The True Meaning Of Love

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There is something naïve and sweet about this pair of tourist camels as they check out the sites together. It’s a kind of love that has been going out of style…

A young man once flew on several flights together with his grandparents. On each flight he noticed that his grandmother invariably sat next to the window and his grandfather by the aisle. It was a constant. He asked his grandmother about it. “Oh yes, ” she told him, “Your grandfather prefers the aisle. I actually also like sitting by the aisle as opposed to the window, but I know how important it is to your grandfather and I’m happy to let him sit there.” He then asked his grandfather about the seating arrangement. “Of course,” said his grandfather, “I prefer the window seat, but I know how much your grandmother enjoys sitting next to the window, so I’m glad to let her sit there.” Amazed by his grandparents, the grandson couldn’t decide if he should let each one know the truth. In the end he decided not to tell. It would have ruined everything.

One of the very first times “love” is mentioned in the Bible is when Isaac meets Rebecca. The verse tells us: “And Isaac brought her [Rebecca] to his mother Sarah’s tent, and he took Rebecca as his wife and he loved her…” Scripture itself testifies that Isaac truly loved Rebecca. What was at the source of this love?

In Hebrew there is only one real word for love. There are several words for friendship, many words for joy and happiness. But only one word that means “love” – ahava. In English you have love and affection, fondness and amour, and infatuation. But in Hebrew, it’s simply “ahava”. It seems that Judaism feels that each and every instance of real love is about the same thing, whether it be love between man and woman, parent and child, close friends, and, even, of a person for his or her nation or country, or that which a person has for G-d. It all stems from the same source. Thus, just one word.

So what’s the secret of the one and only “love” according to Judaism? The well known and loved Rabbi Shlomo Carlebach once said, “How do you know if someone loves you? In their presence, you become just a little bit more than you were before.” And that is the essence of love in Judaism. It is a tool to reach a higher purpose. The road to true love is by giving.

Why do people love their children so much? Because they spend so much time DOING for them! Love is not an ultimate goal, but a tool to be a better person and fulfill one’s true potential. That is really why so many people are disappointed with love. They see it as an ultimate goal and want to GET as much as they possibly can out of it. But Judaism sees love as a means to actualize ourselves, build and improve ourselves, bring out our potential, and ultimately do what we were meant to do in this world.

Published: February 12, 2015
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