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What Is Love?

What Is Love?

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Why Do We Ask, “What Is Love?”

Whenever we ask, “What is love?” it’s usually because a) we’re unsure if a certain special someone really loves us, or b) because a certain special someone just accused us of not really loving them.

When we are truly engaged in giving and receiving love, we don’t ponder such philosophical questions. It’s only when something is lacking that we begin to analyze and contemplate what that thing actually is. For example, nobody sits down to a full meal and asks, “What is a pastrami sandwich?”

It’s only when something is lacking that we begin to analyze and contemplate what that thing actually isSo, if we’re even asking the question, “What is love?” it probably means that we don’t feel completely loved, or that someone doesn’t feel completely loved by us.

But since we’re asking, let’s try to answer the question.

“Am I Loved?” Vs. “Do I Love?”

The two scenarios that usually cause us to contemplate “What is love?” give meaning to the question. Either we wonder, “Am I loved?” or we ask, “Do I love?”

It is easier to first address the “What is love?” question in terms of the love we feel coming toward us. If we understand how to recognize when we are being loved, we can also learn to recognize our love for another.

When we are loved, we tend to feel it intuitively in our guts. But how does it work? Is there an extrasensory perception in the heart that is able to read the feelings in another person’s heart?

In fact, it’s really not that ethereal or supernatural. On the contrary, it’s pretty practical and down-to-earth. Our hearts take cues from our senses. Everything we see, hear, taste, touch or smell teaches us about our universe. We don’t need to contemplate or ask questions. Our sensory organs report to our brains, and our brains interpret the data and send the report to our hearts. So, if we see a loving smile, hear loving words, or feel a loving touch, the brain processes this information and concludes, “Hey, we are being loved right now!”

In short, when we are loved, there is tangible proof. It’s not an abstract thought or feeling, it’s concrete and evidenced. As King Solomon wrote in his book of Proverbs (27:19), “As water reflects a man’s face back to him, so is the heart of one man to another.” This means, when you are treated with love, your heart feels that love.

Love is an Action

Now we can address the second part of the “What is love” quandary—how to know if we love someone else?

The answer is straightforward. When we behave lovingly towards someone, it means we love that person.

When we ask a question like “What is love?” we assume that we’re trying to define an abstract concept similar to “What is freedom?” or “What is good fortune?” But truthfully, love is not a concept. It’s an action.

To ask, “What is love?” is like asking, “What is running?” or “What is swimming?” If you’ve ever seen someone run or swim, you know exactly what running and swimming entail.

In order for love to be real love, it has to be expressed as an actionThe Hebrew word for love, ahavah, reveals this true definition of love, for the word ahavah is built upon the root consonants h‑v, which means “to give.” In order for love to be real love, it has to be expressed as an action. If you love your beloved, then you must show it. By the same token, if you are loved, that will show, too. You will recognize it by the way you are treated.

G‑d Teaches Us How to Love

G‑d commands us (Deut. 6:5), “And you shall love the L‑rd your G‑d.” This precept leads us to voice the age-old question, “How can we be commanded to feel a feeling?” Either you feel it or you don’t, right?

An answer offered by our tradition explains that we are not being ordered to feel a feeling in the abstract sense. Rather, the command is for us to behave lovingly. In this light, “And you shall love,” actually means, “You shall perform acts of love.”

This is the true test: action, deeds, performance.

Feelings can be deceptive. Sometimes, what we perceive as love may in fact be another emotion. But actions cannot be mistaken. So, rather than ask, “What is love?” we must ask, “Do I perform acts of love for my beloved?” and “Does my beloved perform acts of love for me?”

Rabbi Shais Taub is a renowned speaker and noted scholar on Chassidic philosophy. He is the author of G-d of Our Understanding: Jewish Spirituality and Recovery from Addiction. He and his family make their home in Pittsburgh, PA.
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Anonymous United States March 13, 2017

If you have a relationship, you'll be granted with a glass. That glass is used on how much you've done on your relationship. You put sand whenever you encounter the best memories of your relationship. This quote below describes of what love is.
"Love is like a glass of sand, the more sand you have in the glass describes on how great the relationship is. But if that relationship ends, that glass will break causing sand to pour out of the glass. No matter how hard you try to stitch it up it'll never be fix. However if you did fix it, it doesn't matter because there are aplenty of sand that poured out. The excess sand represents thorns in your heart, no matter how hard you try to forget about the person It'll always prick you forever." Reply

