Summary of Part 1

There are several basic types of love a Jew has for G‑d. The first, called "Ahavat Olam", or "Eternal Love", is aroused through contemplation of G‑d's greatness, in the sense that the entire universe is as nothing next to G‑d. This love can wane when one's contemplation gives way to other thoughts.

The second, "Ahava Raba", or "Great Love", is the deeply-rooted natural love of a Jewish soul for G‑d. Since the Jew is truly united with G‑d through his or her soul, which is literally a part of G‑d and never changes, this love likewise cannot waver.

Summary of Part 2

Revelation of this Great Love is accomplished through study of the Torah, which is compared to wine. This is the inner significance of the Talmudic saying "When wine [referring to Torah] enters a person, the secret [referring to the longing of their soul for G‑d] comes out".

This in turn elicits yet a third, and still higher, level of love for G‑d, characterized by the person experiencing true delight in G‑d.The above is complemented by a person's scrutiny of their actions and motivations, and sincere efforts to assimilate the Torah into their own personality.

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Part 1

Among the blessings our forefather Jacob bestowed upon his sons before his passing, we find this statement addressed to Judah: "[His] eyes are red with wine, and [his] teeth are white with milk." (Gen. 49:12) This is a reference to the agricultural productivity of the tribe of Judah's territorial portion in the Land of Israel: there would be enough grapes to redden the eyes from wine, and enough milk to whiten one's teeth. On a deeper level, these two items were specified because they symbolize certain spiritual qualities. To appreciate the underlying significance of this, let us therefore examine the symbolism of "wine" and "milk".

Regarding wine, it is written, "…my wine, that gladdens G‑d and men." (Judges 9:13) This expression is puzzling: what is there about wine that "gladdens G‑d"? The answer is that wine, like milk, is a metaphor for Torah, as we find in a passage referring to the Torah, "Go buy wine and milk without money and without price." (Isaiah 55:1) Each of these two things represents a particular quality of Torah.

"Wine" refers to a quality expressed by the Talmudic saying elsewhere, "When wine enters [a person], the secret comes out." (Eruvin 65a and elsewhere)

The universe…is constantly being recreated
by G‑d….

The "secret" is that deeply-rooted feeling at the secret base and foundation of every Jewish soul, his or her great love for G‑d - a love which is brought to revelation through Torah study, just as actual wine causes a person to reveal what is buried in his or her secret heart.

Now, there are basically two distinct forms of love for G‑d, and the love mentioned above (which is known by the technical term, "Ahava Rabba", "Great Love") must be distinguished from a more superficial kind of love called "Ahavat Olam", "Eternal Love". While Eternal Love is a readily perceptible love for G‑d, Great Love refers to that "hidden love" that is part of the basic core and essence of each and every single Jewish person, though not always revealed. To see why this hidden love is called "great", let us contrast the two.

The Hebrew phrase that means Eternal Love, Ahavat Olam, also means "worldly love" [the word "olam" implies both "world" and "eternity"]; this is a love which relates to space and time. Ahavat Olam results from deep and prolonged contemplation and meditation upon the sublimity of G‑d, His majesty over time and space. The worshipper should consider that all the splendid grandeur of the universe, all that overwhelms him or her with awe, is truly nothing in its own right, but was created by G‑d; not only that, but that it is constantly being recreated by G‑d, since it is only a constant influx of G‑d's creative energy that keeps the world from returning to the naught and nothingness of its origin - and not only that, but this divine energy, the very life-force of the universe itself, is not even an extension of G‑d's own "Self", so to speak, but is nothing more than a reflection of His sovereignty.

