Thoughts of a Shaliach… Valentine’s Day, Love, and the Love for Eretz Israel

This week was Valentine ’s Day. A day dedicated to celebrating love. Love is a great thing, as the Beatles said: “all you need is love”. This topic is the most thought, sung and written about of all time. It is the pinnacle of our hopes and it is held in the highest prestige. To find love is one of the noblest quests we can venture out on as humans. But what is love really? One of the most asked questions of all time, and still no sufficient answer…

I looked around shops on Valentine’s Day surrounded by “love” and the Beatle’s song was playing in my head. Not “All you need is love”, but rather: “Money can’t buy me love”. I realized that we do not really love truly anymore, today love is lost. Love is to be spent on the other; the only thing we love today is ourselves. We love the feelings of love, the excitement, the flowers and the presents. We have turned love into a means to an end, when it is the end itself. We have made it into another avenue in life where we have something to gain, some sort of personal benefit, but this is not what love is really about.

Love is giving. In our existential aloneness, when we face the finitude of our being, the only true solace we have is love. Love is about letting our small limited existence transcend our personal limits, and live life joined with the other. When we join another in the journey of love, we taste infinity. Through holding the small hands of our children we can taste the power of eternity that lives inside us. When we make space for the other inside ourselves, when we give, care, and put effort into the other, we are making ourselves bigger. We are not just small “selfie” taking, selfish, self-centered finite beings that will soon be nothing but meat for the worms, we are part of something bigger.

Giving altruistically, caring and making space for the other, not as a means to an end, but as ends in their self. The other is not an object to fulfil our desires. Whether it is a spouse, a friend, a child or a country, giving and making space in our hearts for them, is the essence of love. The test and difference of true love from today’s love is when you have nothing to gain, or maybe even something to lose, but you still love with all your heart.

The infected love we know today has also found its way into our love for Israel. As we go around Jewish communities here in the area, we are asked tough questions about Israel. People ask how we can love Israel when it does A, B, and C. How can we love the government when it does not give space for E, F, and G? How can we expect them to care and be a part of it? They feel farther and farther away from Israel.

There are many things I don’t agree on with the Israeli government, but what does this have to do with love? Love is unconditional. As it says in Avot (5 16): “Any love that is dependent on something, when that thing perishes, the love perishes. But [a love] that is not dependent on something, does not ever perish.” To really love someone or something has nothing to do with what you gain out of it. The question of “what is in it for me?” flows through our veins like poison, ruining everything that we hold dear. I do not love you “because of…”, I love you “even though..”.

To love Israel is to see the negatives, but know that Israel is so much more than that. It is more than the conflict and the “Rabbanut”. Who would have thought that after two thousand years of peril we would be back, free, alive and kicking. True love is beyond the Pragmatism of the 19th-century philosopher William James. To truly love Israel is to give it space in your heart no matter what, to connect to something greater than our small tragic selves. To connect to generations upon generations who dreamed of returning to the Jerusalem that today thrives. To yearn with the most passionate desire to be a part of the Jewish people’s destiny that materializes in the holy land right before our eyes. To give, to make space in our heart for the other, not as an object, but as a living being with all its complexities.

Elie Wiesel said that the opposite of love is not hate, but indifference.

We must not become indifferent to the heart of Judaism, we must not become apathetic to the holy land of Israel.

Just as when you are in a relationship you should not try to change the other from the outside, so too the State of Israel. If you want it to be different, come and be that change.

About the Author
Aryeh is 24 years old, married and currently a shaliach (emissary) of the Jewish Agency in the united states of America. He served for three years as a warrior and commander in the IDF, and led troops into Gaza in operation protective edge. He studied in Yeshiva in "Eli" for three years learning Torah, Judaism and philosophy.