“I love you, but I’m not in love with you!” So goes the old cliché. Kind of a bizarre saying, as how can you separate the two?

Stranger still is this line: “I love you, but I don’t like you.” If you love someone, most certainly you like them!

But you see, there can be a phenomenon where a person can have what “seems” to be the higher degree of affection, without the lower one.

Here’s what I mean: Between Passover and Shavuot we observe a minor level of mourning. We don’t listen to live music or get married (amongst other mourning practices), since during this period of time the 24,000 students of Rabbi Akiva, the great Talmudic sage and teacher, died.

Why did they die? The Talmud states that it was because they did not accord honor to one another.

How is this possible? First of all, these were not students in your fourth-grade class, where petty rivalry is the norm. These were among the greatest and holiest Torah scholars to have ever lived. How could they be guilty of not respecting one another?

Even more puzzling is that these were the students of the great Rabbi Akiva, who lived by one primary credo: “Love your fellow as yourself.” How could his students, the first line of promulgators of their teacher’s teachings, not observe their mentor’s lesson?

This can be understood, perhaps, by considering the difference between loving and liking.

I love that which is me or mine. My child is mine. He is but an extension of me, so of course I love him. Not loving him would be akin to not loving my hand. It is a part of me. I naturally love it, as I do my child.

My kids will often ask: Which of us (seven children) do you love most? I always answer that this question is like asking me which of my fingers I love most. I love them all equally.

However, when it comes to liking, I may not like them all the same. It is actually harder to like a person than to love him or her. Liking someone means accepting that about them which is different from you.

I can love my child and still not like him. I love them because they are an extension of me, but I may not like how they are behaving.

If my child is acting in the manner I see fit, then I don’t need to like him, as I already love him. To truly like someone is to embrace all of his or her differences. Then I am liking the other person. Not myself.

To like my child is to respect all of his idiosyncratic behaviors. To respect him despite the thoughts, speech and actions that are not to my approval. If I can respect him enough to have a difference of opinion, then I not only love him, but I like him as well.

Rabbi Akiva’s students certainly loved one another, in keeping with their master’s teachings. When focusing on their similarities—all children of G‑d and students of Rabbi Akiva—they were able to love their fellow.

However, to like their colleagues, to respect opposing points of view and allow each other to have a competing opinion without judgement—well, in that regard, there was still work to do. That is where they needed to improve.

In the world of parenting, to like your children is a lot harder than to love them, but it is oh-so-much more important. When I have a child who is behaving in a manner that is not in line with my vision, yet I still find room in my heart for acceptance without feeling the need to fit him or her into my mold, my image—I show that I truly like the child.

They know it, they can feel it, and they respond to it.

This season, let’s try not only to love one another, let’s try to like each other too.