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Home » Ninth of Av

It’s been Two Thousand Years Can We Still Be In Love?

Submitted by on November 12, 2004 – 3:41 pmNo Comment | 2,964 views

On Sunday, the Ninth of Av in the Jewish calendar – we commemorate the destruction of our ancient temple in Jerusalem which was destroyed in the year 69 of the common era. Jewish history is largely comprised of two segments namely, pre and post Temple destruction The first era is marked by miracles, prophecy and constant divine intervention, the second era is marked by exile, suffering and almost full Divine concealment.

The Diaspora has lasted nearly two thousand years and throughout Jews have largely remained loyal to G-d and Judaism. What is the secret ingredient of this relationship? How have we maintained our love for G-d under such unfavorable conditions?

I believe the answer lies is the nature of our love.

The Mishna teaches that there are two forms of love namely the conditional and the unconditional. I call them the ego driven love and the soul based love. Every relationship is capable of experiencing both forms of love, however one must come before the next. First we offer conditional love and then, if nurtured correctly, we can progress to unconditional love.

All relationships begin with in the ego driven stage. On their first date man and woman naturally inspect each other with a critical eye. Each has a checklist of the qualities they desire in a potential mate. They are prepared to invest in the relationship but only if they can first determine that it will serve their needs. In short, they are prepared to give but only if they can take in return, they are prepared to love but only if conditions are favorable.

I call this the ego driven stage because ego nurtures self before others. Ego does permit nurturing of others but only when it is self-enhancing. Ego does permit love of others but only when it serves the needs of self.

At this preliminary stage the attributes of the loved one matter, they inspire the love. Should these attributes disappear the love would naturally fade. In other words, at this stage the love is conditional.

Conditional love is possible in the first stage but true love only becomes possible in the second stage

In describing this stage the Lubavitcher Rebbe, Rabbi M. Schneerson, wrote, “it takes decades to develop true love between husband and wife. This is a love in which husband and wife feel as if they are a part of each other and cannot imagine being without each other.”

At this stage, it is absurd to ask a husband why he loves his wife and vice versa, it’s like asking the brain why it feels the arm’s pain. The brain feels the arm because they belong to a single entity. Husband and wife feel the same way. Giving to the other is like giving to oneself.its been two thousand years can we still be in love - innerstream

At this stage the attributes of the loved one no longer matter. He may lose his beauty, wisdom or wit and he would still be loved. Why? Because they have grown so close together that they cannot imagine life without loving each other. It would be simply inconceivable.

I call this the soul-based stage because only the soul can offer such unconditional love. The soul lives for others and derives pleasure from giving, sharing and caring. The soul does not require justification for loving. It does not love for a reason, at least not the kind of reason that appeals to logic. The soul loves simply because it does.

Rabbi Aikiva and his wife Rachel enjoyed that sort of love. She encouraged him to travel to the Yeshiva to study Torah. He acquiesced and studied for twelve years. Upon his return he overheard his wife telling a neighbor how proud she was of him and that if he would stay for twelve more years she would have loved him just the same, whereupon he promptly returned to the Yeshiva for twelve more years.

How could she love him if he was absent? Because she was so closely bound to him that she could not stop loving him. She did not love him because he served her needs — she loved because she was in love with him.

Herein lies the difference between loving and being “in love.” Her love prevailed over unfavorable conditions, it was unselfish, and it was soul based.

Returning to our relationship with G-d, I would argue that it has long matured into soul based love

Let’s trace the relationship.

When we first met G-d we were enslaved and persecuted people. G-d saved us, smote our oppressors with ten plagues. After witnessing our tormentor’s punishment he led us out of Egypt and brought us to Mt Sinai where he swept us off our feet in an unprecedented display of affection and awe. Bolts of lightening, cracks of thunder, deafening calls of a heavenly Shofar accompanied our beloved G-d as he appeared in a brilliant shaft of light and descended upon the mountain. There he professed his undying commitment and asked for our unwavering loyalty.

