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Are You Loved?

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Finding Security in an Insecure World

I was going to write about recent world events, when something occurred that compelled me to address a deeply personal issue, perhaps the single most important ingredient in life.

I was speaking with someone I know, a very refined person who had reached a pristine, almost Divine state of elegance, which only comes through deep loss. This man never had a childhood. When he needed to experience innocence, his parents had abandoned him. When he was in need of simple nurturing, he was abused. He never learned to trust, thrown far too early into the cruel world.

He was discussing with me his life, namely his long search for a meaningful relationship. He was longing for a loving marriage, to build a strong family, but his history cast a long shadow that kept impeding his way. All his attempts ended up in disappointment. Clearly, his expectations were either too great or too small.

Remarkably astute, this man was deeply aware of his issues and had a unique ability to articulate them. No doubt he had spent much time contemplating his life and had achieved a profound insight into his own psyche. He understood that his search for love was an attempt to compensate for the love he never received as a child. But his journey was quite distorted. Either he was expecting too much from another, expecting the unconditional love of parents, or he was expecting too little and withdrawing in fear, with no trust, always afraid that he did not deserve to be loved.

With tears in his eyes he suddenly said: “I was never loved.

“I just want someone to love me. Why can’t I have that in my life? Why don’t I deserve that? Am I that bad of a person?”

I never saw such sad eyes. I had to control myself from crying, so I put on a steely demeanor. Yet my heart was broken.

How many times have I heard similar sentiments expressed? I can’t even count the number.

There is so much sadness in the world, so much grief. Yes, people go through their own machinations, keeping busy, distracting themselves, rather than focusing on the deeper questions. But the pain doesn’t really go away. We all have moments—perhaps much more than just moments – when we ask ourselves, whether we like it or not: “Am I loved?”

Personally speaking, I grew up in a home where I was blessed to be nurtured and loved. Though some argue that all families today have a measure of dysfunctionality, yet relatively speaking my parents provided my siblings and me with the security that all children deserve.

However, once I began to meet people who were deprived of this seemingly given love, I began to see the great gift of having a loving family, something that should never be taken for granted. When you are loved as a child, you don’t even feel its benefits. Like all healthy things, a nurturing childhood doesn’t have any sensation. It’s like healthy lungs that just breathe without effort. But when you see the contrast of someone who was not loved, someone who has to struggle for every breath, someone who has to struggle to find self-esteem and security, then you suddenly recognize the great gift of being loved.

But then as time passed, a second realization dawned on me. Is true security rooted in the love we receive from our parents and families? Because if that is true then one can argue that should that love change or be lost then our own self-esteem would be affected in direct proportion. Can we say that our sense of security in this world is dependent on the circumstantial whims of our parents and other childhood influences?

You may ask: Why rock the boat? It’s bad enough that so many people today suffer from low self-esteem or lack of identity as a result of stunted or deprived nurturing. Why the need to challenge and question those of us that were blessed to be nurtured?

Yet, just because the nurtured ones are comfortable doesn’t mean that we can ignore the big question whether our security is dependent on others. In other words, if our sense of security is derived from other people, then one must say that the same people can take away our security. To live our lives in such a precarious position seems to me far too vulnerable.

The fact is that we all suffer from some form of insecurity in an impersonal and alien world. The Talmud tells us,

“All roads are assumed to be dangerous.”

As the Arizal states, the affairs of the material world are “severe” and the “wicked prevail.” If we are blessed—and may everyone be blessed in this way—we will face a minimal amount of “curve balls.” But the fact remains that everyone has their challenges, some more than others, and everyone will face at one point in life or another, some loss and trauma.

The Torah tells us that as long as the final Redemption has not arrived, the world remains a very insecure place, often lost and aimless. Is there a person, loved or not, that does not face existential loneliness? As nurtured as we may be, as inspired as we may become, as many good people you have in your life, at the end of the day each of us goes back on our lonely road where you and you alone travel.

Life can be very lonely, even when you are deeply blessed.

Obviously, if you were nurtured and loved it will greatly help you face life’s challenges. It gives you a safe ground to build upon. While someone lacking such ground always needs to run, constantly facing crisis, never feeling secure, a life driven by fear – always in the battle zone.

But we should not be mistaken and lulled into thinking that a secure life is that secure. Just because you may not need to run in fear doesn’t mean that you are safe. Circumstantial love—from parents and loved ones—is precisely that: Circumstantial. If that is the source of our security, than our security is only as strong as the love we receive from family. Should that love be taken from us, then we lose our security.

So what is the source of ultimate security? How do we know that we are truly loved and worthy of love?

