Science of Love

What is Love?

Love is the most profound emotion we experience as humans. Love is an emotion that keeps people bonded and committed to one another. Just as a flower needs water to grow, every person needs to be loved in order to feel nourished. Love is complicated because there are many types of love:

Love (Sefirah)Meaning

Ahava

Love with all your heart through action and mindfulness

Chesed

Love for friends, fellows, others, self

Gevurah

Passionate love

Tiferet

Divine love, love of life

Netzach

Familial love, parental love

Hod

Pragmatic love, companionship

Yesod

Self-love, procreation

Malkhut

Playful love

Love your neighbor as yourself (Lev. 19:18)

Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth (1 Corinthians 13:4–8a)

The Great Sage Hillel declared, “[Love] is the entire Torah; all the rest is commentary.”

The Physiology of Love

Just as we need water, air, food and shelter; we too need love to exist.

The need to be loved, as experiments by Bowlby and others have shown, show it is our most basic and fundamental need.

One of the forms that this need takes is contact comfort —the desire to be held and touched. Findings show that babies who are deprived contact comfort, particularly during the first six months after they are born, grow up to be psychologically damaged.

Given the importance of the need to be loved, it isn’t surprising that most of us believe that a significant determinant of our happiness is whether we feel loved and cared for. In the surveys that I have conducted, people rate “having healthy relationships” as one of their top goals—on par with the goal of “leading a happy and fulfilling life.”

In our pursuit of the need to be loved, however, most of us fail to recognize that we have a parallel need: the need to love and care for others. This desire, it turns out, is just as strong as the need to be loved and nurtured. It is the desire to love and take care of others that underlies the phenomenon of “cute aggression.” Cute aggression refers to the tendency to pinch, hug, or otherwise express love for others—particularly cute babies, kittens or puppies—in ways that mildly hurt or cause discomfort to the object of our affection.

We know that the desire to love and care for others is a hard-wired and deep-seated because the fulfillment of this desire enhances our happiness levels. Expressing love or compassion for others benefits not just the recipient of affection, but also the person who delivers it.

Love is the most powerful force in the universe. Without love, life would not be worth living. Love is what connects us all. Love - and heartbreak - is what gives us the art that makes human society so beautiful and special. Love helps us grow. Love inspires us. Love motivates us. Love is the best antidepressant.

🙏Love is as critical for your mind and body as oxygen. It's not negotiable. It is also true that the less love you have, the more depression you are likely to experience in your life. Love is probably the best antidepressant there is because one of the most common sources of depression is feeling unloved. Many people who suffer from depression don't love themselves and they do not feel loved by others. - Ellen McGrath, Clinical Psychologist

In our language, we have certain phrases that define life advice when it comes to relationships and to work:

"Follow your heart"

"Do what you love"

"If you do what you love, you'll never work a day in your life"

To “do what you love” is to follow your passions. It’s an activity that is loved first and then pursued to its highest degree. If you are a salesman but love painting, you’d for instance drop your sales role to pursue painting as a career instead.

Philosophy of Love

🙏Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God. Matthew 5:8

When there is conflict between the heart and the brain, let the heart be followed, because intellect has only one state, reason, and within that, intellect works, and cannot get beyond. It is the heart which takes one to the highest plane, which intellect can never reach; it goes beyond intellect, and reaches to what is called inspiration. Intellect can never become inspired; only the heart when it is enlightened, becomes inspired. An intellectual, heartless man never becomes an inspired man. It is always the heart that speaks in the man of love; it discovers a greater instrument than intellect can give you, the instrument of inspiration. Just as the intellect is the instrument of knowledge, so is the heart the instrument of inspiration. In a lower state it is a much weaker instrument than intellect. An ignorant man knows nothing, but he is a little emotional by nature. Compare him with a great professor — what wonderful power the latter possesses! But the professor is bound by his intellect, and he can be a devil and an intellectual man at the same time; but the man of heart can never be a devil; no man with emotion was ever a devil. Properly cultivated, the heart can be changed, and will go beyond intellect; it will be changed into inspiration. Man will have to go beyond intellect in the end. The knowledge of man, his powers of perception, of reasoning and intellect and heart, all are busy churning this milk of the world. Out of long churning comes butter, and this butter is God. Men of heart get the "butter", and the "buttermilk" is left for the intellectual.