For forty years we were shepherded through a dangerous desert and miraculously provided food, drink and shelter. He brought us to the Promised Land, flowing with milk and honey. He vanquished our enemies, conquered our land and handed us power, prosperity and the respect of nations.

Did we love him? Did we give him our unwavering commitment? Of course we did! Who wouldn’t? We built his temple and worshipped him in it. We observed his laws and offered our love. We sacrificed our most treasured possessions on the altar of love.

It was a reciprocal relationship; we liked what he offered and gave our best in return. Our love was real but it was first stage love, ego based and conditional

At one point however the relationship progressed into the soul stage. We didn’t know it at the time but when our gifts were taken and we still loved him, we discovered that our relationship had matured.

Everything had changed. Our temple was destroyed, our land was taken, our children were slaughtered, our men enslaved, our women bound in chains and we learned to suffer under the yoke of oppressive nations.

Yet we continued to love him. Why?

Because we realized that G-d and the Jewish people form a single entity. We had grown so close that we could not imagine life without him. We loved him simply because we did and we would have it no other way.

Our love was now soul based; unselfish, unconditional and incontrovertible.

Why would a loving G-d test us this way? Because he wants us to love him sincerely not just for the blessings we receive from him.

Imagine a husband who desired his wife’s affection and to that end, bought her a gift. She loved him for his thoughtfulness but with time she came to forget it. So he bought her another gift and purchased her love once more. She gradually forgot that gift as well and he was forced to purchase gift after gift

The time came when he sadly realized that his wife did not truly love him. She loved only what she received from him. He now knew that he had been manufacturing her love by keeping her supplied with gifts. There was no joy in such love, it wasn’t real. It was to no avail

G-d did not want this kind of relationship either. He was happy to provide for us in the beginning while our love for him was in incubation. But once it matured he wanted to let us go To cut the proverbial chord and free us to walk on our own. He wanted to see if our love would continue, if it was real.

In mystical terms, G-d wanted an abode for himself in the lower realm, the realm in which he is not immediately discernable. He would not force himself upon the collective consciousness of the people but wanted the people to seek him out of their own accord. In short, he wanted to be wanted

So he created a universe and then concealed himself from it. He created mankind and gave him a mission: Carve out a place for G-d in your own realm but do it of your own volition. I don’t want to force myself upon you by showing you my irresistible beauty and bountiful blessing. I want you to want me because you do.

He did not expect this level of dedication right from the start. He took his time incubating and nurturing our loyalty for him. During this time he showed us his greatness and inspired our love, he nourished the relationship and allowed it to reach its natural zenith.

In the fullness of time we did reach that second stage. Now we felt as if we were an intrinsic part of him, that giving to him was like giving to ourselves. We could no longer imagine being without him and we stood ready to give without waiting to receive.

This is the love G-d wanted

Herein lies the difference between the beauty of Purim and the power of Sinai.

At Sinai we accepted G-d because he dazzled us with his brilliance. Who could deny him? Who could resist such beauty? We did not accept him because we wanted to but because he gave us reason to.

During Purim he took all that away. Our lives were in danger and our faith was tested. Would we want him even if we received nothing in return? Would we live for him? Would we die for him?

Our faith and loyalty prevailed and G-d rejoiced. He saved us and celebrated the maturation of our relationship. Now we knew that he and we were truly one and we stood ready to love simply because we do.

The Besht told a story of a father who hid from his daughter because he wanted her to search for him. When she couldn’t find him she gave up and thought he had abandoned her. She sat down to cry when an old man explained that her father was not absent only hiding behind the curtain. He was watching her and hoping that she would seek him out. He was waiting for her to search in earnest

Our father hides from us but we know why. We must not be deluded into thinking that we are abandoned and that our relationship is over. We know that he is merely in hiding; hiding, watching and waiting. Waiting for us to seek him out with all our heart and soul, with all the earnestness we can muster.

He wants us to feel his absence and fan the flames of our love. He wants us to nurture the embers of our yearning till it explodes into an inferno of desire. When we do, he will appear. We await that moment with baited breath for at any instant it may arrive

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