The second and concluding blessing before the recitation of the Shema is Ahava Rabbah which
means, With an abundant Love. Ahava Rabbah expresses our recognition of the overflowing love
that G-d has for His people.
There is a dispute recorded in the Talmud Brachot 11B regarding the appropriate wording for the
opening phrase of this Tefillah. One opinion is Ahava Rabbah Ahavtanu – With an abundant love
you have loved us; and the second opinion is Ahavat Olam Beit Yisrael Amcha Ahavata – With an
eternal love You have loved Your nation. In practice we utilize both opinions – Ahava Rabbah in the
morning at Shacharit and Ahavat Olam in the evening by Maariv.
The Etz Yosef writes in his commentary on the siddur that the letter Zayin, which is numerically 7, is
conspicuously missing in both Ahavat Olam and Ahava Rabbah. The reason for this is to reference
the 7 potential types of love available in a natural immediate family i.e. a father, mother, brother,
sister, son, daughter and spouse. The missing Zayin – 7 in our Tefilllot demonstrate that the love that
Hashem has for each and every one of us is more powerful and beyond even the closest family
bonds in life.
Rav Noach Orlowek shlitta of Jerusalem often mentions in his lectures how vital it is to teach our
children and remind ourselves of G-d’s infinite love for all of His creations. A child that grows up
feeling loved feels special. Is there any love more special then the Love of the King of all Kings?!
It is logical that before we chant the biblical commandment in the Shema in the morning and the
evening, Vahavata et Hashem Elokecha – You shall love the Lord your G-d, we first recite with
gratitude and appreciation Ahava Rabbah/Olam – G-d’s abundant and immeasurable love for us.
The human condition and experience throughout life is enhanced and often driven by love. So too –
our Tefillah- Prayer that we engage in day in and day out – in the morning, afternoon and night,
before and after we eat and drink and even after we visit the restroom is a testament of the loving
relationship between us and Hashem Himself.
Take Home Tip: How’s your loving relationship with Hashem? Take a few moments every day to
recognize G-d’s infinite love for you and how you can strengthen your relationship with Hashem.