Coming from a Source of Love

Yael Eckstein  |  August 1, 2022

Yael Eckstein embracing elderly Jewish woman

These are the words Moses spoke to all Israel in the wilderness east of the Jordan—that is, in the Arabah—opposite Suph, between Paran and Tophel, Laban, Hazeroth and Dizahab. Deuteronomy 1:1

Each week in synagogue, Jews read through the Torah from Genesis to Deuteronomy. The Torah portion for this week is Devarim which means “words,” from Deuteronomy 1:1–3:22.

I want to tell you about a blessing that Jews say every morning. It’s part of our daily liturgy and is recited immediately before we recite the Shema — the verses from Deuteronomy 6 which declare our faith in God and our love and devotion to Him. But right before we recite the Shema, we say a blessing called Ahavah rabba — “abundant love.”

The opening words of this blessing are “With an abundant love You love us, oh Lord our God.” The blessing goes on to specifically thank God for giving us the Torah and all its many commandments. The rest of the blessing is our commitment to God to study and keep His laws to the best of our ability. The blessing ends with the words, “Blessed are You, Lord, who has chosen His people Israel with love.”

What a beautiful lesson. Before and after our commitment to obedience to God’s command, we remind ourselves that God loves us. Because when people know that a command or rebuke is coming from a source of love, they are willing and eager to heed it.

Coming from a Source of Love

We see this in this week’s Torah portion, the opening chapters of the Book of Deuteronomy: “These are the words Moses spoke to all Israel in the wilderness.” The entire book is a series of speeches that Moses delivered to the children of Israel in the final five weeks of his life.

But curiously, Moses opened his first speech by rebuking Israel. After only a few verses, Moses began reminding Israel of all the trouble they caused by rebelling against God in the desert.

The rabbis contrasted this harsh rebuke with the blessings uttered by the wicked Balaam, who blessed Israel even as he despised them. The rabbis explained that Moses could warn and rebuke Israel precisely because they knew how much he loved and cared for the people of Israel. They knew how much Moses had personally suffered and sacrificed for them, how he had pleaded with God on more than one occasion to save them from the harshest of punishments.

This is a lesson to all parents, grandparents, teachers, and leaders. The children of Israel were willing to hear Moses’ rebuke because they knew it came from a place of love.

Your Turn:

Before you criticize or rebuke someone, ask yourself if it is coming from a source of love. Do they know you love them?