“Love is the emotion of attraction toward an object—the beloved.
But this feeling of attraction is not a single, well-defined emotion.
Because of the great variety in personalities, the differences in the object of love, and the vagueness of the term, there may be many different relationships that people will call ‘love.’
There is a Jewish folk tale that illustrates how vague the meaning of the word ‘love’ can be, and also it demonstrates some of the basic problems in statements such as ‘I love you.’
Once upon a time, a fisherman caught a large pike, and when he pulled the fish out of the water and saw its size, he said, ‘This is wonderful! I’ll take it to the Baron; he loves pike.’
The poor fish says to himself, ‘There’s some hope for me yet.’
The fisherman brings the fish to the manor house, and the guard says, ‘What do you have?’
‘Great,’ says the guard. ‘The Baron loves pike.’
The fish feels that there is some corroboration of the facts.
The fisherman enters the palace, and though the fish can hardly breathe, he still has hope: the Baron loves pike.
He is brought into the kitchen, and all the cooks exclaim how much the Baron loves pike.
The fish is placed on a table, and the Baron himself enters, and gives instructions, ‘Cut off the tail, cut off the head, and slit it this way.’
With his last breath, the fish cries out in great despair, ‘Why did you lie? You don’t love pike, you love yourself!’
The poor fish clearly had a linguistic-philological problem.
It confused two different meanings of the same verb.
This raises the question: are these two meanings really so different from each other?
Don’t people make the same mistake when they think and talk about love?
There is ‘fish love,’ and there is Love.
Clearly, they are not the same.
They do not have the same emotional impact, and what is more important, the emotions themselves are not the same.”
–Rabbi Adin Steinsaltz
From Simple Words by Rabbi Adin Steinsaltz