Unnoticed, I stood in the doorway of our kitchen. There were only two occupants in the room, yet I felt I shouldn’t enter.

The usual after-dinner scene greeted me. My mother stood at the sink, washing the dishes, while my father sat at the table, reading from the open pages of the Talmud. My father would comment or ask questions as he read aloud from the texts and commentators. My mother would listen, adding from time to time her own questions or comments. They were partners in study, for it was the foundation of their life and its direction.

To act with respect means to act with consideration of another’s needs and circumstances

Neither parent seemed to notice the presence of their young daughter in the entranceway. I was only ten at the time, but my sensitive nature detected that the room was full of their love for each other. So full that it filled the room, and I didn’t want to enter and intrude.

Hollywood couldn’t produce, or even conceive of, such a love scene. Why?

Because, today, the hedonistic secular elements of Western civilization are the dominant factor in this society. Physical beauty and pleasure and perfection are extolled. Intimacy is a game, a sport, a selfish indulgence.

Jewish civilization, however, is rooted in a belief in the One who is the knower, the knowledge and the known. Accordingly, it was the G‑dly will to create a material world where spirituality is hidden. It was the G‑dly will to create mankind to care for the Garden of Eden and to nurture its spirituality. One couple couldn’t manage it. One family couldn’t redeem it. One nation, a motley group of all sorts of individuals, was given the responsibility to uncover the essence-quality of life.

The Jews were slaves in the ancient powerful Egyptian empire, when G‑d freed them and brought them to Mt. Sinai. There, on a small mountain, a small people were given an awesome responsibility: to make the world a dwelling-place for G‑d.

To accomplish this, He gave them a blueprint: the Torah, a teaching for life. Therein were all the laws pertaining to the mundane daily tasks of existence: economic, social, political, religious, ritualistic, educational, nutritional, and above all to be a holy people, for “I, your G‑d, am holy.” The holiness of the people was developed not through philosophy or theology, but by the practical application of the Torah laws.

For someone or something to be holy means to be separated and dedicated for a special purpose. A holy people in following G‑d’s teachings should act with respect to all His creations. This is how G‑d’s presence is acknowledged as central to the lives and the life of all that exists. To act with respect means to act with consideration of another’s needs and circumstances.

Humility is crucial for such a healthy respect. True humility comes from recognizing and acknowledging G‑d in your life. The Kotzker Rebbe taught that when we are absorbed in ourselves, there is no room for G‑d to enter.

Respecting another’s privacy is at the root of both a healthy self-respect and a healthy relationship with one’s fellow human being, particularly with the opposite gender. Jewish law is the active expression of its inner soul. To play games or experiment with another person is deemed intolerable. Only a married couple dedicated to each other are allowed to have physical contact. Marriage is a monogamous bond of trust between two people in G‑d’s presence. This bond is strengthened by the privacy of their intimate relations. Public signs of affection are restrained. This very high moral standard has helped us survive 3500 years of various cultural, economic and political hazards. The Jewish home was never a fortress; it was always a temple.

Disagreements were not battlefields, but moments to better the understanding and appreciation of the other

Although my parents both came from Eastern Europe, they brought to their marriage different customs and approaches. However, since they were focused on making their spouse happy, they managed to either compromise, work around or patiently tolerate the other’s idiosyncrasies. To my parents, love was a very personal, private and holy relationship. Their caring and concern for each other made true love palpable in our home. Disagreements were not battlefields, but moments to reach a better understanding and appreciation of the other. Although even their children never saw them physically touch each other, their interactions reflected a deep inner bonding.

When my father wanted to correct my less-than-perfect table manners he said, “Look at how nicely your mother eats.” There was a warmth in his tone that conveyed his feelings. My mother, who came from Russia where salted gefilte fish was the choice, cooked sweet gefilte fish in deference to my father’s Polish taste buds. When my sister asked my father a question about a subject she was studying, he told her, ”Go ask your mother; she understands it better than I.”

The respect and consideration they showed each other was extended to their children, friends, neighbors, strangers, and the children and adults they taught. Real love is not just its outer visible expression, but the deeper union of simple thoughtfulness.

Therefore when I stood in the doorway, I understood that a Jewish love scene need not display in public its private, physical component, when its spiritual essence is so potent.