Dear reader,

When we think about love, we generally conjure up a feeling of warmth and happiness. Love makes us feel comfortable and homey, while at the same time fiery, passionate and protective.

But is love only about how another person makes us feel?

Suppose you love someone. He’s got great character traits, a terrific perspective and an amazing sense of humor, and he is so much fun to be around. Do you love him or what he does for you? Is your love focused on your significant other, or is your love really all about yourself?

We are currently in a sad period of Jewish history, during which the thousands of students of Rabbi Akiva died from a plague. The cause of their deaths, we are told, is that they didn’t conduct themselves respectfully towards each other.

The Rebbe explains that this wasn’t about them not loving each other enough; after all their teacher’s maxim was “Love your fellow as yourself.” Rather, these students loved each other so much that due to their overwhelming love, each wanted the other to live his life based on his understanding of what was best. The disrespect originated from an intense love which caused each student to correct his colleague in an attempt to change him to become (in his view) a better individual.

But there’s the problem. Because love shouldn’t be about our own feelings, or even our own perspective of what we feel is right and good. Love is about the other.

It is about tolerating and even embracing the other’s unique perspective and ways of doing things, even if it is diametrically opposed to what you would do or think. Love is big enough to see the other person’s differences, to even tolerate how it makes you uncomfortable, without compromising your love or respect for him.

A few years ago, when my oldest daughter married, my youngest daughter was about three years old. She adored her sister and declared that she now adored her sister’s husband, too.

“But how can you love him when you hardly know him?” I asked her.

She responded, “I love my sister so much, so of course I love her husband. If I love her, then I love all that is hers!”

A three-year-old’s love can be so big that she knows that the focus of her love should not be on herself or what she’d gaining, but rather on the object of her love.

Can our love be as altruistic?

Chana Weisberg,
Editor, TJW