Ezra Eight: Ahava

This chapter was interesting in that as I read through it, I immediately thought of several different verses I could pick out, and different directions I could take this reflection in. Usually, particularly lately, I have one reflective ‘aha moment’ per chapter, so it was a welcome challenge to have to debate over which one to choose. But luckily, I found the one that most resonated with me, and hopefully will with you as well.

“And I proclaimed there a fast by the river Ahava, to fast before our God, to beseech Him for a straight way for us and for our children and for all our belongings (Ezra 8:21).” There are so many layers to unpack in this verse! First, the people are gathered, waiting to cross a body of water, which gives me flashbacks of other collective water traversing moments. The Exodus and the parting of the sea is of course the most well-known and classic, but this also seems to parallel the crossing of the Jordan River when the people re-entered the Land of Israel last time. Second, water in general is fascinating because of the connotations it has as a source of life, cleansing, and even life. In Judaism, water is used to mark transitional time. We wash our hands before meals, complete with a blessing. We immerse in the mikvah, marking transitions from impure to pure, and in these different cases, when we as a people are transitioning back into the land of Israel, we often need to go through water in order to do so. Finally, the name of the river, Ahava, translates to love in Hebrew. It also happens to be my sister’s middle name, so I was very excited to see it pop up here. What does it mean for the river to be a river of love? I feel like this question could be answered countless different ways, but what comes to mind for me is that love is constantly flowing, shifting, with different currents, some of which may be chaotic, but with a constant direction under the surface. Our loves are what move us, keep us going, sometimes challenge us, or sweep us away, but ultimately are the constant rhythm that a moving body of water is as well.

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