What is Love?

Question

What is the Jewish definition of “love”?

4 months

Answers

  1. In Jewish thought, being a “giver” is one of the highest ideals to which we aspire. Love is expressed by the desire to give to another person. One who focuses only on the desire to take pleasure from another is not expressing love. Rather, it’s just the opposite.

    A great rabbi pointed out that when we say “I love fish” we are not really declaring our love for the fish, for immediately afterwards we will kill, skin, gut, fry and eat it — hardly activities appropriate to a fish-lover. If we really loved the fish, we would throw it back into the river. What people actually mean is “I love myself, and the sensation I experience in eating charred fish is pleasurable to me.” Unfortunately, when people say, “I love him/her,” all too often they mean that they love themselves, and enjoy the physical, emotional or economic benefits which they derive from their relationship with the other person.

    This description of the dating and marriage scene is very tragic. Each person is focusing on what he or she can take from the other; giving is only a means to get, and love really refers to love of self and love of pleasure.

    The Jewish view of love stands in stark contrast to this. The two middle letter of the Hebrew word for love, ahavah, spell the word hav, which means “give.” This expresses the idea that loving is achieved through giving, and that the essence of love is the desire to give, not to take. Through giving love, two people will become one. Judaism views marriage as a means of achieving the highest level of spirituality, wholeness and happiness.

    Best wishes from the AskTheRabbi.org Team