There is a certain element of kingship that is entirely separate from the actual person of the king. This is his renown, his "name", which reaches into the farthest corners of the land (where his will is carried out "in the name of the king"); by contrast, his physical body, and certainly his personal feelings and thoughts, remain inaccessible to the populace. In a similar fashion, the G‑dly life-force that pervades every aspect of creation is compared to the sovereignty, the "kingship", of G‑d, His renown, since it brings the universe into being in accordance with G‑d's will, yet is separate from G‑d's very "Self" - which is so indescribably exalted as to utterly transcend any specific relation to the created universe. When a person reflects at length upon this, especially during prayer, there is aroused in him or her a deep feeling of love for G‑d - the "eternal" or "worldly" love we have been discussing.

He is One, with a perfect unity….

(In fact, virtually all of the Morning Prayer service is arranged so as to help stimulate this love. As we recite psalms of praise to G‑d, it is appropriate to reflect upon His greatness and how all is as nothing in relation to Him. These morning psalms lead up to the Shema prayer, by which point we are ready to proclaim the ultimate unity of G‑d: that He is One, with a perfect unity, and nothing has any existence whatever outside of Him. It is only by virtue of G‑d's "kingship", His "name", that "existence" has any meaning, as we continue by declaring, "Blessed be the name of the glory of His Kingdom …." Having reflected on this theme throughout the service, culminating in the Shema, we have brought out our love for G‑d and go on to recite, "And you shall love G‑d your L-rd….")

All this is the case regarding Eternal Love, Ahavat Olam. Concerning this, it is written (also in the morning prayers, preparatory to the Shema), "You [G‑d] have loved us with eternal love [in Hebrew, 'ahavat olam ahavtanu']". The Hebrew word for "You have loved us", "ahavtanu", may be interpreted as a transitive verb, giving the phrase the meaning, "You have enabled us to love [You] with eternal love." G‑d has given us the capacity to hold this type of love in our hearts, even to fan it into a mighty love that fills every fiber of our beings; Eternal Love can be contained within a human heart and soul.

The very root of the soul…is so lofty that it cannot be contained within one's physical self….

On the other hand, Ahava Rabba, Great Love, is so profound that it cannot be "contained" by any vessel. No human heart is "big enough" to completely hold the great love of a Jew for his or her G‑d. This is because of the essential nature of the Jewish soul and its relationship to G‑d. Each and every Jew has within him or her a "spark" of G‑d, literally a part of G‑d Himself; this is the essence of the soul. While Eternal Love is the love which we, as intellectual beings, consciously develop, the love of a created being who recognizes his or her creator, Great Love is the natural love of the soul itself - an inseparable part of G‑d - for G‑d.

The very root of the soul, which is united with G‑d, is so lofty that it cannot be contained within one's physical self, and the same is true of the Great Love that is in the root of the soul. Ahava Rabba, Great Love, is present in every single Jew, but it is so basic, so close to the indefinable essence of the person, that it is often imperceptible on a conscious level. That is why it is also called "Hidden Love" - although it can indeed be brought to revelation. It is to this revelation of Ahava Rabba that the Torah is referring in the verse "And you shall love G‑d your L-rd…with all your might". (Deut. 6:5, recited as part of the Shema)

The difference between the two kinds of love is that "Eternal" [or "Worldly"] Love, which comes from contemplation of the world and G‑d's greatness, can wane. If a person did not contemplate the greatness of G‑d, or if he reflected upon it in the morning and then came afternoon - if the person turns his or her mind to other things, the person's heart may turn toward something else for a while rather than being filled constantly with Eternal Love. Great Love, however, innately stemming from the very root of the soul, cannot possibly depart, ever. Even if a person does turn their attention to other things - even if they don't even believe in G‑d (Heaven forbid) - the Great Love of their Jewish soul for G‑d remains firm in the secret core of their being, and its impression is always with them.

That is why, historically, even irreligious Jews have given up their very lives rather than renounce G‑d and Judaism. In time of mortal danger (G‑d forbid), all worldly matters fade into insignificance, and the deeply rooted and unshakeable love of a Jew for his or her G‑d shines forth.

[Adapted by Yitzchak Wagshul from a discourse in Torah Or]

(To continue on to: Eyes Red with Wine: Part 2, click here.)