There was a rabbi known for his constant preaching about the need to nurture children with warmth and love.
One time he noticed some children who were playing in the freshly laid concrete outside his newly renovated home, their little feet leaving lasting impressions. He became irritated and started chastising the children.
A congregant asked, “How can you, a person who devoted his entire life to teaching warmth to children, speak this way?”
To which the rabbi replied: “You must understand. I love children in the abstract, not the concrete.”
Who can love?
Where is the first time the term “love” is mentioned in the entire Torah? Who is the first lover in the Bible?
No, it is not Adam and Eve. It’s not even Abraham and Sarah. I am sure they loved each other, but the term “love” is not mentioned.
The first time we discover “love” in the Torah is “G-d said to Abraham… take your son, your only son [from Sarah], whom you love, Isaac, and offer him as a burnt offering.”
Note: It is not saying that Abraham loved Isaac; it is saying that G-d testifies that Abraham loves Isaac. That must have been some intense love!
Now, where is the second time love is mentioned in Torah?
It is in the following portion: “Isaac married Rebecca and he loved her.”
The subtle message being conveyed is clear. What many psychologists and spiritual and self-help books now explain is intimated in this profound sequence in the Torah. Abraham loves Isaac. Isaac loves Rebecca. He who is loved is capable of loving. Isaac was loved; hence he was able to impart love.
Fascinating: This pattern continues throughout Genesis. The third time love is mentioned is the love of Rebecca to her son. Rebecca was loved and so she could love. The fourth time is Isaac’s love to his son, and so on.
Why is this so?
When I am loved, I feel confident about myself. I cherish my own innate value. I, thus, don’t always have to take; I can also give. If I feel unloved, I have a void which I always need to fill. I am forever parasitic. I am always craving your validation, your compliments, your respect, your gratitude, your appreciation, your attention and your approval. But when I feel that my essence is good, I am a lovable being. I can suspend myself and become attentive to you. I can create space for you.
Narcissists, who are self-absorbed 24/7, usually have a tremendous void in their self-value. They never felt genuine love. Their tank is on empty. They cannot afford being there for anyone, ever.
A young woman was being interviewed and said, “I am giving up dating.” The interviewer asked what caused her to take such a drastic measure. She replied, “The last man I met talked only of himself for two solid hours. And then he looked at me and said, ‘Enough of me talking about me. Tell me what you think of me.’”
What is more, if I feel unloved, I do not value my emotions. I can’t believe that my love means anything; I delegitimize my love, because I think I am valueless and certainly all my emotions have no value. It is even deeper. If I do not value my being, then, if I love you, I actually believe that it is wrong; because, if I love something, it must be bad since I, myself, am pretty bad and worthless.
Abraham loved Isaac. He loved his essence. Thus, Isaac could love.
Some have even suggested that this may be part of the story of Abraham sacrificing Isaac. At the fringe of losing his son, Abraham discovered how much he really loved him. This begins the miracle of the Jewish family, the infinite love between parents and children, which spanned millennia and has been the envy of the world.
What then do you do if you weren’t loved? The answer is what David says in Psalms 27; “My mother and father rejected me, but G-d took me in.”
You must find G-d’s unconditional love for you. You ought to discover the essential value of your being in G-d’s eyes. Birth is G-d saying you matter.
Much of our prayers revolve around this theme. G-d loves you, cherishes you, thinks the world of you, and begs of you to coronate Him as your king. He can’t think of you as too worthless if he really believes that all of history depends on you.
Rabbi Tzvi Dechter is the director of Chabad of North Broward Beaches, located in the Venetian Isle Shopping Center at 2025 E. Sample Rd. in Lighthouse Point. For all upcoming events, please visit www.JewishLHP.com.