget the Covenant with all other living Beings. However, God does not forget it. He repeats the terms “all flesh” and “every living creature” a number of times, to make sure we get the point. No one can make a Covenant with a stone: for a Covenant to exist, there must. be a minimum of two live and responsible parties to it. Therefore the Animals are not senseless matter, not mere chunks of meat. No; they have souls, or God could not have made a Covenant with them. The human Words of God affirm this: “But ask now the beasts,” says Job 12, “and they shall teach thee; and the fowls of the air, and they shall tell thee … and the fishes of the sea shall declare unto thee.” ― Margaret Atwood, The Year of the Flood

When God makes a covenant with us, God says: ‘I will love you with an everlasting love. I will be faithful to you, even when you run away from me, reject me, or betray me.’ In our society we don’t speak much about covenants; we speak about contracts. When we make a contract with a person, we say: ‘I will fulfill my part as long as you fulfill yours. When you don’t live up to your promises, I no longer have to live up to mine.’ Contracts are often broken because the partners are unwilling or unable to be faithful to their terms. But God didn’t make a contract with us; God made a covenant with us, and God wants our relationships with one another to reflect that covenant. That’s why marriage, friendship, life in community are all ways to give visibility to God’s faithfulness in our lives together.” ― Henri J.M. Nouwen, Bread for the Journey: A Daybook of Wisdom and Faith

Things that become important to economies become ritualized and become deified. Because I’m Jewish, I always thought it was interesting that in Judaism, salt seals a bargain, particularly the covenant with God. Some people, when they bless bread, they dip it in salt. Same thing exists in Islam. — Mark Kurlansky

Marriage has a unique place because it speaks of an absolute faithfulness, a covenant between radically different persons, male and female; and so it echoes the absolute covenant of God with his chosen, a covenant between radically different partners. — Rowan Williams

Settle this in your heart: Whether I am up or down, the Lord Jesus is the same. Whether I sing or sigh, the promise is true and the Promiser is faithful. Whether I stand on the summit or am hidden in the vale the covenant stands fast and everlasting love abides. — Charles Spurgeon


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