New Year Blessings

5774: A Year of Love

Worldly Love and Great Love

As stated in our Letter of Blessing for Rosh Hashanah, we should dedicate this year to augmenting love. Since love will be such a central theme over the next thirteen months,[1] let’s now turn our attention to this topic in greater detail.

The Talmud[2] states that when the Jewish people repent and return to God and His Torah at the end of their exile, they will immediately be redeemed. It is clear that this repentance must be out of love.[3] When the awakening is from below, it is called “worldly love” or “eternal love” (אַהֲבַת עוֹלָם). When it is from above, it is called “great love” (אַהֲבָה רַבָּה). Again, as mentioned in the letter, the sum of both of these types of love equals 774, the year we have just begun.

Abraham: The Man of Love

The source of the phrase, “worldly love,” is in the Tanach. It comes from the prophet Jeremiah, the bulk of whose prophecies relates to destruction and exile. But in chapter thirty-one of his book, we see a reversal of sorts, as he conveys one of the most positive prophecies mentioned in the entire Tanach. The verse reads; “God appears to me from afar, and with eternal love have I loved you; therefore have I drawn you to Me with loving-kindness.” (מֵרָחוֹק י־הוה נִרְאָה לִי וְאַהֲבַת עוֹלָם אֲהַבְתִּיךְ עַל כֵּן מְשַׁכְתִּיךְ חָסֶד ).[4] “Afar,” explains Rashi, is in the merit of the patriarchs. According to the principle that everything follows the first appearance, the fact that “from afar” (מֵרָחוֹק) debuts in the account of the Akeidah,[5] is something most significant as we will now explain.

The verse from Jeremiah continues with the words, “And eternal love I have loved you, therefore, I have drawn you to Me with loving‐kindness.” Since in Kabbalah, both attributes of “eternal love” (אַהֲבַת עוֹלָם) and “loving-kindness” (חָסֶד) correspond to Abraham, this entire verse can be said to allude to Abraham. While the simple meaning of the verse is of course that the Almighty loves the Jewish people, we also have a clear sign now that relates our concept of “eternal love” or “worldly love” back again to Abraham’s love of the Almighty.

Love Conquers All

Rebbe Tzadok HaCohen of Lublin explains that “worldly love” is love of God in the time of exile, and “great love” is love of God in the time of the redemption. He adds an important point: Defeating our physical and spiritual enemies—the first stage of redemption—depends on our manifestation of “great love.”

If we have an exile-oriented love of God, then we can perform His commandments, but we can’t triumph against our enemies. As long as our love is “worldly” (i.e., limited by the present state and condition of the world), then for instance, we can’t create a state according to the Torah. We are too caught up in the day-to-day affairs of the world to initiate such an ambitious enterprise.

But in order to perform the three sweeping, communal mitzvot (i.e., appointing a king, fighting Amalek, and building the Temple), we need to exhibit Abraham’s “great love.” This is especially true when battling the final war against Amalek; the archenemy of the Jewish people. But this idea also applies to the other two mitzvot as well. If you really want to go out to war and emerge victoriously, you must possess the quality of “great love.”

Ultimately, exhibiting the quality of “great love” will be our greatest segulah for defeating our enemies, and meriting the true and complete redemption with the coming of Mashiach, this year!

Adapted from Rabbi Ginsburgh’s Pre-Selichot class in Yitzhar, 26 Elul 5773

[1] 5774 is a leap year, with the addition of an extra month of Adar.

[2] Sanhedrin 97b.

[3] As the Rambam rules.

[4] Jeremiah 31:2. The first phrase of the verse, “God appears to me from afar,” is equal to 676 (26, the value of Havayah, squared).

[5] The Binding of Isaac. Beginning with Genesis chapter 22. In fact, the first appearance in the Torah of the word “love” also occurs in the account of the Akeidah! (Genesis 22:2).

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