Victoria Poland February 23, 2017

My father died when I was a few months old, and my mom remarried four years later. My step-father adopted me. And I was brought up with all the love and understanding a kid could ask for. Than due to my mom’s serious problems with heath, they have to use service of reproductive center in Ukraine. Thanks to Biotex clinic I have my little brother now. My adoptive father was always extremely understanding of my loss. When he adopted me, he insisted I keep my father's surname. He took me to memorial services on my biological dad's birthday. He has told me numerous times that he knows he can't fill my father’s shoes in raising us, but he can keep me safe and treat me well as a service to my father's memory. When I was sixteen, told my adoptive dad that he didn't have to do all those things anymore. He is the only father I have ever known, and I love him unconditionally. I told him he didn't have to do homage to the memory of a man he never knew. He said, "I want to remember him for your mot Reply

Siya Hyderabad January 29, 2017

I am confused because love is something we should not take in return and other side is actio. What is it done . Is it an action or getting in return or waiting to get same love expect same love what we give... Reply

Isabella December 21, 2016

So in order to know we feel it we then act on it by being loving in a certain way that makes so much sense. Reply

Anonymous New York November 22, 2016

What if I don't have a beloved? Reply

Arik September 25, 2016

For sake of simplicity and conciseness, I believe the topic was oversimplified. What difference is their between a love which is only felt "at first sight" and the one that is developed over time? Are they both love ? The rabbi suggests, if I understood correctly, that love, in essence, is the action of giving. However, I would like to argue that if one gives without knowing to whom he gives and why is not love. Otherwise this would imply that, regardless of the motives, when it is said “to love G-d”, then as long as we give, we are loving. What if I “give to G-d because of all the punishments he inflicted on a man that I hate”, how could this mean to "love G-d" ? Love/Give to a woman only for her looks although she is unethical? Plenty examples. “What is love” is mostly asked when wanting to know if one met his wife/husband (true love). "Don't ask, just give" is I believe a good start but insufficient. I may have misunderstood the Rabbi, but one needs to know and understand before lov Reply

sosick myrie Jamaica September 8, 2016

Love it a kind of sharing. Its a blessing from above that hold two hearts together in loyalty and caring. Reply

Kia Sipp Summerville, SC August 26, 2016

Love is sharing time and space. Reply

u.s. varanasi August 23, 2016

Love in single sentence is free from any kind of desire Reply

Amanda August 22, 2016

I love someone but I don't know. If he loves me.. Mixed signals Reply

Kemael Ben Israel TEXAS July 21, 2016

True love is unconditional. .....no give and take, no tic for tat, on strings attached. ..just pure acts of kindness Reply

Lupeace July 20, 2016

Love is a strong feeling that a human being cannot describe or define or explain ... Reply

Anonymous July 13, 2016

Sorry but you article didn't answer the question at all in my opinion. At least not in the way I would find satisfactory.
I respect you take on it anyway.
Cheers. Reply

Chocolate Home July 13, 2016

I thought l knew but not so Love is power, intimacy ,selfless, happiness, excitement, joy,peace,pain, forgiveness, unconditional, scary! Reply

Rut B. de la Vega Mesa,AZ July 12, 2016

G-d is Love, G-d is the Action of Love. We all see, and feel His Love in every day life. He gives us the breath of life, first of ALL, and then we also have a world of wonders to look into, feel, and receive. Therefore, G-d is the True Love. Amen? Reply

Anonymous Manchester July 9, 2016

If you are trying to succeed in life by getting a job but your man tells you he is gonna leave you if you do, that's not love that's just trying to control you. Reply

Norman Bodek Vancouver, Washington July 7, 2016

The heart is where love, an energy, is felt, but how many people have really felt it? As you read the comments, you will see almost all come from the head not the heart. The head is a thinking instrument while the heart is a receptor of both life and love. Yes, G-d is love, but what is G-d? Reply

Anonymous Jackson tn July 4, 2016

Someone told me I didn't know what love is I was trying to show it by being faithful trusting loyal and respectful that is what I think it is. and compliments on her features that adored Reply

Norman Bodek USA June 1, 2016

Stu

The word love is used many ways from the superficial "I love you," to a depth of experience where the energy from the Devine is absolute "Love" which has nothing to do with anyone or anything else. It just is love and it rests inside your heart not your head. It is not even something to search for. It will come when you are ready and willing to totally change and serve and surrender. Reply

Stuat(Noam) Leviton Baltimore May 31, 2016

Shalom Norman,

Plesae, do say more. You're assertion intrigues me.

kol tuv,

Stu(Noam) Reply