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A few years ago, I spoke to a group of high-schoolers about the Jewish idea of love. By focusing on the good, you can love almost anyone. " "We're choosing to love him," her mother explained, "because love is a choice." There's no better wisdom Susan's mother could have imparted to her before marriage. "Mom," she said hesitantly, "I really appreciate your feelings, but, in all honesty, how can you say you love someone you've never met?
The way God created us, actions affect our feelings most.
For example, if you want to become more compassionate, thinking compassionate thoughts may be a start, but giving tzedaka (charity) will get you there.
Likewise, the best way to feel loving is to be loving ― and that means giving.
"Tell you what: I'll define it, and you raise your hands if you agree. When she called her parents to tell them the good news, they were elated.
Obviously, there's a huge distance from here to the far more profound, personal love developed over the years, especially in marriage. Susan learned about this foundation of love after becoming engaged to David.
Love is that feeling you get when you meet the right person." Every hand went up. Judaism actually idealizes this universal, unconditional love.
Consciously or unconsciously, they believe love is a sensation (based on physical and emotional attraction) that magically, spontaneously generates when Mr. If love comes from appreciating goodness, it needn't just happen ― you can make it happen. This man naturally saw the good in others, and our being there said enough about us that he could love us.
And just as easily, it can spontaneously degenerate when the magic "just isn't there" anymore. Love is the attachment that results from deeply appreciating another's goodness. After all, most love stories don't feature a couple enraptured with each other's ethics. God created us to see ourselves as good (hence our need to either rationalize or regret our wrongdoings). Nice looks, an engaging personality, intelligence, and talent (all of which count for something) may attract you, but goodness is what moves you to love. Just focus on the good in another person (and everyone has some). I was once at an intimate concert in which the performer, a deeply spiritual person, gazed warmly at his audience and said, "I want you to know, I love you all." I smiled tolerantly and thought, "Sure." Looking back, though, I realize my cynicism was misplaced.
Erich Fromm, in his famous treatise "The Art of Loving," noted the sad consequence of this misconception: "There is hardly any activity, any enterprise, which is started with such tremendous hopes and expectations, and yet, which fails so regularly, as love." (That was back in 1956 ― chances are he'd be even more pessimistic today.) So what is love ― real, lasting love? What we value most in ourselves, we value most in others.
" she cooed.) But in her study of real-life successful marriages Judith Wallerstein reports that "the value these couples placed on the partner's moral qualities was an unexpected finding." To the Jewish mind, it isn't unexpected at all.
Now that you're feeling so warmly toward the entire human race, how can you deepen your love for someone?