Monday, September 21, 2015

Love is Not All I Need

There is a lot of conversation nowadays about "love." I don't mean romantic love, although I do find that rather tediously oversold. I mean love in terms of how God loves you, loving the whole entirety of humanity, and so forth. 

From what I am hearing in his music, Matisyahu is awash in awareness of Hashem. Interestingly, the lyrics on Matisyahu's most recent album, Akeda, got a lot of "love" in 'em.

I began to wonder if that is where our kiruv focus possesses a weak spot.

As a child, I was not taught that the essence of Judaism was love. Yes, there is "Thy shall love your friend like yourself," but that love was never depicted as the hugging, smooching, drunken "I love you, man" kind of love. 

"Love," in essence, has lost it's meaning. "I love fish" means I yanked a happy salmon from its home, whacked it over the head, gutted it, steamed it, and savored it with a sprinkling of dill. It is the same thing when some claim to love their partners, but harm and control their spouses. "Love" is often mistranslated via the satisfying feeling I get. 

But Jews believe we are judged on our actions, not on our feelings. So "love" must be a verb. Like Rabbi Hillel said: “That which is hateful to you, do not unto another.” It's about doing, or in his case, not doing.

There is a string of videos on Rabbi David Fohrman's Aleph Beta website where he shows that the basis of Judaism is not love. It is respect.
Respect is all about action. While gals nowadays may not be touched if their significant other breathes, "I respect you," that phrase possesses a few more guarantees than "I love you" ever will. 

I don't need anyone to tell me they love me; chances are, I won't say anything about love either, because to me such words are meaningless. I make a point to show it, however. How could a child not know that I love him when I scour the house for the softest of blankets for his bed, when I cook her favorite supper, when I read The Berenstain Bears until I'm hoarse, when I stroke and kiss his rumpled hair?

When it comes to kiruv, those who are spiritually awakening may be initially drawn to the concepts of love, but it is vital to familiarize them with the concepts of respect. Respect to elders, for starters, as that has fallen by the wayside in general. Respect to pretty much everyone. And to know that there are many times that respect will trump perceived religion. 


Daniel Saunders said...

Much as I like them, The Beatles have a lot to answer for: All You Need is Love. I think respect and awe are hard sells compared with love. Particularly to ba'alei teshuva who come to Judaism via New Age or Eastern mysticism or via counter-culture. Love feels more comforting than awe or respect. Love seems easier than awe (which is frightening) and respect (which involves ideas of hierarchy rather than equality).

I disagree about not saying "I love you", though. Yes, obviously showing it is more important. But young children in particular need to hear it, because they won't necessarily understand the showing. I guess I'm also someone who needs to hear praise (not just love) from time to time, for psychological reasons - it's just how I am - I need occasional reassurance. I think it does depend on the person.

Daniel Saunders said...

Thinking about this some more, there is an idea (admittedly untested scientifically) of five love 'languages' - ways people express love. 1) Words of affirmation. 2) Affectionate touching. 3) Doing things for the beloved. 4) Spending quality time with them. 5) Giving gifts. Each person varies in how much they respond to these five. I think I respond primarily to the first; obviously number 3 is primary for you. That doesn't mean that one form is better than the others, just that one needs to know how to respond to someone else's needs.

Princess Lea said...

I think you are misunderstanding my point. My reflections on my own personal take on love was more an ending tie-in not my main focus, which was: love IS respect. They are not two separate entities. Respecting another's honor, ego, space, opinions, feelings, likes and dislikes . . . that is love. Preaching love without consideration for another is just words.

Easy fast!

Daniel Saunders said...

OK, I'd agree with that.

Easy fast and gemar vechatima tova to you too.