All You Need is Love, But What Exactly is It

A friend who had read Rabbi Brody’s latest post, thought it was Covey-esque. In the 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, Covey describes a situation where a person was complaining that he was growing apart from his wife and Covey kept on insisting, well then “Just Love Her”. Covey’s point was that love is a verb and it’s totally within our power to increase our love for another person.

Rabbi Noach Weinberg gives the following definition of Love: “The pleasure of identifying people with their virtues.” This identification leads to connection and since everyone has virtues, it is possible to increase our love and connect with every person.

As I kept on rereading Rabbi Brody’s post, I saw more and more the wisdom of the advice he was giving. I was focusing on the good advice, that improvement of Dennis situation was greatly dependent on him improving his attitude and actions, and less focused on whether I shared his exact views on the value of outside counseling.

That’s the purpose of this site, learning and growing by seeing and hearing the good things people are saying. Appreciating the virtues and being a little less focused on the perceived deficiencies. I know this might sound Pollyannish, but it’s really Torah 101.

After we’ve worked on seeing the good, then we can slug it out in the comments over any points of disagreement. For example, do you think it’s healthy to support Torah concepts from non-Torah sources or should we make more effort to use exclusively Torah sources? Or what is your understanding of the Torah definition of the emotion of love (as opposed to the actions that bring us to love or result from love)?

Here’s a list of list of positive attributes to focus on adapted from “Begin Again Now” by Rabbi Zelig Pliskin.

Accepting / Accomplished / Adventurous / Agreeable / Altruistic / Ambitious / Appreciative / Articulate / Assertive / Attentive / Balanced / Brave / Calm / Caring / Cautious / Charismatic / Charitable / Cheerful / Compassionate / Confident / Conscientious / Consistent / Cooperative / Creative / Decisive / Dignified / Diplomatic / Easygoing / Efficient / Energetic / Enthusiastic / Expressive / Fair / Flexible / Forgiving / Friendly / Generous / Gentle / Handy / Hardworking / Healthy / Honest / Humble / Idealistic / Insightful / Knowledgeable / Logical / Loving / Loyal / Mature / Methodical / Moral / Neat / Open / Optimistic / Organized / Original / Patient / Persistent / Polite / Practical / Productive / Punctual / Realistic / Relaxed / Reliable / Scholarly / Self-assured / Sincere / Skillful / Spiritual / Sweet / Talented / Thrifty / Tolerant / Versatile / Warm / Wise

4 comments on “All You Need is Love, But What Exactly is It

  1. Using my newly acquired Pollyana Perspective i’m goin to assume the connection/ threading between “Magic Potion #9” (great song) and my- ups and downs in the life of the dopamine for loving comment , is the concept that by merely inhaling a dopamine increasing agent (which somehow made its way into the turpentine like smelling and India ink resembling sixties magic potion #9 song) the levels actually increased and everyone lived and loved happily ever after in the sink(what a concept).Other dopamine level increasing options include but r not limited to Rabbi Brody’s Emunah potion #CD , Novartis Pharmaceutical’s Ritalin Potion # 20mgs TID AM/PM/HS ,Hershey’s Chocolate kisses Potion #69,Torah Potion #613 ,Pollyana Potion #101 or Dr Jeffrey Schwartz& Sharon Begley’s Neuroplasticity Potion # “The mind and the brain” (awesome book).

    If you choose the fascinating Neuroplasticity route( after consulting your local rabbi life tour guide) , quick sidetrack note – according to Dr Jeffrey Schwartz ,In his book “The Mind and the Brain” he explores the power of the mind to shape the brain,(on a fixing different dysfunctions like OCD level ,but can be applied to everyday negative and positive) he also explores the brains ability to be drastically rewired . He says that “focusing on the positive may result in permanent changes to the neural pathways” .The Neuroplasticity concept is sooooo fascinating -So i guess Pollyana may have been on to something ,definitely need to watch that movie again ……

