Chayei Sarah: What is love?

This is the first time the Torah mentions anyone loving someone, and of course, we are now faced with the question: what is love?

Burial of Sarah (engraving by Gustave Doré from the 1865 La Sainte Bible) (photo credit: PUBLIC DOMAIN/VIA WIKIMEDIA COMMONS)
Burial of Sarah (engraving by Gustave Doré from the 1865 La Sainte Bible)
(photo credit: PUBLIC DOMAIN/VIA WIKIMEDIA COMMONS)

This week's parsha, Chayei Sarah, opens up with a recounting of the years of Sarah, the matriarch of the Jewish people and Abraham’s wife, and ultimately her death. This is followed by Abraham’s purchase of the Cave of Machpelah, a testament to our indigeneity to the Land of Israel, and of which today is under Jewish control for the first time in 2,000 years. From this, we come to the story of Rebecca becoming the wife of Isaac and learn about the idea of love.

It is quite interesting to read the events which convince Eliezer, Abraham’s servant, that Rebecca is the right woman for his boss. The passage is telling, as Eliezer waits by a well when Rebecca approaches:

“And she said, ‘Drink, my lord.’ And she hastened and lowered her pitcher to her hand, and she gave him to drink. And she finished giving him to drink, and she said, ‘I will also draw for your camels, until they will have finished drinking.’"

To Eliezer, this is something remarkable; not only did she offer him water, she also had the compassion — something inherently valuable in an individual — necessary that led her to offer water for his camels unprovoked. Eliezer sees something special in her, and as he presses her on who she is, he quickly finds out that she is of Abraham’s family, and he was led directly to her to bring her to Isaac. From there, after a bit of a debate, she ultimately returns with Eliezer to Abraham and Isaac. The following then happens after they meet and acquaint with each other:

“And Isaac brought her to the tent of Sarah his mother, and he took Rebecca, and she became his wife, and he loved her. And Isaac was comforted for [the loss of] his mother.”

Eliezer and Rebekah (engraving by Gustave Doré from the 1865 La Sainte Bible) (credit: PUBLIC DOMAIN/VIA WIKIMEDIA COMMONS)Eliezer and Rebekah (engraving by Gustave Doré from the 1865 La Sainte Bible) (credit: PUBLIC DOMAIN/VIA WIKIMEDIA COMMONS)

What is the lesson of this parsha?

This is the first time the Torah mentions anyone loving someone, and of course, we are now faced with the question: what is love?

The word love in Hebrew, ahava, has a root of the word meaning “to give.” It is interesting to think about because when we generally think of love, we think of attraction or the things we like in a person that makes us fall for them. However, when we think about what it really means to love someone, it means to give them your everything. When you marry someone or have children, the result is that you are giving up something of yourself; your time, your energy, your desires. You are humbling yourself before the person you love, giving your everything, and as a result, love ensues.

This idea makes clear why it is so important to find a suitable spouse and to have children. Besides the obvious benefits of companionship and raising future generations, getting married and having kids allows an individual to grow to their highest potential by giving themselves to others. In turn, they can experience the type of love that Isaac felt for Rebecca, a love that healed his wounds and gave him the strength to give his all and raise the progeny of the Jewish people, Jacob.

Shabbat Shalom.

The writer, a Jerusalem Post staff member, is an entrepreneur and Hebrew thinker, known as Osher in Hebrew. A recent Oleh, he also helps oversee the start-up ecosystem in Jerusalem with Made in JLM. On Twitter: @troyfritzhand.