The Meaning of Family

Growing up, my siblings and cousins and I had a very special relationship with our aunt Eve. Eve treated us to movies and clothes and it was always so much fun to sleep over at her house on Saturday nights. I traveled yearly with her to Florida.

After years of giving to and loving her nieces and nephews, Eve decided that she wanted to adopt a baby. She brought home a beautiful little girl from Guatemala and even though our prominence in Eve’s life was perhaps demoted, we can’t imagine our family without our cousin Nina.

One of the things that happens when you get married is that you acquire an entirely new family. Many professionals and amateurs have made a living in trying to solve the inevitable issues that arise with in-laws. In the time that I have known Amichay, I have met and gotten to know and even come to love his family when just a year ago, I had no idea of their existence. I love my husband and so I will love those who love him and who he loves, even if it means that I may have to work hard to do so.

The Torah, and the Hebrew language tells us that if we want to succeed in keeping alive the connection with our spouses, (or any relationship for that matter) we need to internalize the root of the word love. The Hebrew word for love, Ahavah, is related to the word hav which means to give. Love, the word we use to describe a feeling, is actually rooted in an action. Meaning, that the way in which we come to love another is through giving: giving up, giving in and giving to.

If we say we love, then we must give. And, if we give, we will love.

Since Nina has come into our family, I too want to one day be fortunate enough to adopt. Many people have a difficult time fathoming how you can love a child who is not biologically your own. And yet Nina is a natural part of our family even though genetically we are 100 percent unrelated. We come to love a child, whether born from us or another, by giving and giving and giving. We come to love our spouse the same way.

At night we went for a walk and I brought up the far off topic of adoption. Amichay said that he doesn’t believe that you can love a child the same way as one who came from you: that essentially there’s a difference between blood and water. I turned to him and asked, “but you love me, don’t you?” He paused for a minute and in his mind probably flashed the memories of the work in creating our relationship and the promise that he made to keep working at it which caused and causes us to “fall in love” because he turned and said, “Alright, you’ve convinced me.”