Sh’vat: Ahavah (אהבה) Love

Sh’vat is the Moon of Centering (January/February)
Shevat is our cosmic opportunity to center ourselves and determine our priorities for the busy growing seasons of late spring, summer, and fall.

Middah & Netivah

  • Ahavah (אהבה) Love 
  • Ohevet (אוהבת) Lover

Keys 

  • Nedivut Ha’Lev (נדיבות לב) Generosity
  • Anavah (ענוה)Humility 

Counterweights 

  • Av (July/August)
  • Ometz Lev (אמץ לב) Courage
  • Chachamah (חכמה) Wise Woman

New to Mussar or the Kesharim K’doshim approach? Read the intro first.


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Sh’vat: Ahavah (אהבה) Love

“Love flows in the direction of giving”

~ Eliyahu Eliezer Dessler via Everyday Holiness by Alan Morinis

What is the difference between “love” and being “beloved.” 

  • Ahavah (אהבה): Love
  • Ahuv (אהוב)/Ahuvah(אהובה): Beloved

Do you see yourself as someone who is beloved or loved?  Is this all the time or does the situation or people change this?  Are you worthy of love? Are you worthy of being beloved? Who/what is worthy of your love and being your beloved?

I know from personal experience that understanding that you are not only worthy of being love, but actually beloved — is something that can shift your foundations.  I am someone who saw themselves as being loved and respected, but not the kind of person who was “beloved.” I’m not sure I could have told you the difference, but to me “beloved” was squishier and softer and I believed, deeply, that while people loved and respected me — they didn’t, for the most part, get squishy about me.  Then I had a moment when I arrived at an event and the way I was repeated greeted, forced me to shift my perspective. I had to allow the protective shell to crack open, because I was being greeted as someone who was beloved.  

How did that happen? It happened by building connections through giving of my time, my energy, and from time-to-time — my money.  I did it because I love them, both individually and as a community. I keep giving in ways that feel healthy and aligned, and so I keep receiving because they are receptive and know I’m giving because I love.

When our hearts are closed or walled off, we are suffering from a spiritual ailment that the Mussar teachers call timtum ha’lev, meaning a blocked or barricaded heart—literally, a stopped-up heart.

Everyday Holiness by Alan Morinis

Shevat, in the northern hemisphere is, historically, when the land begins again to prepare for spring.  The ground might still be frozen and covered with snow, but the sap is beginning to rise. We see this in the northern parts of the United States and Canada with the maple trees.  Shevat is the time of tree tapping. It’s also a time for us to gently tap our own hearts and see if our own sap is flowing or have we become hardened over the winter.

How do we begin to open ourselves during the month of Shevat and understand the sacred connections of this time, each year, and the soul-trait of ahavah (אהבה)?  First is by exploring where we are being generous and where we are not. Remember that in mussar practice, we often work indirectly on a soul-trait, and a key way into ahavah (אהבה) is through the soul-trait of generosity called nedivut ha’lev (נדיבות לב). This is different than “charity” – tzedakah (צדקה), which is an obligation.  

Where and who do you give your time, your attention, your money?  This shows you what, where and who you love. If you want to have more love flowing, be generous.  It might be yourself you need to be generous with. 

Beginning with a simple exploration of generosity/nedivut ha’lev (נדיבות לב) is a way of being loving to ourselves.  But then it is time to explore all the different ways love is understood within mussar. Different types of love in mussar teachings, beyond just love and beloved:

  • Ohev eht haMaqom (אוהב את המקום): Loving the Divine (Loving the Place of G!d/dess)
  • Ohev eht haBriyot (אוהב את הבריות): Loving the Divine’s Creatures
  • Ohev eht haTochechot (אוהב את התוכחות): Loving Feedback/Rebukes
  • Ohev eht haMeisharim (אוהב את המישרים): Love of Uprightness/Justice

Note: Hebrew is a gendered language like the Spanish, French, and many other “Romance languages.” There are efforts to craft new non-binary options, but they are still works in progress. Ohev (אוהב) is masculine gendered language, and considered “neutral” – so often used in mussar teachings regardless of the gender/gender-identity of the person in question. However you may wish to replace ohev (אוהב) with ohevet (אוהבת), which is femme gendered language.  If you are non-binary, try playing with both as they feel appropriate or try working with some of the non-binary grammar being developed.

Knowing that you love the earth changes you, activates you to defend and protect and celebrate. But when you feel that the earth loves you in return, that feeling transforms the relationship from a one-way street into a sacred bond.

Robin Wall Kimmerer from Braiding Sweetgrass
Audiobook is highly recommended

Mussar teaches us that love isn’t just a squishy feeling that like all emotions, if it doesn’t impact our behavior then it isn’t real.  It is also deeply connected to courage, the soul-trait of the month of Av, which is on the opposite side of the wheel of the year. It takes courage to act on love.  It takes courage to risk rejection. It takes courage to be generous when there is no promise of return.

Practice

Reflections

At this moment in time…

  • WHAT does Ahavah/Love mean to you? What different types of love can you describe?
  • WHERE in your body do you experience these different kinds of love?
  • HOW does this differ from the concept of Ahuvah/Ahuv – Beloved.
  • WHO is your beloved? 
  • WHEN do you feel/understand yourself as beloved?
  • WHY is it important to experience love relationships beyond the human realm?

Text Study

  • You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might. (Deuteronomy 6:5)
  • He [Rabbi Akiva] used to say, You are loved, for you are created in God’s image. This love is greater still for it being revealed to you. (Pirkei Avot 3:18 as translated by Rabbi Rami Shapiro and 3:14 on Sefaria)
  • Knowing that you love the earth changes you, activates you to defend and protect and celebrate. But when you feel that the earth loves you in return, that feeling transforms the relationship from a one-way street into a sacred bond.  
    (Robin Wall Kimmerer from Braiding Sweetgrass)
  • Lover-priestesses, like all priestesses, connect worlds, bringing together human and divine. They do this through the uncanny, unique vehicle that is eros. (The Hebrew Priestess)

Affirmations

  • Find the Sacred in Intimate Relationships.
  • Be Whole, Present, and Connected.
  • Play with Passion, Devotion, and Eros.

from the Eht/Aht: A Netivot Wisdom Oracle

Embodied Practice

  • Use coconut oil or other natural lotion to love up your hands and feet — parts of your body that work hard all day, every day.

Actions

  • Give something (time, money, care) to someone you love, with no expectation of return beyond the deepening of bonds between you.
  • Give something (time, money, care) to someone that challenges you and you wish to have a better relationship, with no expectation of return beyond the deepening of bonds between you.