Story: What Is Love?

Today Rabbi Mottel and Chana Sharfstein of Crown Heights mark their 60th wedding anniversary. In honor of the occasion, presents the story of how the Rebbe guided Chana in finding her soul-mate, written by Rabbi Dovid Zaklikowski of Lubavitch Archives.

What is Love in an excerpt of Advice for Life: Marriage, a compilation of the Rebbe’s guidance on love, dating, the Jewish wedding, marriage and marital harmony, published by Lubavitch Archives:

Chana Sharfstein’s innocence was stripped away the moment she learned of her father’s senseless murder by a thug on a dark night in Boston in 1953. Chana struggled with the challenges life presented as she attempted to recover. Her siblings had married, and she was home alone with her mother, who suffered deeply from their devastating loss.

One night, Chana made the journey to Lubavitch World Headquarters to meet the Rebbe for a private audience. During their meeting, the Rebbe asked Chana about her interests, concerns, and future plans. Chana realized that the Rebbe was genuinely interested in her responses, and from the Rebbe’s inquiries and comments, she knew he was listening carefully. Chana acknowledged the Rebbe as a fatherly figure who truly cared for her.

Several months later, during a chance visit to New York, Chana once again met with the Rebbe. Initially, the Rebbe asked many questions regarding her college studies. Listening attentively, the Rebbe then asked Chana if she had begun dating. Chana replied that indeed she had met several young men, but none piqued her interest.

“Is there someone you are interested in?” asked the Rebbe. Chana replied that a student who was a popular Hassidic singer had impressed her, and that she felt some romantic kindlings toward him.

The Rebbe chuckled lightly, and said, “He is not the right one for you. True love is not that which is portrayed in romantic books. It isn’t an overwhelming, blinding emotion. Novels do not portray real life, but rather focus on fantasy, invented worlds and contrived emotions. Fiction is just that—fiction—but real life is different.”

Chana believed the man she would choose to marry would offer her a blissful, exciting and harmonious life. The Rebbe continued, “Love is an emotion that increases in strength throughout life. It is sharing, caring, and respecting one another. The love that you feel as a young bride is only the beginning of real love. It is building a life together, a family unit and home. It is through the small daily acts of living together that love flourishes and grows. Therefore, the love you feel after five or ten years of marriage is a gradual strengthening of the shared bond. When two people unite, with time they ultimately feel completely bonded with the other, so that each partner can no longer visualize life without his or her mate.”

The book is available in your local Jewish bookstore or via Bulk orders are welcome.




  • 1. Mushky wrote:

    I honestly don’t understand what the Rebbe meant. He asked her if there was anyone who piqued her interest, and she essentially responded that there was a guy that she felt something for.
    Is this wrong? Is this not a “Kosher” way to start dating a person?
    We are all human here, I hope, and it is fair game to have a crush on one person or another – and it is in this organic way that we can meet people.

    What am I missing?

  • 3. To #1 wrote:

    You are correct, the emotion is a very good glue for marriage. But when the emotion is so intense that it blinds your logic, and you are not able to use your rational to see if the person is truly right for you, your emotion will get you in trouble.

    As with everything, there needs to be a healthy balance of emotion and intellect.

    The Rebbe knew her and the person she wanted to marry, and the Rebbe knew that he would not be good for her.


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