Why Successful Individual or National Relationships, Cannot Depend On Love Alone
Obsessed With Love
Some people are willing to do almost anything to be loved. Our society lacks no example of ridiculous cases in which cravers of love are willing to strip themselves of their innermost dignity to desperately attract the affection of others. The recent ‘balloon boy’ saga, ‘kiss cams’ at sports games, lavish lifestyles or simple, yet bizarre human behaviors, all shout the same message: “Please love me!”
It seems like this unquenchable thirst for love will never fade away. The message of the Beatles still resonates deeply and is still sung and pronounced with passionate obsession: “All you need is love…, love is all you need,” as if the magical remedy of love will cure the world of its worries and problems. But can relationships, individual or communal, social or national, survive with love alone? Is the emotion of love capable of constructing an eternal bond between people who seek to live in peace and harmony? Are we not forgetting another crucial component, far more important than just love?
What is Love?
The very essence of love aims to bring the lover close to the beloved, through thoughts, words and actions. A warm atmosphere of care is subsequently created where they can enjoy each other and grow together. Love is therefore an important component in every relationship. It enhances the quality and esteem of the environment significantly.
However, when love is the only factor in a relationship, multiple negative outcomes may be bred. First, the lover and beloved may come too close to each other, intruding each other’s borders and space. At times, this occurs when two people love each other so much that they wish to transform each other into that which they are not. Second, when love is the only goal, deceitful measures may be undertaken to achieve it. “Love is deceitful,” the famous proverb states. Indeed, when people seek to love and be loved, they often paint superficial images of themselves. After all, their goal in such situations is to create an image that the other will like, instead of an authentic reflection of the inner self. And lastly, love or any emotion-based relationship is transient at its very essence. The emotion must be solidified on an intellectual basis as well, since emotions fluctuate swiftly. What we feel today is not necessarily indicative to what we will feel tomorrow.
The Key Element
In order to benefit truly from a relationship, love must include a larger and far more important component: respect. When respect exists, the aforementioned dangers disappear; both the lover and the beloved allow each other to grow freely in their unique spaces without any desire to transform the other. As the Talmud poignantly suggests as advice for peace in the home: “A husband should love his wife as himself, and respect her more than himself.”
Addressing, the value of respect, Hegel, the 18th Century German philosopher asked: “What do porcupines do in the winter? If they stay apart, they freeze. If they come too close, they injure each other.” Respect allows the porcupines, the lover and beloved, to find perfect balance between closeness and distance, intimacy and dignity. Respect allows all relationships to blossom eternally; whether between parents and children, husbands and wives or amongst friends.
Why Israel Must Change Its Policy
Ostensibly, since the introduction of the failed Oslo Peace Process in 1993, Israel has adopted a policy that aspires to draw the affection of the nations of our planet. As in every love-based relationship, Israel aims to find grace in the eyes of the world, appeasing it with unprecedented acts of compromise and concession. Just recently, the blockade on Gaza was significantly reduced to gain the world’s approval, despite the horrific terrorist and ammunition found on the dangerous flotillas. The world has yet to reciprocate with an embrace of love. Quite the opposite, this policy has only invited increasing demands and pressure. But why? Doesn’t ‘love attract love’? Why can’t the world understand our good and pure intentions?
The reason is obvious: when love and only love becomes the objective, it forces the person to create an image of the self, tailored exclusively to the interests of the potential lover. Subsequently, the image of the self lacks genuineness and truthfulness. A compromised self-integrity will not inspire respect; Self-respect is what commands respect by others. The world will only respect a state of Israel which respects its wholesome, true self.
A Palestinian terrorist and Napoleon Bonaparte
Salah Tamari, a famed terrorist, once shared his musings with an Israeli journalist, explaining why he was certain that Israel would one day be destroyed: During his incarceration in an Israeli prison, he noticed a Jewish prison guard eating bread on Passover. Tamari asked the guard why he was not observing the Jewish tradition which forbids any consummation of bread during this festival. “I feel no obligation to events that took place over 2000 years ago. I have no connection to that,” the Jewish guard responded. From that moment, Tamari decided “to fight for everything – not a percentage – not some crumbs that the Israelis might throw us – but for everything. Because opposing us, is a nation that has no respect and no connection to its roots.”
Conversely, respect toward our traditions, will breed respect toward our very raison-d’être. An alternative story is told of Napoleon Bonaparte who stormed the streets of Paris on the somber night of Tisha B’av, when Jews worldwide commemorate the destruction of the Jerusalem Temple. As he rode on his royal horse, he heard Jews weeping from a nearby Synagogue. When he inquired about their crying, he was told that close to two thousand years ago, the Jerusalem temple had been destroyed. To which he exclaimed, with profound admiration and respect: “I vow that this nation will see the reconstruction of their temple, in their own homeland. Because a nation, who is so unshakably connected to its roots, will undoubtedly live and prosper to eternity!”
Respect is All We Need
As many people and nations worldwide continue to yearn for love in our perplexed society, it is high time we reintegrate the vital virtue of respect in all our interactions. For if we wish to form lasting relationships which can genuinely prosper, respect toward your inner identity, much more than love, is “all you need.”
Babyonian Talmud, Tractate Yevamot 62a
Mine Enemy, by Amalia & Aaron Barnea, Grove Publication, 1988.