To any reader of Hebrew, there is one word in this verse that stands out as unusual. The final word of the verse, translated here as “your might”, is me’odecha. The echa at end of the word is a suffix meaning “your”. The word for “might” is me’od. Me’od is a common word in the Bible appearing 299 times. But our verse is one of only two verses where it means “might.” Here is the only other one.
Now before him there was no king like him, who turned to the Lord with all his heart, with all his soul, and with all his might, according to all the Law of Moses; nor after him did there arise like him. – II Kings 23:25
Here King Josiah was praised for his commitment to God, with this verse clearly making reference to our verse in Deuteronomy 6.
With all your “very”?
In every single one of the remaining 297 verses where the word me’od appears it has only one meaning. Me’od is the Hebrew word for “very”. This makes its use in our verse even more puzzling. There are numerous words for “strength” or “might” in the Bible. The most common are ko’ach (125 times) and gevurah (61 times). Again, me’od is not even a noun. It is simply the word for “very.” Every single time the word “very” appears in the Bible, this is the word that is used.
The first time we see the word me’od is in the final verse of Genesis 1, the conclusion of the six days of creation.
God saw all that he had made, and it was very good. And there was evening, and there was morning—the sixth day. – Genesis 1:31
In other words, the literal translation of Deuteronomy 6:5 should be,
You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your very.
Of course, this makes no sense. The word “very” cannot be used this way, neither in Hebrew nor in English. On the other hand, the Bible chose to use this word in this way in a verse that describes the obligation to love God. Had the verse meant only to instruct us that we must love the Lord with all our might, a more conventional word for “might” would have been chosen. Clearly, the Bible had some other message in mind.
Unusual words contain powerful messages
Whenever the Bible chooses a word that is anomalous or out of place, we must ask ourselves what the Bible is trying to tell us, beyond the simple meaning of the verse. The word me’odecha – “your very” – is a perfect example of this phenomenon.
I would like to suggest that this odd word choice contains an important lesson for our relationship to God, and specifically, our love of Him.
Love Him with what is very you
Each of us has unique personality traits. We have abilities that stand out above all others in our natural talent set. In other words, every human being has some emotion, trait, or talent in which they can be described as “very.” Whatever aspect of who I am that most describes me or exemplifies who I am could be described as my “very.”
This verse is telling us that our love of God must be expressed with our “very.” Some people are very intelligent. Others are very giving. One person may be very good at organizing people. Another may be very good at standing up against a hostile crowd. Each of us must find his or her “very” and devote it to God. That is the meaning of this cryptic phrase. Love the Lord with all your me’od.
Ask yourself, “which trait, strength, or interest is the most me?” What is my “very?” God gave us our strengths and character traits. He gave us our very. We truly give of ourselves when we devote that part of ourselves back to Him.
This article was taken from Rabbi Pesach Wolicki’s new book, Verses for Zion. Verses for Zion offers a profound exploration of devotional Bible teachings, intricately woven around the land, people, and God of Israel. Each page is a journey through history and faith, illuminating biblical narratives with insightful interpretations and spiritual wisdom. Click here to order your copy of Verses for Zion now.
Rabbi Pesach Wolicki serves as Executive Director of Ohr Torah Stone’s Center for Jewish-Christian Understanding and Cooperation, and he is cohost of the Shoulder to Shoulder podcast