Why Do We Associate Love With The Heart?

Love comes from the heart. But where the physical feeling of “love” come from?

🙏“Everyone can describe a time when their heart flutters because they saw their crush. And everyone can describe a time of intense heart pain when they were crushed by their love. You see the love of your life, your heart starts fluttering and flip-flopping, and it’s like, ‘Oh, wow! That’s my heart! And it’s telling me that I’m in love!" - Dr. Karol Watson, a professor of medicine and cardiology at the University of California, Los Angeles,

Today we have a deep scientific understanding of many of our original questions that explains how and why heart activity affects mental clarity, creativity, emotional balance, intuition and personal effectiveness. Our and others’ research indicates the heart is far more than a simple pump

Its research studies explore topics such as the electrophysiology of intuition and the degree to which the heart’s magnetic field, which radiates outside the body, carries information that affects other people and even our pets, and links people together in surprising ways.

Babies Require Love

Between 1880-1930s, it was a common belief among hospital administrators that touching babies was unhygienic and caressing infants was frowned upon. It was thought that affection would inhibit children's moral development, make them more dependent and impede their maturation into independent people.

Sadly things were going wrong with 1000s of these children. Despite food, adequate medical attention and comfortable surrounding, the mortality rate and depression was far above the norm for children raised by their biological parents.

At some point nurses were instructed to pick up, caress, rock, soothe and comfort infants. Guess what happened? The babies responded almost immediately and they became engaged, affectionate and vital.

What had been missing? Empathy! What we are learning is that against the prevailing wisdom of today - human nature is to seek companionship, affection and intimacy.

Freud - a famous thought leader in psychology - wrote that:

"the baby needs to be taught to delay gratification, to repress her or his instinctual drives in order to conform with the norms that make social life possible."

Freud was wrong.

Babies are meant to be held. People too. Touch is such a big part what makes us human. A hug. A kiss. A pat on the back. Holding hands. Cuddling.

The Science of Touch

There are studies showing that touch signals safety and trust, it soothes. Basic warm touch calms cardiovascular stress. It activates the body's vagus nerve, which is intimately involved with our compassionate response, and a simple touch can trigger release of oxytocin, aka “the love hormone”

In a study by Jim Coan and Richard Davidson, participants laying in an fMRI brain scanner, anticipating a painful blast of white noise, showed heightened brain activity in regions associated with threat and stress. But participants whose romantic partner stroked their arm while they waited didn’t show this reaction at all. Touch had turned off the threat switch.

Touch can even have economic effects, promoting trust and generosity. When psychologist Robert Kurzban had participants play the “prisoner’s dilemma” game, in which they could choose either to cooperate or compete with a partner for a limited amount of money, an experimenter gently touched some of the participants as they were starting to play the game—just a quick pat on the back. But it made a big difference: Those who were touched were much more likely to cooperate and share with their partner.

These kinds of benefits can pop up in unexpected places: In a recent study out of my lab, published in the journal Emotion we found that, in general, NBA basketball teams whose players touch each other more win more games.

https://greatergood.berkeley.edu/article/item/hands_on_research#:~:text=There are studies showing that,aka “the love hormone.”

Why is Love important to Chesed Torah?

Love, or "ahava" in Hebrew, is a central concept in Torah, which is the central text of Jewish tradition. Love is closely linked to the Jewish practice of loving-kindness, or "chesed," which is a fundamental aspect of Jewish ethics and morality.

In the Torah, there are many examples of love being expressed towards God and towards other human beings. For example, the Torah teaches that people should love God with all their heart, soul, and might, and that they should love their neighbors as themselves. The Torah also emphasizes the importance of showing love towards those who are vulnerable, such as widows, orphans, and strangers.

