The different terms for love
1. Ahavat Olam. The process starts in the “head” as a shift of interest and intention. A decision arises—motivated by any number of things, but ultimately instigated by the nefesh Elokit (Divine soul)—to seek G-d, truth, authenticity, service, etc. Ahavat olam is a spiritual awakening that is totally unintegrated but which produces a calling.
2. Then begins the search, study and contemplation—the directing of one’s attention to G-d and spiritual things. This investment of time and energy now engages the daat (the sefira of integrated knowing which connects the head with the heart) and gradually one’s efforts and insights begin to penetrate the heart.
3. Slowly the heart awakens and begins to open an emotional channel with HaShem. Awe, fear, love, amazement, gratitude start to integrate and deepen.
4. Love intensifies to a passionate love (אהבה עזה- ahava aza) that overwhelms all other desires but by virtue of force (rather than sublimation). It’s a kind of romantic love of HaShem. In the language of Tanya the might of this love is from אכפיא (akafia-suppression) instead of אתהפכא (ashafcha-sublimation).
5. But slowly the heart transforms and purifies and one’s instinctive and reflexive desires (authentic desires) really do straighten and rectify as one comes to genuinely prefer G-dly pleasures over worldly ones.
6. The passionate (fiery) love gives way to what is called great or mighty love (אהבה רבה – ahava raba) which is more quiet and stable and compared to coals as opposed to flames. It doesn’t need to be constantly fanned but just burns steady on its own.
7. This mightly love effects a further transformation where the love integrates still deeper into ones heart, bones, cells and spaces…until it takes on a cool, watery quality called אהבה בתענוגים (ahava b’taanugim) which means literally a love of delights (but the delights referred to are the sweetnesses of Shabbat and all that it represents). Ahava b’taanugim marks the complete integration of head and heart / love and fear and might best be translated as equanimity or deep and quietly joyful well-being…nachas.