The only answer I have ever found is the one declared in the opening of the Bible, the Torah. The first description of the human being in the Torah is not that s/he is a being of intelligence or emotion or any of our other virtues. The Torah describes the human as a being created in the “Divine Image.”

Every person, whether born into a functional or dysfunctional home, is a Divine being. And by that virtue we each are indispensable and absolutely loved and deserving of love.

No person or experience can strip you of that dignity because no one gave it to you. It is your inherent gift by virtue of your existence. You were created in the Divine Image and therefore you have absolute value. You are unconditionally loved and needed.

By no means does this minimize the great benefits of growing up in a nurturing environment. That nurturing allows you to access your Divine Image, but does not create it. Just as a good gardening does not create flowers, but allows the emergence of the flower seeds planted in the ground. Good parenting, healthy childhood is like watering the garden, cutting away the weeds, nurturing the ground, so that the flowers within can emerge.

But we should never convince ourselves that it is the nurturing home that gives you ultimate security. Nor is it your job, you friends, your money, your status, your possessions. Security rooted in temporary things, affected by circumstantial events, is only as strong as the source from whence it is derived, namely: temporary and circumstantial security.

The true and only unconditional source of love is from above:

G-d loves you.

Those of us that have not had the luxury of nurturing homes often discover this fact quicker than those who were nurtured. The eclipse of the sun exposes a deeper dimension of the sun than we see in the light. Such individuals who never had necessary human nurturing have no choice but to turn to G-d.

The rest of us however must not be distracted by the comforts of the nurturing we may have received, and always recognize that it is our Divine calling that is the true source of security, self esteem and existential purpose.

We are all in the same boat. And we need to help each other discover our Divine souls and meaning in life. We must love each other, nurture each other, and help cultivate a fertile environment for growth and building. But always remember that our support is meant to help us access—not replace—our true source of love, drawn from our Divine souls.

So, I say to my friend, and to all friends out there: Yes, you are loved and were always loved. Even if your gardeners were absentee, or worse, they poured on your ground salt instead of water, your flower seeds embedded in your psyche always remain intact. Even if you are not conscious of the fact, your true image is Divine.

As you learn to accept that you are loved, you can begin to love yourself, and be blessed to find the people who truly love you, and finally find the right person who will love you forever.

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15 Responses to “Are You Loved?”

  1. Just another soul

    Yes i can say i love myself. I have heard many people say to be capable of loving anyone, you must love yourself. Im in my mid 20s i have already accepeted i may always be alone, id rather know if alone loved by noone. I can love myself more then alone ill stand. I hold many people in my mind with mental wars of past experiences, regarless i cant ever find a reason to not love. Still i try to love others this world is many things. Yet i feel when people hurt, i pay attention to those who get know attention. I give advice when i need some most, i doubt when i leave this world i may not change much. Yet alone i feel the little things to me may be my way of change. Be wise when loved for those who show you love may question it when showed you love yourself more then also showing them that love back. Dont expect it to be showen it you just have to know it. When loved or having love changes, love them still just remember its life. Another day another lesson keep moving forward your born alone and die alone ” love yourself”. Never lose faith i forgot it once it to forgot me. If you forget yours you’ll understand why i wont ever forget again. Still i fight to have faith i will over come the consequence of forgetting them both. Dont allow when love changes to forget knowing both. Never question why it changed if you know it was love or faith. Faithfully know when least expected love will find you. My meaning of what i believe is a reason to appreciate life.

  2. Connie

    I feel that these insights would feel more genuine if they had come from a person who admittedly had no loving, secure nurturance as a child.

    People who claim the knowledge of the love of G_d, but try to do so from another’s perspective, only come off sounding disingenuous.

  3. Avrohom Sheps

    Rabbi Jacobsen,

    Thank you so much for this well thought out article!

    May Hashem bless everyone of us and bring the ultimate Redemption with Moshiach.

    With love,

  4. Adele Mischel

    thank you Rabbi for this lovely article.

    I will speak of my personal experience:
    As a small child during the Shoah, I knew well that my parents loved me, however as a child, I could not grasp the concept of “why these bad people wanted to kill me, and my mother and father.” While in hiding in the south of France, I was afraid, almost always.
    My father prayed each day…..standing with his prayer book in hand and in deep concentration as he prayed, I, because I loved my Dad, would stand along side him, and listen to his soft murmurs. One time, as I stood there, I felt and enormous love enter my heart. and I knew. at that time, without any doubt, that I was deeply loved and would remain safe: For a brief time, I felt what I perceived as a little child, the presence of G-d.

