True Love Explained (Abraham Twerski)

Abraham Twerski talking about the meaning of love
Psychiatrist and Substance Abuse Specialist, Rabbi Abraham Twerski

Most people take for granted that “Love is all you need.” But when it boils down to the fine detail that makes all the difference, it’s a lot less crystal. What is love? Is it the love we give or the love we receive that matters most? I don’t claim to be an expert on love, although I did publish an article on creating love with the power of the mind. To answer these questions, I thought it would make sense to consult somebody who’s lived almost 90 years and made a career out of rehabilitating drug addicts.

I’ve transcribed a short clip in which Rabbi Abraham Twerski adds his drop to the bucket of perspectives on love. I thought his fish analogy was really thought-provoking, and I find myself agreeing with his main point–true love is about giving not receiving. How do you define true love?


“Young man, why are you eating that fish?” The young man says “Because I love fish.” The man says “Oh, you love the fish. That’s why you took it out of the water and killed it and boiled.” He says “Don’t tell me you love the fish, you love yourself. And because the fish tastes good to you–therefore you took it out of the water and killed it and boiled it.”

So much of what is love is fish love. A young couple falls in love. A young man and a young woman fall in love, what does that mean? That means that he saw in this woman someone who he felt could provide him with all of his physical and emotional needs. And she saw in this man somebody she feels she can write–that was love. But each one is looking out for their own needs. It’s not love for the other. The other becomes a vehicle for my gratification.

Too much of what is called love is fish love. An external love is not what I’m going to get but what I’m going to give. We had an ethicist–Rabbi Dessler–who said “People make a serious mistake in thinking that you give to those whom you love. And the real answer is you love those to whom you give.” And his point is if I give something to you, I’ve invested myself in you. And since self-love is a given–everybody loves themselves. Now that part of me has become in you, there’s part of me in you that I love. So true love is a love of giving, not a love of receiving.


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