By Rabbi Julian Sinclair, July 1, 2010

Chibah means affection or love. It is related to the word chaviv, beloved, which is most famously used in the phrase acharan, acharon chaviv, usually translated as something like "save the best until last". Hebrew purists will point out that it really means, "the last, best thing, coming behind two other things": when Jacob places Rachel behind Leah and the maidservants, preparing for his encounter with Esau, the commentators say that Jacob is practising acharon acharon chaviv.

Chibah itself is derived from the word meaning bosom, and so chibah evokes an image of drawing someone or something close, to your breast. The root-word only occurs once in the Bible in Moses's final blessing, "How beloved [chovev] is the people" , Deuteronomy 33, although the rabbis say that Moses's father-in-law Jethro is also called Chovev, beloved, because he drew close to Torah.

Rabbi Akiva declares that humans are chaviv, beloved, because we are created in the image of God (Pirkei Avot, 3:14); and extra beloved because God informed us that that we are. Making known to us our unique affinity to God is a further revelation of belovedness, beyond the affinity itself.

Last updated: 11:21am, July 1 2010