What is love? I learned from my teacher Rabbi Noach Weinberg, of blessed memory, that love is not a happening. Love is not getting shot by cupid and falling into love (or falling out of love when shot again). The Torah teaches us the true definition and secret to love.
The definition of love is the emotion when one recognizes the virtues in another and then identifies those positive attributes with that person. It is the good feeling of seeing the good in the other person. Love is not just a happening, but it is something to work for.
Parents naturally love their children. Because they want the best for their children, they are focused on their virtues, looking for their inner good. Parents do not stop loving their children when they are sick and keep them up all night vomiting and coughing. Where does this love come from? It comes from focusing on the inner beauty and potential within their children, besides for the self-love stemming from seeing their children as extensions of themselves.
One the one hand, who recognizes their children’s negative attributes the most? Their parents. Yet, who loves a child the most in the world? His mother and father. This indicates that love is not blind. Infatuation is blinding, which is really coming from the seat of desire.
Woe to the children whose parents cannot identify them with their virtues! The Torah surprisingly groups together in one verse “Do not take revenge, do not bear a grudge, love your friend as yourself, I am G-d.” Only when one chooses not to focus on the negative actions or attributes of others, will he or she have the ability to rise above the negative traits of revenge and bearing a grudge. Similarly, only when one will identify other people with their good qualities, by focusing on their positive actions and attributes, will one come to love them.
Love becomes much easier when we view others as our own brothers or sisters, and even easier when recognizing the beauty of their higher souls, which is intrinsically connected to our own. This is why God mentions Himself in His mitzvah (commandment) of loving your friend as yourself. Only when we see people as being intrinsically good, all created in His image with one collective soul, will we automatically come to love other people – just as we love ourselves.
It follows therefore, that someone who does not love him/ herself will find it virtually impossible to love others as well. So why not focus more on the virtues within ourselves, thereby increasing our self-love? Then, we will have much more love to share with those around us. Have a beautiful day.