Every week when I bless the congregation I lead, and before every prayer I say for someone, I first remind myself of the love I am to have for them, I check it, is it still there regardless of how I am feeling at the moment; but I am also reminding myself of God’s love for them. The rabbis explain that when Aaron blessed Israel with the priestly benediction (Num. 6:24-26), he was to do so with love (Sota 39a).
Aaron was to look out over Israel, with all of their complications, and bless them in אהבת חינם/ahavat chinam, or causeless love. His love for them was not based upon their merit, but God’s grace working in and through him.
As I wrote in a previous post, the rabbis say that the second Temple was destroyed due to baseless hate, שִׂנְאַת חִנָּם/sinat chinam (Yoma 9b). While שִׂנְאַת חִנָּם, is often translated as baseless hate, it has a deeper meaning: hatred of grace. Kindness withheld.
If there is a baseless hatred, or hatred of grace, working in the nature of man, then there should be אהבת חינם/ahavat chinam, a causeless love, or love in grace working in the renewed man: a love and grace that is freely given, not earned. The grace between brethren, how we view others and how we love them, must be in keeping with His grace; as Paul writes:
“Therefore be imitators of God as dear children. And walk in love, as Christ also has loved us and given Himself for us, an offering and a sacrifice to God for a sweet-smelling aroma” (Eph. 5:1-2).
Certainly, we did not earn this gift of grace, “For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God” (Eph. 2:8); but, once we receive it, we are to walk imitating Him.
Rabbi Abraham Isaac Kook, the first Ashkenazi Chief Rabbi of British Mandatory Palestine, wrote that if sinat chinam, baseless hatred, caused the destruction of the second Temple, then to rebuild Israel and the third Temple, ahavat chinam, causeless grace/love, would need to be cultivated among the Jewish people.
We can read Scriptures about grace in love and its application: “You shall love your neighbor as yourself: I am the Lord” (Lev. 19:18); “You shall treat the stranger who sojourns with you as the native among you, and you shall love him as yourself, for you were strangers in the land of Egypt: I am the Lord your God” (Lev. 19:34)l “A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another; as I have loved you, that you also love one another” (Jn. 13:34); “And we have known and believed the love that God has for us. God is love, and he who abides in love abides in God, and God in him” (I Jn. 4:16). And the list can easily be expanded; but until we walk in His causeless love, or a love in grace, as difficult as that sometimes is, we will not capture, cultivate or taste its fruit.
Perhaps the most widely known verse of Scripture is found in John 3:16, and it speaks of the Lord’s love for the world/humanity, “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.” Or, an alternate reading, “For this is how God loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.”
For God so loved, He gave. This is the supreme example of ahavat chinam, causeless love, or love in grace. The giving of Yeshua/Jesus, the Son of God. From this act of ahavat chinam, causeless love, a love we did not merit or deserve, is born a vision of renewal, repair and celebration: “Then all the survivors will do up from year to year to worship the King, the Lord of hosts, and to celebrate Tabernacles (Zech. 14:16). Further, “After these things I looked, and behold, a vast multitude that no one could count – from every nation and all tribes and peoples and tongues – was standing before the throne and before the Lamb” (Rev. 7:9; specifically Tabernacles/Sukkot imagery).
Repair, renewal, and rebuilding in the human family requires grace, a grace that in fact has a cause: Him. His giving of causeless, unearned love to us, then flows out into the lives of others as His causeless love through us. If we view others with sinat chinam, a hatred of grace, then they will never merit receiving anything from us, as we will never lower ourselves to them. Yet, if we ourselves, as recipients of His ahavat chinam, causeless love, or love in grace, act as imitators of Him (Eph. 5:1-2), then we will freely give what has been freely given to us: His love, grace, mercy.
The action of ahavat chinam, causeless love, or love in grace, cares, as much as we are able, for the human being before us, made in the image of God. Remember, the love that we are to imitate and example: at times, love is nourishing the body of the unfortunate, or defending the life of those under attack, and in countless other circumstances.
Let us capture His חֲזוֹן/Hazon – vision of renewal, and join in His work of restoration, to His glory, and one day we will celebrate in exuberant praise before the Throne and the Lamb.
Be well. Shalom.