Love comes with toil. We don't just "fall in love". We must ascend to it with persistence and endurance. No; love doesn’t just appear magically at “first sight.” What appears then may be lust, or some other type of attraction. But it certainly isn’t love. For it takes much time, loyal commitment selfless actions, day after day, month after month, year after year, for true love to emerge.Rabbi Allouche
I’ll never forget that moment.
Out of nowhere, my beloved mentor, Rabbi Adin Even-Israel Steinsaltz of blessed memory, pulled me aside, and asked: “What type of woman do you want to marry?”
It happened about a year before I met my better-half. My cryptic answer, of course, did not satisfy him. Especially since it may have sounded a little too ‘romantic’ for him. “You’ve been reading too many love stories,” he replied. “Love does not lead to marriage, as many might think,” he asserted. “Quite the opposite: marriage leads to love.”
In this week’s portion, we read about the marriage of Isaac and Rebecca. Listen to the words of the verse: “(Isaac) took Rebecca, she becomes his wife, and he loves her.” First: he marries her. Second: he loves her. Love, the Torah asserts, only comes forth after we commit ourselves to one another, eternally and unconditionally.
Do you remember that lovely chant from “Fiddler on the Roof”? After twenty-five years of marriage, Tevye the milkman asks his wife, Golda, if she loves him. Baffled, Golda replies to herself, “For twenty-five years I’ve lived with him, fought him, starved with him, twenty-five years my bed is his – if that’s not love, what is?” But Tevya is dissatisfied. So he persists: “Then, do you love me?” And Golda finally confesses: “I suppose I do.”
Their words, as do the aforementioned words of the Torah, reveal a powerful truth:
Love comes with toil. We don’t just “fall in love”. We must ascend to it with persistence and endurance. No; love doesn’t just appear magically at “first sight.” What appears then may be lust, or some other type of attraction. But it certainly isn’t love. For it takes much time, loyal commitment selfless actions, day after day, month after month, year after year, for true love to emerge.
Victor Hugo, the 19th Century French poet once wrote: “Our acts make or mar us – we are the children of our own deeds.” Indeed, we may experience all sorts of moods, but at the end of the day, it is our actions that make us or mar us. A smile, a helping hand, a generous act can mold us, our relationships, and our lives, infinitely more than the emotions of our hearts.
This applies to our Jewish lives too. For how many of us deprive ourselves of the gift of a mitzvah, just because we are ‘not in the mood’? How many of us are reluctant to forge a relationship with G-d and get involved in Jewish life, just because our emotions are ‘not there’? How many of us are hesitant to move forward in our spiritual journey, with study, prayer, or a good deed, just because we are not “feeling it”?
I thus invite each of you to add your Mitzvah to our Mitzvah bank, which aims to collect 2000 Mitzvahs in loving memory of Rabbi Adin Even-Israel Steinsaltz until his first yahrzeit. Please email us your Mitzvah here: MitzvahforRavAdin@BethTefillahAZ.org
It can be anything: from wrapping Tefillin, to affixing Mezuzot on all your doorposts, to going to the Mikvah, to lighting Shabbat candles, to helping the needy, to visiting the sick.
Your Mitzvah will, without a doubt, bring true love, light, and healing to our broken world, and it will make a difference today, and tomorrow, in our lives, to eternity.