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Why Do We Fall in Love?

Why Do We Fall in Love?


What lies behind the attraction between the genders? Is the mystique and the romance, the music and the moonlight, just nature's way of hoodwinking men and women to reproduce? Where does our sexuality come from?

In this article, I would like to look at two approaches to that question. One is the prevalent, contemporary, scientific approach. And then we'll contrast it with the Torah approach - specifically, the Kabbalistic-Chassidic perspective on Torah.

There are, of course, numerous secular-scientific theories of sexuality. Let us examine what is probably the most dominant one: the biological or evolutionary theory, which is based on the idea that "the survival of the fittest" is the primary force in nature. From this perspective, our attraction derives from the fact that the perpetuation of the species is achieved through a physical relationship between a male and a female. The male will therefore search for the female who is most fertile and will bear the healthiest offspring; the female will search for a male who provides the healthiest seed, is the most virile, and will protect the young.

This theory explains why men and women seek out and mate with each other. It also explains that certain features are extremely enticing to the opposite gender because they indicate signs of fertility or health that are important for the perpetuation of the species.

What this theory essentially says is that behind the beauty and the sensuality of love, there is a primal force: the need to exist and to perpetuate that existence. Since the human being is an animal with a certain degree of sophistication, human sexuality has evolved to address that sophistication. People are not prepared to think of themselves merely as production machines to bear children, so evolution and biology have conspired to imbue the physical union not only with pleasure, but also with a mystique that compels them along the romantic journey.

Gazing into a loved one's eyes across a candlelit table-for-two, one may think that he or she has risen above a survival-of-the-fittest mode of existence, but, in truth, this "rising higher" is just nature's way of packaging that drive. Two human beings courting each other are essentially the same as two bees courting each other. One bee will buzz a certain way or give off a certain scent, but what it comes down to is that these are tactics to attract a mate and bear offspring. By the same token, the accouterments of human courtship—the romance, the flowers, the music, the moonlight—are really just nature's way of getting two people together.

Nature is ruthless. Nature must prevail. So nature finds the means to get a male and a female to mate. This, basically, is the scientific approach to physical attraction. Let us now contrast this with the Torah's approach.

The Torah's conception of human sexuality is completely different: We are driven to search for our divine image, for our quintessential self.

In the opening chapters of Genesis, the Torah describes man as originally having been created as a "two-sided" being: "Male and female He created them, and He called their name ‘man.’" G‑d then split this two-sided creature into two, and ever since, the divided halves of the divine image seek and yearn for each other.

They're not half individuals; man is a full-fledged personality and woman is a full-fledged personality. But there are elements in their transcendental persona that remain incomplete if they don't find each other. There's something missing in each of them; they were once part of a greater whole.

To put it in more mystical terms, they're really searching to become one with G‑d.

The human race is, in essence, one entity, a male-female singularity. When man and woman come together and unite in a marital union, they recreate the divine image in which they were both formed as one.

The teachings of Kabbalah take this a step further, seeing the male-female dynamic not just as two genders within a species, but rather two forms of energy: an internal energy and a projective energy. Feminine energy and masculine energy coexist in every person and in every part of nature.

Even G‑dliness is sometimes described in the feminine and sometimes in the masculine. Contrary to the common perception of the "patriarchal" G‑d of the Bible, many of the divine attributes are feminine, such as the Shechinah.

So what we have here is a split of two energies and a yearning to become one whole. This attraction, which manifests itself in many physical sensations, is essentially the desire to become a complete, divine whole, connecting to our source in G‑d. Not that we've ever been completely disconnected, but consciously or unconsciously, we can go off on our own individual, narcissistic, even selfish, path. And here, there's a voice inside us saying, I yearn for something greater. When a man is attracted to a woman, or a woman to a man, it may seem to be a very biological urge, but from a Jewish, Torah perspective, it's just a physical manifestation of a very deep, spiritual attraction.

This is not to say that the Torah's concept of sexuality is not intrinsically tied in to the objective of creating new life. It certainly is. But perpetuation of the species is not the sole end of our attraction. Rather, it's the other way around: The divine nature of our sexuality - the fact that the union of male and female completes the divine image in which they were created - is what gives us the power to bring life into the world.

So there is something divine about the union itself. Halacha (Torah law) sanctifies marriage even without the possibility of offspring, such as in the case of a couple who are beyond childbearing age, or who are physically unable to bear children. If the physical union was simply the mechanism for childbearing, one might argue, "Hey, no perpetuation of the species, what's the point of marriage and intimacy? Just a selfish pleasure? Where's the holiness?"

The answer: In and of itself, the unity of male and female is a divine act, a divine experience.

