Monthly Archives: April 2008

Love is Not a Crush

This post was crossposted on the 60Bloggers for Israel blog, a project of Jewlicious.
And so it was that a month from yesterday a fight with my mother had broken out. My mother had insisted that I do something around the house, and I had requested for a break – for the opportunity to take a little time for myself. Interests clashed, truths were in conflict, and everyone went away dissatisfied. We yelled, we threatened, we criticized and we sulked. We even stayed away from each other for some time – I the son fulfilling her request yet demanding an apology; she the mother content that I had honored her wish but angry at my choice of words. And yet there was not a minute in which our love for one another faltered — even at the hottest moments of the fight, I would risk my life without a moments’ hesitation for her safety, as she would for me. That is love.
Accordingly, some Biblical scholars note that the Hebrew word for love — Ahava — did not have the romantic connotations that cling to the modern use of the term. Ahava — as in, v’Ahavta et YHVH Eloekha — was a word for loyalty, for obligation, for the feeling that one feels towards one’s father and mother and not towards one’s, ehm, “lover.”
Defining love as a feeling of obligation has a deep wisdom in it, one that recognizes the truths about life; which of us has not been angry at, disgusted by, or felt frustrated during an interaction with someone we truly loved? Only those deepest relationships with the strongest sense of obligation survive — and thereby enable us to live to our fullest potential; healthy families who know how to have healthy fights produce healthy individuals, ones who know that it is okay sometimes to fall, okay to stumble, okay to hurt and be hurt and make up and start again.
My fear is that our consumer-driven society has forgotten this wisdom, has been so very consumed by the notion of the romantic crush, self-gratifying cloud-nine love that we’ve forgotten that love means sticking by during the bad as much as the good, accepting the sting along with the honey. As such, our families are becoming ever-more fractured as children grow up in divorced family structures; our communities seek purity in action above all, seeking loyalty to the rest of People as long as everything is on our own terms; and our politics are mired by the yearning for the Knight in Shining Armor who will “change” instead of those who have experienced the Public’s highs and lows. This focus on the immediate and the pure leads to shallow relationships, shallow communities and shallow politics.
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As such, in these days and at this time, my greatest fear is for my People. I fear that in the midst of the unbearable lightness of citizenry in the West, we have forgotten that love–deep, committed love–has held us alive as a community for thousands of years, and provided the firmament for millions of creative geniuses to then go on and light up the way for humanity as a whole. Instead of recognizing that a warm and safe home provides strong citizens for the world, so many of us seek to distance themselves from our old-new home, for fear of seeming politically imprudent and spiritually impure. Instead, these dear sons and daughters of Israel (all of Israel the nation, inside of our State and outside of it) have sought the embrace of other nations, nations whose lives are focused on pleasure and aesthetics, on the high that comes from detached introspective swaying, on the illusory freedom that comes from seeing oneself as a ‘citizen of the world.’
Maybe worse are others who are content to wear “I love Israel” t-shirts, and are driven to write letters “defending Israel” to their local papers, but are either unable or unwilling to see the imperfections of our home–thereby retarding efforts to fix and mend, to build a healthy nest for our People. The ‘love’ these organizations teach is the love of romantic comedies or fantasy romances — a drunken, vertigo inducing love that covers all flaws and produces little for the long-term benefit of the relationship.
As love goes, however, as my fear grows, so does my obligation to my People, and my desire to participate in the next sixty years–at least–of the building of a home that will provide my People a model of commitment-despite-imperfection, loyalty-through-action. And I am encouraged by the fact that I am not alone in this: despite the cynicism of the average Israeli, they, too, are committed to building such a home – to defending, growing and developing a place to which our People can always return and participate in, no matter the disagreement, the disillusionment, the anger and the tears.
And that is what I love about Israel at sixty: despite sixty years including hardship that I would not wish upon any People, we have persevered. Our economy is growing, our nonprofit sector is improving, and our citizens are holding our government to account for the corruption of power. And just as I returned home to my mother, so, too, sons and daughters of Israel are returning home to recommit, to rebuild, to renew their relationship with that love which made them who they are.

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