Love is seen as an important spiritual practice in Judaism because it involves cultivating a deep and abiding sense of devotion and commitment to God, as well as to other human beings. It is also seen as a way of fulfilling the commandment to "love your neighbor as yourself," and of living a life of generosity, compassion, and social responsibility.

In addition to its spiritual benefits, love is also seen as an important ethical principle in Torah. The Jewish tradition teaches that people should strive to love others, regardless of their social status or background, and to treat them with respect and kindness. This involves acts of charity, generosity, and social justice, and is seen as an essential aspect of living a morally upright life.

Overall, love is an important concept in Torah because it reflects the values of empathy, care, and concern for others that are at the heart of Jewish ethics and morality. It is seen as a way of expressing devotion and commitment to God, as well as to other human beings, and of living a life of generosity, compassion, and social responsibility.

Love as an Essential Principle of Torah

Love is a fundamental principle in the Torah, the central reference of the religious Judaic tradition. It manifests in various aspects of Jewish life, law, and ethical teachings. Here’s an exploration of why love is so central to the Torah:

1. Love of God

A. Biblical Commandments

  • Shema Israel: The Shema, a central declaration of Jewish faith found in Deuteronomy 6:4-5, emphasizes the command to love God with all one’s heart, soul, and might. This commandment is considered the cornerstone of Jewish devotion and relationship with God (Deuteronomy 6:5).

  • Covenantal Relationship: The Torah presents the relationship between God and Israel as a covenant characterized by mutual love and commitment. God’s love for the people is reciprocated through their love and adherence to His commandments (Exodus 19:5-6).

B. Spiritual Connection

  • Divine Love and Human Response: The Torah teaches that loving God involves recognizing His benevolence and responding with reverence and dedication. This love fosters a deeper spiritual connection and adherence to divine laws (Leviticus 19:18).

2. Love of Neighbor

A. The Commandment of Love

  • “Love Your Neighbor as Yourself”: Found in Leviticus 19:18, this commandment is a key ethical teaching of the Torah. It emphasizes treating others with the same care and respect one would wish for oneself. This principle underpins many other commandments and social laws, guiding ethical behavior in interpersonal relationships.

  • Moral and Social Implications: This commandment fosters compassion, empathy, and fairness, which are crucial for maintaining social harmony and justice. It requires individuals to act with kindness and consideration towards others, ensuring that their actions promote the well-being of the community.

B. Interpersonal Relationships

  • Community and Solidarity: The Torah emphasizes the importance of communal responsibility and support. Loving one’s neighbor is integral to creating a cohesive and supportive community. This love is expressed through acts of charity, justice, and support for those in need (Deuteronomy 15:7-11).

3. Love and Justice

A. Ethical Framework

  • Balancing Love and Justice: The Torah integrates love with justice, requiring that both principles guide ethical behavior. For example, love for one’s neighbor does not negate the need for justice; rather, it ensures that justice is administered with compassion and fairness (Micah 6:8).

  • Love in Legal Contexts: Love influences the application of laws, encouraging judges and leaders to act with empathy and understanding. This approach helps ensure that laws serve the greater good and reflect the underlying principles of compassion and respect (Exodus 23:1-9).

B. Correcting Wrongdoing

  • Restorative Approach: The Torah advocates for correcting wrongs through restorative rather than purely punitive measures. This approach is rooted in the principle of love, aiming to restore relationships and promote reconciliation (Leviticus 19:17-18).

4. Love as a Spiritual Principle

A. Divine Love and Human Morality

  • Reflecting Divine Attributes: The Torah teaches that humans should emulate divine attributes, including love. By loving others, individuals reflect the divine nature and fulfill their spiritual potential (Genesis 1:26).

  • Love as a Path to Holiness: Loving God and others is seen as a pathway to achieving spiritual growth and holiness. It aligns individuals with divine will and helps them live in harmony with spiritual and ethical principles (Deuteronomy 10:12-13).

B. Mystical Teachings

  • Kabbalistic Perspectives: In Kabbalah, love is central to understanding the divine attributes and the nature of the soul. Mystical teachings often emphasize the role of love in achieving unity with the divine and in spiritual practices (Zohar).

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