© The Meaningful Life Center. Rabbi Simon Jacobson is the author of the best-selling Toward a Meaningful Life: The Wisdom of the Rebbe (William Morrow, 1995), and the founder and director of the Meaningful Life Center.
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Nicole TX November 30, 2014

Faith & Truth over matter don't ever fool yourself, it is better to run faaaaaaarrr away from something that might not be undone, then run straight into a big deep ditch that enslaves you. but never feel alone in your decision. Just pray. pray. pray. pray. and do your best! :D Reply

ruth housman marshfield hills, ma April 17, 2011

Land of Milk and Honey The word 'LOVE'. I think we can keep plumbing this word and its meaning and pulling away at the veils. LOVE itself, the English word, has so much of a clang,with the word DOVE, as in PEACE. We will not have PEACE unless we have LOVE. That is a given, around the world.

I believe that language is deeply layered, and, as we know, every word has its personal connects to each one of us, and the musicality of a word is deeply part and part of who we are. I also believe that language builds, and alters, and changes, and that words themselves carry the freight of a story that does deeply inform our lives, on conscious and unconscious levels. What is, elusive, and also allusive.

The notion of ova or egg is in the word LOVE for me.And in the word EVOLVE we have LOVE backwards. Everyone can do this, and I am saying this is not random.

As for bees, it's "coming up bees for me" in a massive way lately through the astonishment of story. Coincidence. LIfe: the sting and the honey. Bee come Love. Reply

ina reznicek new york city, NY April 15, 2011

why do we fall in love? Wonderful perspective,Simon Jacobson seems to understand our sexuality/spirtualty. I've not encountered thiis candid awareness in outhers who contribute their the Chabad Liibrary. Bravo for Simon Jacobson. Reply

Anonymous Sussex, NJ October 29, 2010

True peace I have only felt what I call peace, with one man. He is Jewish and though I am not born into the Jewish faith, I truly believe my heart and being, thought and spirit, is Jewish. I believe our true mates are picked for us by G-d. I am on my journey to be recognized as a Jew and then we will marry. I believe the term is bashert, the other half that makes a whole. (Please correct me if I am wrong) I only wish everyone could feel the same peace and positive feelings I feel. I am middle age and we knew each other as kids. Some things are meant to be... Reply

Ruth Housman marshfield hills, ma October 27, 2010

the King and Queen of Hearts I agree with the woman above, about gender, and I know, much about this subject, being a psychotherapist and also married to a geneticist. There are children who start in life as female and then develop male organs later. People are born who feel deeply that they are women, and yet might be born with male characteristics. And vice versa. There is heartbreak here. It's not all women vs men in this very diverse and often heart-breaking world.

There is no question that we are influenced by our hormones in our choices in life, by our genetics, and environment. There is also no question in my mind about the spirituality of union, as you so beautifully state this.

When we arrive at the moon it's a pile of rocks, but it is also a beautiful shimmering and magical moon. We can live with both. We toggle back and forth in our minds.

As for me, I see a world in which science and the mystical, the spiritual, are dancing together, because the same G_d created both, and it's deeply, a love story. Reply

Hadassah Stern Brooklyn, NY May 1, 2009

Love a torah approach to unity Thanx, I love everything written by R' Jacobson.The primal force that humans have to perpetuate existence begins full force, in youth and in new couples. The Jewish Torah perspective described, the physical manifestation of a very deep spiritual attraction and the search for ones "other half" to intensify the union with G-d is beautiful and true. But sadly we are exposed to a World at large, where, we are bombarded with comparisons, and keeping up with both the Jones' & the Kleins. What about the couples who stop uniting, when Mikvah ritual does not even ensure a union between husband and wife & G-d leaves the home. Men are having children and family with younger women, they get to be the powerful caretaker after abandoning their Beshert. Everything exists for a reason, the secret is to keep the communication lines open and stop looking at what else you think you can have, try &yearn to keep the original union for your future family and continue to grow ourselves. One nation, one heart! Reply

Anonymous Hallandale, Fl. April 30, 2009

Love and taking advantage Marriage my husband used to say is an institution and who wants to live in an institution. What he meant really was we're forced to be tied to our mates and children whether we feel like it or not. I am in my 70.s and a widow--and it is lonely--but notice among the young and of course not all--many are too demanding making their husbands or wives resentful of the person they married but not wanting to leave their children--so love goes out the window and tolerance comes into play, if at all tolerable. Of course we have good and bad times and that's part of life always better to share it with someone. When does a person reach the point where for their survival it's best to break up? And what about the children? Think twice before making your mates life miserable. You're hurting a lot of people including yourself. I know we stress Ahavas Yisroel (loving our fellow)--maybe add toward your mate also. Reply

