I love hamburgers! Shame I can't eat them together. Now whether we are discussing Jeff's famous Tunisian burger or the rich tasting kobe burger from Orange Delight, or a smooth creamy Godiva truffle verses a simple Reese's peanut butter cup these are truly delicious experiences.
The truth is though, I don't really love these treats, rather I love the way I feel while eating them. The same is true for people who say they love fish (although I am not sure why). If they really loved fish they would leave them alone where they belong; in the ocean. When we say we love something what we really mean is we love the way we feel as a result.
That is the most primal level of love; a recognition of the way something gives us pleasure. Ask a little kid if their daddy loves them and they will say yes. Ask "how do you know?" and the answer is simple; "he buys me candy!". Love is an awareness of the pleasure we receive from someone or something. Our first experience and most basic approach to love is based on this. I love chocolate. I love cars. He makes me feel....She makes me feel.... This attitude towards love is depicted in the Torah when Isaac marries Rebecca. The Torah states that Rebecca became his wife, he loved her and was comforted on the loss of his mother. She was able to fill a void in Isaac's life as a result of losing his mother Sarah, and by doing so took away a tremendous amount of sorrow and replaced it with pleasure. This is the first aspect of love.
However, there is a deeper element of love that comes from the ability to articulate specifically what it is that gives us this pleasure.
Someone once said in a different context; "I can't define it but I know it when I see it". According to Judaism that is incredibly naive. In actuality if we can't define something we most likely will not recognize it and be unable to distinguish if it is real or not. This is true emphatically when it comes to love. No one ever said "I am so infatuated with her" while they were in the thick of the relationship. However, after the facade falls away, looking back one can clearly see that it was an extreme case of infatuation. Without a definition there is no way to distinguish.
If I were to ask your mother to tell me a few things you should be working on in your life, she would probably joke and say "only three?". However, if I were to ask her to describe you, none of those items would be mentioned. That is because contrary to popular belief; love is not blind, love is a magnifying glass. However, love is identifying with the positive. Everyone has positive and negative traits. The difference between loving someone and despising them is the one you love you dismiss their misgivings and the one you hate you only see that. That is love; having the ability to recognize positive traits and identifying the person with them.
We see this aspect of love with Jacob and Rachel. Jacob meets Rachel at a well on his quest to find a wife to help him with his mission to carry on the dream of Abraham that Jacob has just been entrusted by his father Isaac. He sees that she has the qualities to be such a partner in that quest and asks her if she will marry him. She agrees but her father insists that they wait seven years before marrying. The Torah says that because he loved her it seemed like a few days. Now doesn't that seem counterintuitive? Shouldn't the fact that he loved her so make the waiting that much more unbearable? The anticipation should have made it seem like an eternity! That is true if he was focused on the primal level of love. If he was waiting for the expression of love from how she made him feel then yes the anticipation would have been too great. However, Jacob was experiencing the pleasure of love from seeing her virtues. Those virtues were constant and therefore a constant state of pleasure. Since he had that continuous love of her as opposed to the pleasure of love from her he was able to bear the wait.
There is one more level of love that is even more profound. That is the ability to realize that love is a choice. Love is something we can choose to have for someone. We see that this is true in regards to people that one day hope to be parents. Ask any of them if they will love their children and the response will always be absolutely! How can they be sure? Maybe their child will be the brat down the street? Even if he or she is they will love that child. Now while a parent might not always have the ability to show that love in the proper and healthiest way they will always love that child. That is because they decided so before ever having that child. This is possible with every relationship we have. We can choose to love those individuals in our lives. We can choose to focus on the positive as opposed to holding onto to some resentment or anger and forever seeing the other as the embodiment of that act. We can realize that as a result of that love we have a responsibility to see to it that the other knows that we love them. Making sure that the statement "I love you" isn't just about the way you make me feel but rather a recognition that because you make me feel that way I will see to it that I do so for you as well.
After the seven years of wait Jacob finally is about to marry Rachel. However, her father tricks him and has him marry her sister Leah instead. Jacob insists on being able to marry Rachel and her father agrees that Jacob may, only if he remains married to Leah as well. After waiting a week Jacob marries Rachel as well and the Torah says that he loved her also. Also? Wasn't she the one he always loved? The Torah is telling us that as soon as Jacob realized that he married Leah, he understood that it was his responsibility to love her. He made a choice.
We all have people in our lives that we love. Too often that love is solely acknowledged when we feel good as a result of them being in our life. Even though this is natural it isn't optimal because when we aren't feeling that way we ignore the love. We should take the time to articulate for ourselves why we love them. Enumerate even if just in our minds all their positive traits. Then finally, make the most profound choice possible in regards to relationships; make the choice to love them. Give them the pleasure that they give you.