Love As Sacrifice

The first mention of love in the Torah occurs in Genesis 22 when God tells Abraham to offer up Isaac, “whom you love.”

Why should The Torah choose this improbable moment to mention love for the first time? For a moment let us set aside all the other questions involved in the very difficult story to ponder why love is introduced here.

What is the Torah’s deep teaching? All love has an element of sacrifice. The Hebrew word for sacrifice, korban, comes from the root “to draw close.” When you sacrifice for another, you draw close to them. One of the reasons, perhaps the principle reason, we so treasure our children is we have given them so much. The idea is suggested in the very word for the Isaac story in Hebrew: “Akedah” — binding. 

Love asks of us: in speech and silence, in need and negation. We do not only sacrifice for children; to be betrothed in Jewish tradition one must offer a gift; all relationship requires willingness to give. To love another as friend, family, partner, you must make an offering of yourself. When we ask whether someone is in love, we often ask, “What do you feel?” We might better ask, “What would you give?”

Rabbi David Wolpe is spiritual leader of Sinai Temple in Los Angeles. Follow his teachings at

About the Author
Named the most influential Rabbi in America by Newsweek Magazine and one of the 50 most influential Jews in the world by the Jerusalem Post, David Wolpe is the Rabbi of Sinai Temple in Los Angeles, California.