The LORD called to Moses and spoke to him from the tent of meeting. — Leviticus 1:1
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 forms the connection that enables us to love one another. Join us this month, as we offer a devotional series exploring the Jewish perspective on love.
If there’s one word we hear just about every day, it is our name. However, every time our name is said, it doesn’t always carry the same meaning. Let’s say your name is Jane. There’s the “Jane” that is said sweetly and means, “I love you.” Then there is the “Jane” that is said sternly and means, “You’re in big trouble!” There can also be the “Jane” said pleadingly which might indicate that someone is about to ask you for a favor.
There are many meanings to any name depending on how it is said!
In our verse, read about God calling out Moses’ 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. According to Jewish tradition, calling Moses’ name was an expression of affection.
In other words, whenever God called Moses’ name, it wasn’t just to get his attention and it wasn’t to punish him or ask for a favor. When God called Moses’ name, it was to tell him that He loved him. Only then would God go into whatever subject was at hand – be it a commandment, a reproach, or whatever. First came the love, everything else came second.
The sages explain that this deeper understanding of the word vayikra, “and He called,” teaches us that God’s love for us comes before anything else. God’s love is unconditional and unwavering. As it says in Jeremiah: “I have loved you with an everlasting love . . .” (31:3).
Rabbi Shlomo Carlebach, a rabbi and musician who died in the 1990s, often said: “We need to teach our kids to love God, but it’s even more important to teach how much God loves them!” It’s so important to teach our kids and to know ourselves how much we are loved by God. This knowledge cannot be underestimated.
People who know they are loved by God know that they are valuable and loveable no matter what anyone else says. People with that knowledge will have the courage to do what is right and the resolve to treat themselves right. Moreover, they will have the love to pass on to others and give back to God.
So as you go through your day, remember — God loves you! More than any of us will ever know.
Download our complimentary Bible study, “The Life of Ruth,” to learn more about this courageous young foreigner, whose love and devotion to the God of Israel led to unexpected blessings.