Lent • Day 17

Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God, the LORD is one. 5Love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength.

Deuteronomy 6:4,5

This is what the Lord says:
“The people who survive the sword
    will find favor in the wilderness;
    I will come to give rest to Israel.”

The Lord appeared to us in the past, saying:
“I have loved you with an everlasting love;
    I have drawn you with unfailing kindness.
I will build you up again,
    and you, Virgin Israel, will be rebuilt.
Again you will take up your timbrels
    and go out to dance with the joyful.
Again you will plant vineyards
    on the hills of Samaria;
the farmers will plant them
    and enjoy their fruit.
There will be a day when watchmen cry out
    on the hills of Ephraim,
‘Come, let us go up to Zion,
    to the Lord our God.’”

Jeremiah 31:2-6

Every morning and evening, faithful Jews pray the words of Moses written in Deuteronomy 6. They pledge themselves to hear and obey the LORD and to love the LORD.

But what is love?

In Hebrew the kind of love we’re to have for the LORD is ahavah. It’s the affection Abraham had for his only son, Isaac; Hosea maintained for his wife even after she prostituted herself; and Jonathan had for his friend David.

The LORD had ahavah for the Israelites.

Moses reminded his forgetful and arrogant nation that “the Lord did not set his affection on you and choose you because you were more numerous than other peoples, for you were the fewest of all peoples, but it was because the Lord loved you…” (Deuteronomy 7:7)

The Israelites didn’t do something or become something to set off the LORD’s love for them. Jeremiah tells us God’s love is everlasting – it has no end because it has no beginning. God’s love just is.

But ahavah is more than affection. It’s action.

At the center of ahavah is hav, which means to give.

At the root of divine love is generosity.

The LORD loved the Israelites and chose them, freed them, fed them, led them, spoke to them, forgave them, made his home among them, and promised his everlasting love to them again and again. Because when God loves, God gives.

But we humans have a long and sordid history of separating our affection from our action. We’re in the habit of loudly proclaiming our affection for God with hands lifted high and then living with hands clenched tight.

By reciting the Shema, faithful Jews are pledging their ahavah in response to the LORD’s ahavah. Every day they do this to set their affection on the LORD and realign their actions with that affection.


• Are my affections and actions aligned, and are both centered on the LORD today?

Our Prayer

Lover of my soul, my affections are scattered, my love is divided. Give me love like yours.

My lips make promises that my hands quickly break. Give me love like yours.

My love begins and ends. It is earned and deserved and easily lost. Give me love like yours.