The Summer of Death & the Cycle of Love

It was the summer of 1944. It was the summer of death.

It was the summer in which 21-year-old Clara Jason stood in line, awaiting “selection” upon her arrival at Auschwitz.

Clara held her young child in her hands. Clara’s still-young, 43-year-old mother stood beside her.

Both daughter and mother knew – from the rivers of blood that had already flown – what beckoned. They knew that because Clara held a child, she was marked for death.

They also knew that, without that child, Clara might live.

Clara’s mother was determined to give her daughter a chance at life. And she hoped to do that by by carrying the child that marked it’s bearer for death.

Clara’s mother, though, also knew that Clara wouldn’t let her mother sacrifice herself – and that Clara wouldn’t give the child to her mother.

So Clara’s mother waited until the moment before selection.

At that moment - when Clara could no longer react - Clara’s mother grabbed the child.

By doing that, a mother consigned herself to death - and consigned her child to life.

It’s an extraordinary story.

But it’s really an ordinary story.

Because that’s what parental love prompts. It prompts parents to make the greatest sacrifices for their children. And that makes parental love the greatest of loves.

That greatness is alluded to in the following verse: “As a father has mercy on his children, Hashem should have mercy on us.” [1]

In this verse, we’re asking Hashem for a very specific mercy – for parental mercy.

Why do we ask for parental mercy, specifically?

It’s because parental mercy is the greatest of mercies.[2]

And do you know why parents are so self-sacrificing?

Because, counterintuitively enough, of all the time, energy, money and so much else that parents give to their children.

All that giving “invests” parents in their children. And that investiture foster feelings of identification and love.[3]

This idea - that “giving” fosters investiture and love – is seen in the very Hebrew word for love. That word is “ahava.” “Ahava” sounds like “hav,” the Hebrew word for “give.”

“Hav” and “ahava” sound alike because those two words’ meanings correlate - because “hav” creates “ahava,” because “giving” prompts love.

This interplay between giving and love is magical. And this magic can ever-increase in a continuing cross-pollination of giving and love.

And that’s because the love of others that is generated by the kindness that invest us in those people others will prompts us to give, yet more, to those people. Our added giving will then prompt greater feelings of investiture and love. And those greater feelings will then prompt greater giving. And so on and so on.

Beautifully enough, this love doesn’t restrict itself to those who give to – and invest themselves – in others. It also develops among the recipients of other people’s kindnesses.

It develops in two ways.

Firstly, recipients of kindness will usually “love” their benefactors - people love those who are kind to them. Secondly, recipients of kindness will, usually, reciprocate by giving to those who gave to them. That giving will create feelings of investiture. And that will foster love.

This magical cross-pollination of giving and love applies to all people – not just to parents – who give to one another.

Indeed, the person who best models this cross-pollination - Rivka – models it in arenas that transcend the parental.

Rivka is, of course, an exemplar of selfless giving.

That’s seen in how she selflessly responds to the stranger who asks, “allow me to sip a bit from your jug,” by saying, “drink, my master……..and let me also draw water for your camels until they finish drinking.’”[4]

Rivka’s response indicated that she gave on an extraordinary level and in extraordinary ways. She gave to a total stranger. She gave to camels even without being asked to do that. And she gave copiously enough to draw water for ten thirsty camels.

Rivka, though, is also an exemplar for exceptional love.

She exemplifies that in the great love that she feels for others. And she exemplifies that in the great love that others feel for her.

Rivka’s great love for others is described in the verse: “Rivka continually loved [her son] Yaakov.”[5] The verse’s use of the unusual term “continually loved” indicates that she loved Yaakov with an exceptional love.[6]

And others’ great love for Rivka is seen in the following verse: “Yitzchok ….. took Rivka and she became his wife and he loved her.”[7]

This verse is describing great love. And we see this is in how the Torah depicts earlier marriages – Adam and Chava, Avraham and Sarah – without referencing marital love. There must a reason as to why we wait until Rivka marries before we mention marital love. And that reason may be the fact that mention of marital love is especially suitable for Rivka’s marriage - because her marriage was a uniquely loving marriage.

And that unique love may stemmed from Rivka’s selfless giving - which was certainly also directed towards Yitzchok – which fostered a great love for Yitzchok.

And Yitzchok’s receipt of Rivka great kindnesses, as we saw before, would have prompted him to greatly love Rivka in return.

And, as also mentioned before, Yitzchok and Rivka’s kindness to one another would have fostered an ever-rising cross-pollination of investiture and love.

Yes, a great, ever-increasing cycle of love defined Rivka’s world then.

And a great, ever-increasing cycle of love can define our world now.

Can you imagine a more beautiful cycle than that?

I can’t.

[1] Tehillim 103:13

[2] Radak ad loc.

[3] See Lev Eliyahu vol. 1 pp. 110 and Michtav Me-Eliyahu vol. 1 pp. 37

[4] Bereishis 24:18-19

[5] Bereishis 25:28

[6] Chizkuni, Netziv, Bereishis 24:1867

[7] Bereishis 24:67

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