Languages of Love

By Rabbi Thomas Louchheim

Saturday, November 2, 2013

6th Torah Portion, 6th in Genesis – Toledot

25:19-28:9 (106 verses)


            After a difficult labor, Rebecca has twins, Esau and Jacob. They grow up to be very different men. Isaac’s favorite, Esau is a hunter and man of the fields.  Jacob, Rebecca’s favorite, is bookish and quiet (according to Rabbinic tradition). Esau sells his brother his birthright in exchange for some lentil stew. King Avimelech is led to think that Rebecca is Isaac’s wife (a replay of the incident with Abraham and Sarah earlier). Later, Isaac, now elderly and nearly blind – plans to bless Esau, his firstborn. Rebecca and Jacob deceive Isaac so that Jacob receives the blessing. Esau threatens to kill Jacob, who then flees to Haran.



            “Isaac loved Esau for he fed him game; but Rebecca loved Jacob (25:28)

We are told that Isaac loved his son, Esau, because he hunted and prepared food for him. Isaac enjoyed eating the meat his son brought home – a purely sensual and material reason for loving his son. Rebecca, on the other hand, loves Jacob. He was smoothed-skinned, gentle, and domestic. He preferred to stay in tents (the abode of women), cooking and studying Torah. Isn’t it interesting that Esau sold his birthright for some lentil soup? He wanted to satisfy his physical appetite. He was a person satisfied by immediate gratification.  Jacob is perceived by Rashi as a person whose “heart was like his mouth [i.e., his thoughts and words matched]. He was not one who survived on deception. He is known as an ish tam, a “simple, honest, and gentle man”. The Zohar says that he was gentle with those who deserved gentleness; but “where cunning and severity were necessary, he could us these also” (I:139b). Jacob, in fact objected to his mother’s plan of deception to which she responded, “Let any curse be on me” (Gen. 27:13).

What we have here are two different languages of love. Isaac and Esau spoke in the language of giving and receiving material gifts while Rebecca and Jacob spoke in the language of quality of time. In the Talmudic tractate, Pirke Avot (“Ethics of the Fathers”) we learn, “Love which is dependent on anything disappears when the thing (on which it is dependent) is gone.”  Such love as expressed by Isaac and Esau is transitory, and can easily be a thing of the past.  Rebecca’s love for Jacob was togetherness of quality time.  This kind of love endures. Quality time, according to Gary Chapman (The Five Love Languages), “does not mean that we have to spend our together moments gazing into each other’s eyes.  It means that we are doing something together and that we are giving our full attention to the other person.”

If we wish to analyze the character of our love, I suppose we can ask ourselves, “How much are we willing to sacrifice for those we profess to love?”  What would happen if circumstances were such that the sacrifices we had to make for the loved one’s welfare far outweighed any possible gratification from the relationship?  This kind of love is expressed not only by being a sympathetic listener and being attentive to expressions of feelings, but also self-revelation. If your loved one’s love language is quality conversation and quality time, then – in the words of Chapman – “her emotional love tank will never be filled until he tells her his thoughts and feelings.”  This love language was expressed between mother and son in our Torah portion. 

Gary Chapman, author of The Five Love Languages and The Five Love Languages: Jewish Marriage Initiative, teaches us that it is not enough to determine one’s own “Love Language” (Words of affirmation, Quality time, Receiving gifts, Acts of service, and Physical touch), we must choose to speak in the other person’s “language.” One might say, “Well that does not come naturally to do that!” Well then, isn’t that a greater expression of your love for the other person?

Focus on an opportunity to share history together (from The Five Love Languages)

  1. 1.Who was your best and worst teacher in school and why?
  2. 2.When did you feel your parents were proud of you?
  3. 3.What is the worst mistake your mother ever made?
  4. 4.What is the worst mistake your father ever made?
  5. 5.What do you remember about the religious aspect of your childhood?