• Gabbai

Fast of Tevet – Unquantifiable

Researchers have long been conducting studies to understand what love is. Psychologists and neuroscientists have discovered that there are physiological changes that occur when one feels love. Brain scans reveal that a complex system in the brain is activated upon the start of a romantic relationship – very similar to the effects of cocaine. During MRI scans subjects of a study, including men and women who had recently started romantic relationships, were shown images of beloved partners, and their brains were flooded with dopamine, a hormone released when one engages in a pleasurable activity. Research suggests that after the initial surge of dopamine two further hormones, oxytocin and vasopressin, are released, stimulating the formation of emotional attachment, long-term bonds. Oxytocin is known to promote long-term bonding, and it is instrumental in creating the intimate bond between mother and infant. Vasopressin, at least in some animals, seems to be correlated to commitment and fidelity.

These and other studies have been broken love down to its chemical components, explaining the physiological mechanisms that generate the sensations and feelings we call “love.” But when all is said and done love cannot be reduced to chemical reactions. Describing something as profound and sublime as love by such terms leaves us unsatisfied. Can you quantify love? Can you create it in a petri dish?

We recently observed the fast of 10 Tevet, commemorating the siege laid by Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon upon Jerusalem. This was the beginning of the end of the first commonwealth in the land of Israel, the event that set into motion the eventual destruction of the city and the exile of the people of Judah, most of whom never returned, even when the Temple was rebuilt through the efforts of Ezra and Nehemiah. This is the primary reason the fast was instituted, but there are other reasons as well. It was near this date, on 9 Tevet, that Ezra the Scribe – the great leader of Israel, about whom it is said that if the Torah had not been given through Moses it would have been given through Ezra – died. The loss of such a personality is worthy of a public fast. A third reason is that around this date 70 scholars of Israel, forced by King Ptolemy of t