Torah thoughts on the weekly reading

True Love

    Does it truly exist? How can one achieve it? Can it last?

    The answer to the last question is yes, and that is the key to the first two. In modern society, the concepts of love and sex have become terribly equated, and this at great human cost. Sex is a fulfillment of true love, not an indication of its existence. Unfortunately, this false equation has led, or misled, some modern personalities to do terrific damage to stories in the Bible that relate the love of King David and Jonathan, for example (may Hashem spare us from such libelous statements).

    The concept of true love is addressed in the mishna in Avos, which states "Any love that is dependent on a thing (physical attraction, money, etc..) will become nullified when the thing ceases to exist." This mishna teaches us what true love is. It is not because two people are drawn to each other because of some external, unifying thing. Rather, they are drawn to each other's essence. They identify with each other, and hence their very natures make true love inevitable and enduring.

    Sounds nice, but what's in it for me? How can one achieve this lofty relationship? I believe that the answer may be found in a passage in the Talmud (Sanhedrin 7a) and in a Rashi on this week's parsha. The passage in the Talmud says the following: "A man used to say, 'when we had strong love, we could sleep together in a small saddle. When the love had faded, even a sixty cubit bed would not suffice'. Rav Huna found support for this in the verses that describe how Hashem would speak to Moshe from the handbreadth space between the golden Cherubs atop the ark of the covenant. But the prophet Isaiah stated that when Israel was estranged from Hashem, even the largest building could not contain the Divine Presence."

    Why is Rav Huna's observation accurate? I believe it is because the relationship with Hashem must be one of true love - of identification. Indeed, His Glory fills the universe, yet it could be as"small" as one handbreadth, because Moshe and the Israelites were, in a sense, one with it. But in the time of Isaiah, when there was estrangement, no place could contain His Glory.

    As for the story in the parsha, it relates to the stones placed under Yaakov's head as he slept. Rashi explains that the stones argued among themselves, each vying for the privilege of giving support to the righteous one's head. Hashem resolved the argument for them by making them into one big stone.

   This story, it seems to me, is the key to everything. The way to identify, to unite in essence, is to share a striving to be the pillow for the tsadik's head. Euphemistically, if our main struggle in life is to be a resting place for the Shechina, to be a miniature Tabernacle, we will find a soul mate and become one in essence with them, as did the stones. That is true love. That lasts forever.