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Loving the Beloved by Kohenet Ketzirah HaMa’agelet
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.
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?
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