In a culture so obsessed with love and in which young people marry
because they have "fallen in love," there must be something drastically
wrong when better than 40 percent of all marriages terminate in divorce,
some so quickly that one wonders whether the partners even had the
opportunity to discover whether or not they were indeed in love. It would
seem that if the people involved had indeed "fallen in love," such love
should have had greater substance and durability.
If we just note what usage is given to the word "love," the mystery is
solved. One can just "love" a fashionable garment, and a tasty dish can be
It is abundantly
clear that the word "love" is generally used to refer to gratification of
one's desires. I "love" something that gives me a pleasant sensation. In
this sense, love is essentially self-love, and the so-called love of
another simply means that the other person satisfies my desires.
It is little
wonder, then, that relationships based on love which is self-directed can
be very fleeting. When the person no longer adequately satisfies my
desires, or when the person constitutes a burden in such a way that the
demands upon me outweigh the gratification, or if I find another person
who can provide me with greater gratification, then the basis for the
relationship ceases and the relationship terminates.
Not all love,
however, must be self-love. There does exist an outwardly-directed love,
which emanates from the appreciation and admiration of another person.
Outwardly- directed love has totally different characteristics than self-
Love that is not
self-directed is unfortunately so rare that it may be difficult for us to
comprehend it. As an example, take the Biblical account of Jacob's love
for Rachel: "Jacob worked for seven years to win the hand of Rachel, but
it appeared to him as only several days because of his great love for
her." (Genesis XXIX: 18-20).
At first glance, this
makes no sense. For the man who is separated from the woman he loves,
every day seems like an eternity. Why then does the Torah state that in
Jacob's profound love for Rachel, seven years appeared to him as only
We do not understand this
because the love we are so familiar with is primarily self -directed, and
when desires are denied, even a brief period of frustration may appear
endless. Outwardly-directed love obeys different rules. Long periods may
appear brief; and if we cannot understand this, it is probably because we
simply have no concept of what outwardly-directed love is.
is characterized not by what the other partner can provide for me, but by
what I can do for him or her.
- Shmuley Boteach
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