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.