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   Directed Love


           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 "loved".
           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- directed love.
          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 several days?
          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.
          Outwardly-directed love is characterized not by what the other partner can provide for me, but by what I can do for him or her.


    Excerpt from Kosher Sex                                                   

  - Shmuley Boteach

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