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prayers pings #26 shameless

וְלא נֵבושׁ לְעולָם וָעֶד, "And may we not feel shame forever and ever". In Ahavah Rabbah, we say these words, praying that we know no shame. It is striking that this request is found in the paragraph that explains Hashem's great and unending love for us, His people. Why this reference to shame in the midst of what is otherwise a prayer to love and be loved?

I am reminded of the image my professor, Rabbi Dr. Reuven Kimelman, gave: When we are too afraid to say 'I love You' first to God in V'ahavta, Ahavah Rabbah comes to our aid. God says 'I love you' first so we can feel able to profess our love back in Kriyat Shema.

With this understanding, the shame of וְלא נֵבושׁ לְעולָם וָעֶד addresses the fear of saying 'I love You' and not hearing it back. We do not want to be embarrassed with the worst of all rejections-- Divine rejection. We have spent all of Pesukei DeZimra shedding that which separates us from Hashem, and we are finally ready to accept 'Ol Malchut Shamayim', the yoke of heaven. And so we ask God to make it so we are not ashamed-- that we are not rejected or jilted at the spiritual altar on which we offer בְּכָל לְבָבְךָ וּבְכָל נַפְשְׁךָ וּבְכָל מְאדֶךָ.

This prayer for the absence of בושה, shame or embarrassment, is derived from the original human relationship, that of Adam and Chava. The Torah teaches, וַיִּהְיוּ שְׁנֵיהֶם עֲרוּמִּים, הָאָדָם וְאִשְׁתּוֹ; וְלֹא, יִתְבֹּשָׁשׁוּ, "And they were both naked, the man and his wife, and they were not ashamed" (Bereshit 2:25).

Thus, as we are about to say Shema, we are supposed to remember and model the combination of love and vulnerability that Adam and Chava experienced before they sinned. We stand spiritually naked before our Creator and ask that we be to Him like Adam and Chava in Gan Eden-- naked and not ashamed. Just as God recreates the world everyday, so too in Ahavah Rabbah, we pray that God recreate us-- like Adam and Chava, ready to love and be loved by God without sin, rejection, or shame. For only then can 'I love You' be genuinely uttered.

~Rabbanit Alissa 

Mon, July 13 2020 21 Tammuz 5780