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True Eternal Love

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True Eternal Love

by Michael Berg Author of “The Way”

“Ya’akov loved Rachel. He said (to her father Lavan) I will work for you for seven years, in exchange for your youngest daughter Rachel… Ya’akov worked for Rachel for seven years, but in his eyes it seemed like only a few days, for he loved her.”

It is not often that the Torah discusses love. Therefore, when we find such sections, we should focus on them and try to gain as much as we can in our understanding of love.

Love is a universal idea. Most people believe they feel or have felt love. But, as this section makes clear, what we think of as love and true love might not be the same thing. In fact, they might even be complete opposites. When a person loves someone he yearns to be with them, a day apart feels like years. But, as the Torah tells, in the case of Ya’akov, the opposite was true. Although he was separated from Rachel for seven years, “in his eyes it seemed like only a few days, because he loved her.” What does this mean? If he loved her, the years should have felt like centuries.

Although we are going to attempt to explain in a spiritual way what true love means, the concept is not easily understood. As Rabbi Ashlag says, what we do not truly comprehend and feel, cannot truly be understood by us. Therefore, it is difficult to understand true love, being as in reality, a lot of us have never actually felt it. If we come away with only one lesson from this section, it should be that what we perceive as love, and true love are two totally different things.

Rabbi Yehuda Leib Chasman uses the feeling of mercy and concern that we may feel for others as an example of the difference between true feelings and self-centered feelings for others. There are people who are naturally full of mercy for others. They cannot bear to see someone else suffering. Although this is an admirable quality, the reality is, that this feeling of mercy is centered around their “I”. It bothers them to see others suffer and they therefore want to assist the other person in alleviating that pain and suffering. This is of course a wonderful nature, but the reality of it is that it makes the person himself feel better when he is merciful for others. In other words, we can say that he is basically being merciful to himself.

The same idea is true concerning love. At its core, most of the time when people refer to love, that love is rooted in their love for themselves. This can be clarified with a parable. A man walks into a restaurant. The waiter asks him what he would like. He responds that he loves fish. The fish is cooked and then cut up. The man then proceeds to eat the fish. Is this love? Is this the way one treats someone he loves? This man does not love fish. He loves himself, he loves to fill himself with fish.

Although the story sounds kind of silly, it reveals a very important lesson. All of us use the word love. In this story it becomes clear that, more often than not, when we use the word love with respect to others, we actually mean love for ourselves. In other words, we love what that person does for us, the way he or she makes us feel. The bottom line is that we do not really love others, rather, we love ourselves. What we often feel as love for others is actually just an extension of our love for ourselves.

Therefore, when we love, it is really the “I” that we love. When we are separated from whatever it is that fulfils the “I”, we are upset and we cannot wait for the separation to end: a day seems like a year. Rabbi Yehuda Leib Chasman explains that true spiritual love is above and beyond time. Time does not affect true love for it does not exist on the same plane. This is the love that Ya’akov felt for Rachel. It was true love and was not influenced by time. This is what the Torah means when it says, “in his eyes, it seemed like only a few days,” for their love was true, and, therefore, beyond the boundaries of time. In a few words the Torah reveals what made their love so special, “for he loved her” - their love was not self-centered, it was the truest love, one could have for another person.

This explanation may not be easy to grasp. Let us crystallize the basic lesson, which we can hopefully begin to utilize in our life. If we want to develop spiritually, if we want to begin to truly love others, we should follow a two-step process: Firstly, we should take the time to think and realize how a lot of what we think of as love for others is truly an extension of our own self- love. Then we should try to focus ourselves on loving others, for what they are, and not for what they do for us physically or spiritually. This transformation from self-love to love of others is not a simple one. It takes time and effort but the reward of this process is to truly love others. When we reach that level of love, that is the ultimate, for that love is eternal beyond time and space. May we all merit to achieve true eternal love.


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Last updated: 07/11/09

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