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A few years ago, I spoke to a group of high-schoolers about the Jewish idea of love. "Someone define love," I said. No response. "Doesn't anyone want to try?" I asked. Still no response. "Tell you what: I'll define it, and you raise your hands if you agree. Okay?" Nods. "Okay. Love is that feeling you get when you meet the right person." Every hand went up. And I thought, Oy. This is how many people approach a relationship. Consciously or unconsciously, they believe love is a sensation (based on physical and emotional attraction) that magically, spontaneously generates when Mr. or Ms. Right appears. And just as easily, it can spontaneously degenerate when the magic "just isn't there" anymore. You fall in love, and you can fall out of it. The key word is passivity. 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? Love is the attachment that results from deeply appreciating another's goodness. The word "goodness" may surprise you. After all, most love stories don't feature a couple enraptured with each other's ethics. ("I'm captivated by your values!" he told her passionately. "And I've never met a man with such morals!" she cooed.) But in her study of real-life successful marriages (The Good Marriage: How and Why Love Lasts), 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. What we value most in ourselves, we value most in others. God created us to see ourselves as good (hence our need to either rationalize or regret our wrongdoings). So, too, we seek goodness in others. 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. Continue reading.
Rabbi Eger prominently featured in a piece about women and Passover for The Park LaBrea News / Beverly PressClick HERE to read the article
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