A Bond Based on Love


I will betroth you to me forever;
     I will betroth you in righteousness and justice,
     in love and compassion.
I will betroth you in faithfulness,
     and you will acknowledge the LORD. —
Hosea 2:19-20

These devotions explore the Jewish perspective of love. In Hebrew, the word for love is ahava, which comes from the root word, hav, “to give.” In Judaism, to love is to give. Giving to others enables us to love one another.

A guest was once admiring a piece of artwork on my wall. She gazed at the Hebrew words handwritten by a scribe, surrounded by intricate floral decorations and artistic Jewish symbols. “That’s the ketubah (the Jewish marriage contract) that my husband and I got married with,” I explained. “That is so romantic,” she replied with a sweet smile, “but what does it say?”

I watched her expression change as I told her that the Jewish marriage contract is essentially a legal document stating that the groom is obligated to provide his wife with clothing, food, and conjugal relations, as well as the amount of money he must pay in the event of a divorce. “Why would you put this technical, legal document on your wall?” she asked with a puzzled look on her face.

The answer lies in the Jewish understanding of a covenant. While husband and wife are bound by a formal contract, this is not simply a business deal; it is a reciprocal bond based on love.

A Bond Based on Love

In some ways, the Jewish understanding of marriage is modeled after the relationship between God and Israel—a covenantal commitment rooted in mutual love. As the prophet Hosea wrote, God addressed Israel as a husband would address his intended wife: “‘I will betroth you to me forever; I will betroth you in righteousness and justice, in love and compassion. I will betroth you in faithfulness; and you will acknowledge the Lord.’”

Jeremiah, too, affirmed this loving attachment when he recalled God’s words to Israel: “‘I have loved you with an everlasting love” (31:3). Terms like “betroth” and “everlasting love” are associated with intimate personal relationships, such as marriage—not necessarily what we would expect when describing the dynamics between the Infinite Creator of the World and flesh and blood human beings like ourselves.

The covenantal relationship between God and Israel is one of the most powerful forces in everyday Jewish life. Observant Jews renew their commitment to God on a daily basis by observing His commandments and linking themselves to the chain of Jewish life and tradition.

Your turn: When you pray, study, and carry out the Word of God, remember that your worship and practice are ways to deepen your loving relationship and bond with the Creator.

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