Anonymous April 29, 2009

Not just a man and a woman I think this is a very good article. Though I am a scientist, I do agree that there is much more to love and relationships than hormones. However, I don't agree with you that love is limited to a man and a woman. The feelings you describe occur between two people who are not always of opposite gender. As a woman, I have felt those feelings for other women before. I am sure that G-d, who created me as I am, accepts this, so long as I behave morally. Reply

Natana Pesya Kulakofski Worcester, MA, USA March 24, 2009

So nu, where is my other half? This is a very thoughtful article. I just wish it had gone one step further. Why do men in their 60's want to marry women in their 30's or 40's, and why do men in their 80's want to marry women in their 60's? How can a man be attracted to a woman young enough to be his daughter? And where does that leave the woman in her sixties? How does one go about FINDING one's beshert when one is no longer of childbearing years?
I wish the article had addressed this issue.
Online kosher dating services are FULL of men who want to marry much younger women. When will these men wake up and realize that a woman 20 years his junior has not been through the types of life experiences he has, has no idea what the challenges of being older are, has no basis of commonality with this fellow? And what type of woman would be attracted to a man 20 years her senior? Someone looking for a father figure? Get real, gentlemen! Reply

Anonymous Duluth, GA February 6, 2009

Love and Marriage I have been married to the man I consider my soulmate for over 20 years. Both his parents and mine have been married for more than 50 years. In the beginning perhaps, we had infatuation, but over the years by sharing our experiences, our strengths & our weaknesses, our faith and our fears, so much more has developed. Our marriage has required us to forgive things we never thought we could forgive and to be forgiven for things we never thought we would do, and our love has evolved and changed and grown stronger. I have never been more in love with him than I am today and I have never felt more loved, and that is such a blessing in my life. Reply

Anonymous Hallandale, Fl. November 8, 2008

ILove is to connect and become one. To the people who are afraid of commitment-then you'll always think of your last love as being love. In reality love is a commitment, making someone else happy,caring and sharing. Having children and grandchildren becomes an extention of your love. When your love is gone it is painful but--you can love again. Love is the best part of life. G'd help us find the right mate. Reply

Chaya Omaha, Nebraska July 8, 2008

I don't like the science explanation. Call me crazy, but I refuse to believe love is just hormones and survival of fittest.

I have to believe that there is something more. I've loved and lost, but I refuse to give up. Reply

George 1700, Switzerland December 19, 2007

love After several relationships I can say that love is just an hormonal imbalance. Spending some few nice moments and thats it. After a while either woman or man will give the other the shoe. Adapting to this world I am sure not to give my heart away any longer for what is meant to just be reproductional. C'est la vie! My heart belongs to my career and to G-d. Reply

albertson dumaguete, philippines December 15, 2007

why do we fall in love? when do we know that the right person you love is the right person for you? Reply

Alicia S. Linden Longveiw, WA October 3, 2007

Love at first sight We usually hear about the "Love at first sight in the fairy tales but it happens all of the time in the rreal world. But really it's not love it's just a hormone defect Reply

Anonymous May 17, 2007

why do we fall in love? we fall in love because of our hormones and senses like our smell sight. but mostly it is the brain signals that tells us if we are in love or not. Reply

mandarfh tx, usa May 16, 2007

why we fall in love i have a simple question that no one will answer: WHY DO FEMALES FALL IN LOVE?????? Reply

Anonymous Atlanta, Ga. December 17, 2006

does a woman have a choice I was taught that a woman can choose whether to marry or not. the actual commandment to reproduce was on the man. is that true? I can see it may be as a man must be 40 and have two children boy and girl before studying Kabbalah. Reply

Shilpa bhopal, india September 8, 2006

fallen in love this is one of the finest aticle i have ever come across on the complex subject
i was always against love and marriage. well my attitude has changed after i have fallen in love.
i respect the feeling more after reading this has touched me deeply. Reply

sigalit May 10, 2006

why do we fall in love? Thank you for addressing this complex question.
First of all, this myth of 2 half is mentioned in either Platu or another greek philosopher''s writing... so i always assumed it was a greek myth.. do you know that?
Second of all getting back to Genesis, why is eve created from the rib? does not that mean inferiority to adam?
Third of all this all sounds very idealic but reality is that a lot of people do not feel whole and seek to feel whole by going into realtionships with others and thus a recipie for catastrophy.
I think one should go into relationships feeling whole and not expect the other half ..
I also think we fall inlove because of myths ..and in reality love is a lot of work and depends on your maturity and ability to relate to another human being.. thus the high divorce rate.. Reply

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