    Regarding the multifaceted on so many different levels emotion of Love, aside from a tribute in the form of a sculpture in Philadelphia and other quaint fun towns named after popular side effects . Love is one complicated concept .How do u know where to start ? The brain controls the heart ? Or does the heart control the brain ? The mind can shape the brain and its brainwaves and circuit systems , what if there are short circuits and imbalances. Is then the brain controllling the mind ,which is being controlled by the emotional heart,or r the emotions bossed around by the brainwaves and circuit systems & pathways and channeled out of the brain wiring. So emotions and intellectualism are both brain wave and circuitry system based .Perspective shapes reality what shapes perspective .So when fixing stuff and getting the proper Torah focus do u turn to the Brain and its complicated mass of networks and wirings and check on the imbalances or just focus on the emotional heart and Love of g-d and its tangled up emotions. Obviously there r different types/classifications of Love .When the torah commands Love thy neighbor as yourself does this mean ,make a concerted effort to employ the brain or the heart to intellectually or emotionally care/share/give/know/respect/focus on their virtues of the neighbor ?

    And what about individuals with Autism or Asperger syndrome should they marry/ have children how will they love their wife/kids/ neighbor or g-d .How can their be a commandment that is not universally applicable /emotionally possible for everyone . R they then sinning by default ?

    What or who determines the proper chemical levels and and short circuiting and correct energy channelings of the brain.The power source behind the Love thy neighbor as yourself commandment . Is everything preprogrammed like a complicated as400 program and you just get the fun of figuring out sources/cause and effects and report options but no real programming changes unless your a programmer ?Yeah ,the proverbial chicken or the egg, free will/destiny question again.Does Emunah /ritalin /prayer/prozac fix or rechannel /reprogram or just give the allusion of channelling the preprogrammed and hard coded brain data formulas .When you make a concerted effort to Love your neighbor as yourself and focus on his virtues that make you happy , will this effort lead to truly loving your neighbor .Sort of like smiling when you dont really want to but then chemically and emotionally you start feeling happier by default.If you want to work on yourself and grow emotionally ,it gets complicated knowing where to focus first .Is it following the Torahs instructions that gets you a balanced brain or does a balanced brain help you follow the Torahs instructions and laws. If you dont have the proper focus ability how can you learn for knowledge .If you dont have knowledge how can you have the proper focus. What really does come first the Torah (chicken) or the balanced brain (egg).

  2. The above by JT reminds me of some lyrics to “Love Potion Number 9” by Jerry Leiber and Mike Stoller:

    She bent down and turned around and gave me a wink
    She said, “I’m gonna make it up right here in the sink”
    It smelled like turpentine and looked like India ink
    I held my nose, I closed my eyes, I took a drink

  3. WOW awesome perspective on sooooo many different levels .. I can barely grasp the profound profundity and the multifaceted depths of this post .Just a quick point on the the surfacey ,literal and chemical aspects of Love :

    Chemically speaking, on the “what is love question” , Psychology Today .com contributer Deborah Blum expounds on this concept in her article “The plunge of pleasure”

    “If serotonin is the Zen-master among neurotransmitter, dopamine is Pollyanna,responsible for the highs of infatuation, new love, joy, self-confidence, and motivation. But like all roller-coaster rides, dopamine highs have their dangers…..” Deborah Blum

    Dopamine seems to be the common denominator threading on the what is Love actually (“Love Actually” is a great movie ).

    Thought provoking quotes on the movie “Dopamine” :
    “Brain chemicals, including dopamine, may also play a key role in binding
    together couples in romances that endure for years or decades. Being in the
    presence of a spouse or other long-term partner stimulates manufacture of
    brain chemicals that create a sense of well -being. As natural
    pain-killers, these chemicals may reinforce long-term romances in another
    way – by easing aches, pains, and other physical distress.”
    Michael Woods, science editor at The Blade

    A chemical messenger, dopamine is similar to adrenaline, also affecting
    brain processes that control movement, emotional response and ability to
    experience pleasure and pain.
    College of Pharmacy ,University of Texas

    So basically playing around with the dopamine levels is technically/chemically speaking how one actually experiences Love. Quick sidetrack note – antidepressants/ SSRI’s have been under much speculation for blunting emotions such as the ability to love or the falling out of love phenomenon.

