Monday, November 12, 2007

Not Love Alone

Rabbi Friedman reading Live From the Hilltop from my laptop

(The following is based on a class given by Rabbi Manis Friedman)

Society, with all its music and images, has persuaded us that love makes a happy marriage. Judaism says, “Yea, we know that. But there must be more to the picture.”

Love is an expression of kindness.Sounds good, right?

Yes, but not on its own.

By nature, love is indiscriminate. Indiscriminate kindness is very messy. You give away everything to everyone. It’s total chaos.

What we need in our marriages is a little bit of the fear factor.

Fear is an expression of judgment – it means measure, consideration, restraint.

What does love and fear mean in a marriage?

Love is the feeling of fullness and closeness.
Fear is a feeling of distance, smallness, being insignificant.

Because of love, we say nice things.
Because of fear, we’re careful not to say the wrong things.

For love to truly flourish, it needs to be discriminate. Discriminate love means finding the right bounds in which to express your kindness. Is this the right time and place to give a compliment? Is this even the appropriate compliment? Adding fear to the love makes us examine whether the love is appropriate in context. Someone who doesn’t fear their spouse is probably abusing them. They have love, maybe – but its expression is not personal. It’s out of hand. Only fear can keep the expression of love appropriate. Love alone can never be so undoubtedly sensitive. It’s on a role, and doesn’t want to stop to truly reflect on its tact - the what, where, when, or how.

A man can abuse the same wife he loves so immensely. What he lacks is fear, not love. In fear, there is the humility, respect, and restraint that wouldn’t allow one spouse to emotionally or physically abuse the other.

A marriage where both spouses fear each other has the ultimate capacity for romance. Romance means knowing exactly when and how to express your love. It means picking exactly the right night to surprise your husband with a fancy dinner, and choosing the food he likes.

The husband who has lots of love but lacks fear cannot be romantic. He tells his wife he loves her when she is coming through the front door holding bags of groceries. There is no insight into his wife’s situation, her needs. All he knows is that he loves her, wants to show it, and it must be now. Real romance means delicately choosing the context of your words and actions. That’s when love is really alive and at its best.

It’s for this very reason that G-d had a “change of plans” when he created the world. Originally breathing the world into existence through kindness, he then added judgment. That’s the only way the world would spin. G-d wanted his interest and love to be personal and unique, not just splattered.

So let’s not splatter our love, our kindness. When it comes to true harmony in a marriage, “what’s love got to do with it?” A lot. But not everything.


Chana said...

Reminds me of something a teacher of mine once said... "If I buy flowers for my wife, and she doesn't appreciate getting flowers, then who am I buying the flowers for? Myself!"

Nemo said...

I dunno about you, but the word fear to me implies timidity, fright and intimidation, which don't seem like such healthy contributions to a steady relationship. I think reverence and discretion might be a more appropriate attributes.

Itzhak said...

Fear means yirah in this case (I hope) which is more like respect or reverence indeed.

Also, Rabbi F always talks about boundaries, and there must be boundaries to love. 60's style love - love for every idiot out there who does every wrong thing known to Torah - is not love, it is self-hate. Ditto for "love your enemy".

Random.Bochur said...

first up, that is one funky looking laptop! where'd you buy it - woodstock??

my $0.02: any relationship is healthy when it is based on mutual respect and marriage is no exception. lust or infatuation is the other alternative and leads to who-knows-where.

shloime said...

People should give out Friday night light kits .It is a Commandment with a universal appeal .I have given out candles to antiwar Jews ,I tell them when they light the guns and missile launchers in the over 30 current conflicts worldwide fall silent for a moment, the planes stop dropping their payload and the solders on the two sides shake hands and wish each other Shabbat Shalom that the world and humanity should know peace .I have gotten over a hundred humans( also non Jews to light with their Jewish boy friend’s) to start to light candles .I meet them in airports ,subways, a church in Rome called SAN PIETRO IN VINCOLI and business shows . In a world thirsting for peace this is a wonderful command, and one the candle lighters can share with all humankind. This winter I was at a show in Tucson I met a couple from a little town in the Oregon wildness. She a Jew him an Irish catholic .She told me every Friday night she wishes her husband Shabbat Shalom, so I told her now you can wish with lit candles .And I sent her a candle kit in the mail .A few weeks later she sent me a e-mail “how she can’t believe I remembered a Jewish women in the middle of the Oregon hinterland. Here is to spreading the light.”