Calling Out in Love

Yael Eckstein  |  July 19, 2023

Girl hugging and blessing elderly woman
(Photo: F. Young)

The LORD called to Moses and spoke to him from the tent of meeting. — Leviticus 1:1

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.

Some days it feels like my children call out to me hundreds of times, but each time carries a different meaning. There’s the sweet, gentle “Mommy” that means “I love you,” the frustrated, annoyed “Mommy” that is a cry for help, the pleading “Mommy” which implies they need something from me, the harsh, angry “Mommy” which means they think I’ve treated them unfairly, to name but a few.

Each one, however, communicates to me the depth of our relationship. I am the one they call to, regardless of how they are feeling or what they need.

The book of Leviticus begins with God calling out to Moses by name. The Jewish sages teach that every time God communicated with Moses—whether it was with the expression “He spoke,” “He said,” or “He commanded”—it was always preceded by God first calling Moses by name. And God did so by calling out to Moses in love.

Calling Out in Love

According to Jewish tradition, this was an expression of deep affection and connection. Whether God was speaking to Moses in order to convey a message to the nation, to tell him what to do, or to warn him of impending punishment, He always began with “I love you.” The word vayikra—“and He called”—teaches us that God’s unconditional love for us comes before anything else; all other business is secondary to the relationship.

This message is radical both in the way that we understand our relationships with other people and with God. People who know they are loved by God know that they are valuable, no matter what anyone else says. People with that sense of self will also understand that all human beings share this inherent worth and must be treated accordingly.

Your Turn:

Wherever you are and whatever you do—remember, God loves you. And when you speak to the people in your life, call them by name. Regardless of the reason for communication, always focus on expressing your love and deepening the relationship.