    It is that experience, that has stayed with me all of my life. I felt the love of G-d, and that has not left me, no matter what challenges I have faced in life. That love is beyond human love, and for me. a certainty that G-d exists, and like a father and mother, He loves his children.

  5. Ruchama

    Truer words, literally (and I mean literally, not the opposite) were never spoken. At 73 and having spent 30 years dealing with family law, I long ago came to realize that a child who is loved who is “pure gold” to someone (it need not be a parent, a grandparent, teacher, or another relative) has a level of resillience that literally (again I mean literally) nothing can defeat. Both my husband and I were so blessed and it has made all the difference even though we have both suffered defeats, losses and failures. I’m not sure whether your words of comfort and reassurance of Divine Love will be an adequate remedy for the lack of this. But I do believe that it is important for those of us who have been so blessed be understanding and compassionate and try in our ways to be a channel for Divine Compassion.

  6. shoshana

    thank you, this is exactly what I needed to read today, these issues have been very much in my thoughts (both for myself, and for my therapy clients). Grateful to have such a compassionate, nuanced, thoughtful Rebbe who writes on these topics.

  7. Mike Fishbain

    Rabbi,

    This is all well and good, however; I must contend that the troubled soul does not have the luxury, intellectually or emotionally to make this kind of deep, well thought out conclusion.

    When one struggles with the daily necessities of providing the sustenance to survive, there’s no time to indulge in this deep thinking process. One only concerns himself with where his or his family’s next meal will come from.

    We pray that the redemption the Bible foretells comes soon so the tortured souls- tortured due to no act of their own- will enjoy the peace and contentment you describe. (may it be soon)

    Shabbat Shalom

  8. Sarah

    Has a follow-up to this article ever been written, which explains whether and how the man who felt unloved found his basherte? That would be inspirational.

  9. Leah770

    meleh, bad enough to have had an abusive childhood,
    but to reach a later time in life,, with couple of progeny at a distance, not totally uncring but not caring,
    and not a soul else in the world,
    no one not a soul. my paid friend my therapist,
    not one person to call and talk to,
    I am not the victim i was, now i call it survivor, NO, I am well beyond that, but approaching my 70’s (who would have thunk that??) and younger progeny 26 and BT at thatm but that does not seem to affect emotional thought, even shiluach hakenm
    lol she wrote an article on that during college, yes even the mother bird has feelings, so much for the mother who gave her life’s blood sweat and tears,

    all for naught would be easier to be childless, less regrets, less pain,
    i don’t know who god is,
    does he exist? not for me, and well, not to bore but my life could have been lots worse, like being burned in ditch at Auschwitz, or gassed with zyklone,

    could always have been worse,
    maybe the next gilgul will be better,
    bimhera b’yameinu,
    still i am all alone,
    No one, no one to speak to, My concierge, thank god 24 hrs, i jest, no i don’t

  10. Yael

    Excellent article, but not everyone can take in the message “You are loved by G-d” in a meaningful way, if one’s heart pathways are not already open. For many, it might remain a theoretical concept we know to be true but cannot experience viscerally.
    I think the key is to learn to actively and fiercely cultivate a loving approach ourselves. Both to ourselves, and to all those around.
    A second key is to cultivate gratitude to G-d for whatever we can find ourselves being grateful for. Once we do that, we will open up to more joy and begin to feel that love for G-d in ourselves, and also notice the good in our lives and sense G-d’s love in that.
    Once you go on this journey, you might discover that loneliness is an illusion because we are all connected to each other and to G-d.

  11. Binah Bindell

    Words from the heart, enter the heart. Coming to this truth, this knowledge is to open to ‘ only love is real’ …the road brings one to this truth when ones heart has been broken open and however painful that part of the journey is, one allows the breaking to expand the heart and feel this truth and be grateful. Thank you, I love all that you wrote.

  12. Pat MacLeod

  13. rena

    Yes, we are all loved unconditionally by G-d, but the paradox is that a person who had the good fortune to grow up feeling loved and cherished will perceive this much easier than those of us who have suffered abuse and neglect. Our first perception of G-d Himself is based on what we have experienced in this world – if the human father is cruel, then the Father in Heaven is perceived in a similar way. Much introspection and avodat Hashem must be undertaken to change this internally.

  14. William

    I could also be this person stating he was never loved, and in my lifetime during those black moments of despair, when I was all alone, it was my experiencing of the divine love of G-d that pulled me through.

  15. Tamzo

    Incredible, Incredible article! Amazingly written. When we surrender to the fact that G-D loves us unconditionally, it makes it easier to love ourselves, and then in turn make others love us too. Its a positive ripple effect.

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