A wise physician once remarked: “The only medicine you need is love.”

Someone asked: “What if it doesn’t work?”

The physician replied: “Then you need a bigger dose!”

This cute Internet meme reached my phone earlier today, and I couldn’t stop thinking about it. Is itIs it true that love is the best medicine? true that the best medicine is love? For one thing, if you’re really sick, I truly hope you don’t listen to this advice—go to the doctor! I’m sure the meme creator wasn’t trying to convince us otherwise. All s/he was trying to say is that love is the most important thing in life.

But is it, really?

When people contacted the Rebbe with challenges in their avodat Hashem (service of G‑d), many times he suggested that they study a part of the Alter Rebbe’s Tanya, in chapter 41, which begins as follows:

One must, however, constantly bear in mind what is the beginning of [divine] service, as well as its core and root … it is not sufficient to awaken the love alone to “do good,” but at the very least one must first arouse the innate fear which lies hidden in the heart of every Jew not to rebel against the Supreme King of kings.


The “beginning, core and root” of our divine service is not love. It’s actually fear. Or maybe we can define it a little differently: restraint. Not focusing on what to do, but thinking of what not to do. Setting boundaries, knowing where we can’t go before exploring where we can and will.

Think about one of the most exciting moments in Jewish life. The moment two souls unite under the chuppah, starting a new life, adding another link to the beautiful chain of the Jewish people.

You’d expect them to talk about love, about “till death do us part.” But no. When the groom addresses the bride, he discusses kiddushin, “sanctification,” which really means that this union is going to be exclusively for them. Because in order to be truly mine, you need to be truly no one else’s.

Back to this cute Internet meme. It seems that this physician’s assertion that all you need is love is quite wrong, and perhaps even a source of many frustrations. Too often, we focus on love, on high hopes, but forget to talk about self-restraint.

We all love G‑d. And our spouses. And our family members and friends. Or at least we should. But when we think about those relationships, we should start thinking about the boundary, the what not.

Like telling G‑d that notBoundaries create safety only do we love Him, we’ll really try to avoid anything that He doesn’t want us to do.

And telling our life partners that we’ll try to avoid anything that will damage our relationship.

And telling our children that they are our top priorities, higher than our jobs or our hobbies, and if we’d ever have to choose, we'd choose them first.

Boundaries create safety, which enables the relationship to put down roots. Let’s create them and respect them.