Photo of a white rock with the word love and a heart painted on it.
Photo by Noah Wulf via Wikimedia Commons.

Love: What Would You Give?

Jewish tradition teaches that love is not just about what you feel, it's about what you do.

The first mention of love in the Torah occurs when God tells Abraham to offer up Isaac, “whom you love.” (Genesis 22:2)

Why should The Torah choose this improbable moment to mention love for the first time? For a moment, let us set aside all the other questions involved in the very difficult story to ponder why love is introduced here.

All love has an element of sacrifice. The Hebrew word for sacrifice, korban, comes from the root “to draw close.” When you sacrifice for another you draw close to them. One of the reasons we so treasure our children is we have given them so much. The idea is suggested in the Hebrew word for the Isaac story: “Akedah” — binding. 

All relationships require offerings: to be betrothed in Jewish tradition one must give a gift. Most importantly, to love another as friend, family, partner, you must make an offering of yourself. We often ask those in love, “What do you feel?” We might better ask, “What would you give?”

Rabbi David Wolpe’s musings are shared in My Jewish Learning’s Shabbat newsletter, Recharge, a weekly collection of readings to refresh your soul. Sign up to receive the newsletter.

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