My son is 23 these days. Of course, I love him.

But I remember what it was like for me when he was an infant.

Whenever I held him with his head resting against the crook in my arm (they call it the “football hold”), I was filled with love. It made my mind and heart very peaceful and quiet. Nothing bothered me. Any concerns or feelings of pressure just melted away effortlessly. I couldn’t wait to get home each day and pick him up. Life seemed perfect.

During the day, when I thought of him, I would feel the same, but more briefly and not as deeply. I still do.

That’s the power of loving.

So — why didn’t I feel quite the same thing all the rest of the day as when we were at home?

I loved my son as much when I wasn’t with him as when I was. I love him as much now. Yet, there was something extraordinary about loving him when I was holding that tiny little being.

Could it suggest that there’s something about the sense of proximity, perhaps combined with an action that affirms and emphasizes the bond, that intensifies the feelings?

Maybe it’s also that in those moments when I was holding him, I wasn’t doing anything else. I wasn’t distracted even by the most mundane things, like crossing a street or opening a door. I was totally “his.”

I think we should feel the same thing (at least) when we’re loving G-d. We’re all different personalities, of course. I agree that we’d each experience this in our own way, but our best moments in life are the moments when we’re loving. Loving G-d — whether during formal or informal prayer, or just in private “moments” — should fill us with the peace and bliss that loving always does.

Yet, when we say the “v’ahavta” portion of the “Sh’ma,” in which the words mean, “Love G-d with all your heart, will all your soul and with all your might,” do we feel filled with that same deep peace? I confess: I don’t, although I often feel it during or after my private, personal, “inner” prayer. Of course, our loving of G-d can’t be measured by how we feel when saying a single word out of the entire “avodah” — the entire service. It’s more likely to quietly permeate our entire experience of the service itself, after we become sufficiently familiar with the words and actions involved. Yet, there’s something more…

I must insert mention here of a book from Indian tradition, “The Bhakti Sutras” of Narada. “Bhakti” is the devotional love of G-d; parallel to “Hasidut” (especially Breslaver Hasidut) as opposed to other devotional pathways (e.g. philosophy; selfless action, etc.). [1] Without doing a long discourse about it, the book mentions that there can be many ways to love G-d: as our Parent, as our Child, as our Husband, as our Wife, as our Friend, and so on. So, my experience of loving my son is therefore only one of many possible models of loving G-d.

“The Song of Songs,” read on Pesach, is another.  Some have the custom of reciting it on erev Shabbat, too. I find reading it intoxicating. Especially, but not only, in the Spring.

I believe that we could all be striving to make our love of G-d something more than words alone. It should be the greatest delight of our lives. Once we’ve begun to experience it, its absence will leave us feeling unsatisfied or incomplete.

Perhaps we can each begin to do this by looking at moments of loving in our own lives.

What have been your greatest moments of loving? What are your moments of loving as a parent like? Loving as a child? Loving as a lover? Loving as a friend? What can you bring from them to your loving of G-d?

Your joy is wine to me;
It intoxicates me.
In troubles,
I smile, silent;
My heart quiet in me.

The joy is Yours, not mine;
You, not me.

Immersed in You, fear and sorrow vanish:
Sea-spray on hot sand,
Shadow in light.

ישקני  מנשיקות  פיהו
Y’shakeini min shikote pihu:
Let him kiss me with the kisses of his mouth. [2]

Let Your kisses be kisses,
Not only covering my mouth,
So that I cannot speak my love.
How can I love You,
And not declare that You love me,
In all my heart,
In all my soul,
In all my life?

Elders say
Your love is Your law,
Your kiss: Your commandment.
Mine is an infant’s heart:
If I forget, even for a moment,
Only You are giving me my life and my world,
I cry, “Where are You? Where are You?”

Let this, then, be Your kiss:
That I know only You. [3]

(This discussion continues at)


[1] also called the Narada Bhakti Sutra:
“…bhakti itself is defined as being ‘the most elevated, pure love for God,’ which is eternal by nature and through following which one obtains perfect peace and immortality (release from samsara). The symptoms of such devotion are that one no longer has any selfish desires, nor is affected by the dualities of loss or gain for himself being fully content with (and experiencing ecstasy through) the process of bhakti itself.”

[2] Shir ha-Shirim/Song of Songs 1:2 (Song of Songs is a love song between a man and a woman. Some commentators interpret it as a love song between Israel and G-d. Others interpret it as a love song between the individual soul and G-d. The latter is the sense in which it’s included here.

[3] © 2003 by Eli Mallon