    Dr Helen Fisher Phd Anthropolgist and research professor Rutgers University in her book “Why we Love ” explains the following about concept of Fading Love

    “High levels of oxytocin and vasopressin may interfere with dopamine and norepinephrine pathways, which may explain why attachment grows as mad passionate love fades. The antidote may be doing novel things together to goose the two love neurotransmitters”.

    “When we fall in love, dopamine and norepinephrine levels rise, and serotonin levels fall. Taking SSRIs brings up the serotonin level and suppresses dopamine. That could inhibit romantic love”.Dr Helen Fisher Phd

    I guess the trick is to tweak the dopamine (“pollyana”) levels on a chemical/brain level or make sure the levels r ok and then incorporating “Torah 101” and “Pollyana” perspectives or Optimistic Opal perspectives would be the obvious subsequent process and internal integration in the “Pollyana” sequential thought processing track.A good torah based Love facilitator and preserver would be the often referenced giving-“Hav” as the root word source in hebrew word for love “Ahava”.

  4. B”H

    Being that the definition of love is being discussed – I’ll repost a definition that was shared w/ me [with some modifications/additions]:

    Here’s a key that was shared with me by Rabbi Y. Shusterman [a Rav & posek in LA] to maintaining, enhancing and developing a loving marriage [with a preface from Rabbi Ezriel Tauber]:

    Define the word “love” – i.e. ask anyone [including yourself] what does “love” mean?

    [The following is from Rabbi Ezriel Tauber of Shalheves:]
    You’ll get many different answers. One common theme you’ll find is “I love my wife” while at the same time people will say “I love my car, I love my job, I love my dog” etc etc and usually about the same time people trade-in their cars – they usually “trade-in” their wives as well! .

    To underscore this point – a guy was once in a restaurant chowing away on some platter of fish. The guy sitting next to him couldn’t help but notice this guys “enthusiastic” eating of the fish and asked “Why are you eating this fish with such a gusto?”.

    The diner replied “Because I LOVE fish!”

    “Really?!” the observer retorted “You ‘love’ fish, eh? If you ‘love’ fish so much – why do you catch it, rip it apart & devour it?! If you ‘love’ fish – why don’t you let it swim in the ocean freely & unharmed?!”

    Most people’s definition of love is this type of “I love fish” version of love i.e. its self-gratifying. As soon the relationship or marriage stops being a source of gratification – the relationship/marriage stops, ends etc….

    Other, more refined people will define ‘love’ as a willingness to give [of oneself].

    While that’s nice – its also problematic – you can ‘give’ to a stranger…….

    [Rabbi Shusterman’s insight:]
    The Hebrew word for love has the gematria of 13 which is also the gematria of “Echod” [[a unified]”one”]. Therefore, an insight into the definition of ‘love’ means ‘to become one with whom you love’ i.e. like the way you treat your own body:

    Could you imagine working OT, saving and preparing a whole year to go on a ski trip & then 2 days before the trip – you stumble and break your leg?! The trip you’ve sacrificed for and anticipated the whole year is ruined! Could you then imagine cursing out, being angry with or smacking your foot/leg and “Saying – you stupid leg/foot – it’s all your fault! My whole trip is ruined because of you!!”?

    If anyone did – they’d probably be spending some time in a nice white room w/ padded walls…..

    Why wouldn’t anyone in their right mind take that approach? Obviously because the foot/leg is part of them – they are one in the same entity…..

    When you feel “one” with your spouse – their pain, is your pain – their joy, is your joy & just like you overlook your own shortcomings [or strive to work on them in a healthy manner] – you overlook your spouse’s shortcomings [the “mechitza” within marriage! :0)!]

    That is the definition of love and the goal of marriage – view each other and to work towards becoming one [btw – this concept also has its application to parenting….]

    This definition of love is both a feeling and a PRACTICAL approach of how to go about marriage. This feeling and approach makes a major difference when tackling marital challenges – are you working together or against each other to find a solution? Does the challenge serve as an opportunity to further bond or as a source of divisiveness [cv”s]?

    Are you going to be “married and buried” together or are you in for only as long as its mutually convenient?

    Just as a child represents the “bosar echod” of two parent’s – this type of love within marriage has the ability to transform two individuals into a new, more powerful metzious [entity]- which is really what they were BEFORE they came into this world – one neshamah [soul]…………….

Comments are closed.