True Love

by: Rabbi Yisrael Baron

(Published December 16, 2013 Sunny Isles Beach Community Newspapers)


Would you work for seven years in exchange for marrying the one you love? Jacob did just that. In addition, the Torah tells us, "They seemed to him like a few days because of his love for her."

Now that sounds counter-intuitive. If someone is in love, every moment should feel like a long time. Yet, the torah tells us that the seven years of Jacob's work, leading up to his marriage with Rachel, felt like only a few days. Why?!

After eating a plate of fish, a young man once told R' Mendel of Kotzk that he really "loved fish." R' Mendel , known for his witty sayings, responded: " You don't love fish. If you really loved fish, you would not have killed it and eaten it. You love yourself! You are eating the fish to serve your own needs."

Malbim, a Torah commentator, says the Torah is making a point while describing Jacob's love for Rachel. This love was not a reflective love - a love of desire, because if so every moment would feel like a year. Rather, Jacob loved Rachel in the pure sense of "True Love."

The reality is that we are nowhere near as capable as Jacob. As psychologist Sidney M. Jourard observed: “People marry for many reasons, and few people marry for love, because few people are able to love the person they marry at the time they marry them." Does that mean that we must settle for "fish love?"

The Mishna in Ethics of Our Fathers says that any love that is dependent on an expected benefit will dissolve once that benefit is gone. The Mishna is only concerned about a dependent love, but not concerned about the source of the love. We may start with self serving "fish love" but once we lessen the dependency (on our own needs and desires) and focus on the target of our love, then we have "true love" and it is sustainable.