Parashat V’etchanan/ Shabbat Nachamu
It’s time to stage a “Love-in!” In Talmudic times, to mark the beginning of the grape harvest, women would exchange clothing with each other, dress in white and dance in vineyards, hoping to find their soul mate. This Friday, Tu B’Av (the 15th day of the Hebrew month of Av) is celebrated as the “Festival of Love” (Chag HaAhava)! This Jewish Valentine’s Day is considered in Israel to be an auspicious day for marriage, romantic dates, and proposals.
Judaism speaks of an endless Source of Love that is ever-present, available and accessible to us. And we, created of this Love, have the capacity to open our hearts and pour our love into the universe. “You shall love (v’ahavta) [Love itself], with all your heart, with all your soul and with all your might” (Dt. 6:5).
To love so intentionally is challenging, which perhaps is why the v’ahavta prayer is recited twice daily. The repetition of these words expands our capacity to love unconditionally. This practice grounds our private and public lives – “When you lie down and when you get up” (Dt. 6:7) and wherever we go in between. We are regularly reminded not to become absorbed in or attached to the chaotic emotions of fear, anger and judgment that disconnected us from LOVE. This is a choice we make because it makes the world a better place. A life grounded in love invites healing and hope.
Loving ourselves and others in this way is a sacred act that evokes the qualities of compassion and forgiveness. It is an act of free will to transform what is negative, distant or cold in us into what is positive, intimate and warm. Directing our energies in this way, isolation is replaced by caring connection. All this when we open our hearts to send and receive the deep and abiding LOVE that constantly awaits our embrace. This is the Truth – Emet.
Rabbi Nina J. Mizrahi, Community Rabbi
14 Av 5776/ 18 August 2016