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Split Your Sea

Split Your Sea


"To match couples together is as difficult as the splitting of the sea," states the Talmud.1

What is the meaning behind these words? True, the process of finding and maintaining a life partner may be challenging and difficult, nothing short of a miracle. But why, of all miracles described in the Bible, does the Talmud choose specifically the miracle of the splitting of the sea to capture the process of marriage?

A Map of the Subconscious

What is the difference between the land and the sea? Both are vibrant and action-filled enviroments populated by a myriad of creatures and a great variety of minerals and vegetation. Yet the universe of dry land is exposed and out in the open for all to see and appreciate, while the world of the sea is hidden beneath a blanket of water.

In Jewish mysticism (Kabbalah and Chassidic spirituality), these two physical planes reflect the conscious and unconscious dimensions of the human psyche.2 Both parts of the self are extremely vibrant and dynamic. The difference between them is that while our conscious self is displayed and exhibited for ourselves and others to feel and experience, our subconscious self remains hidden, not only from other people but even from ourselves. Most of us know very little of what is going on in the sub-cellars of our psyche.

If you were given a glimpse into your own "sea" and discovered the universe of personality hidden beneath your conscious brain, what do you think you would find? Shame, fear, guilt, pain, insecurity, an urge to destroy, to survive, to dominate, a cry for love? Would you discover Freud's Libido, Jung's collective unconscious, Adler's search for power and control, Frankl's quest for meaning?

Where Freud diagnosed the libido as a craving for a parent, and Jung saw it as a longing etched in our collective unconscious, the Kabbalah understood it as a quest for union with G‑d In Kabbalah, at the core of the human condition is a yearning for oneness. Rabbi Schneur Zalman of Liadi (1745-1812), founder of the Chabad school of Kabbalah, was one of the greatest soul-experts in the history of Judaism, has written on the subject more then any other Jewish sage. In 1796, a hundred years before Freud, he published a book, the Tanya, in which he presented his "map of the subconscious," based on the Talmudic and Kabbalistic tradition. Rabbi Schnuer Zalman offers a facinating parable for the inner life of the soul: quoteing the biblical verse, "The soul of man is a divine flame" (Proverbs 20:27), he explains that just as the flame is always swaying, dancing, licking the air, seeking to tear free of the wick and rise heavenward, so too the soul in man is always aspiring to leave its shell and experience oneness with the divine.

The Secret of Intimacy

This quest for a relationship with the divine is manifested in our search for relationships with our twin flame here below. Where Freud diagnosed the libido as a craving for union with a parent, and Jung saw it as a longing for the opposite gender etched in our collective unconscious, the Kabbalah understood it as a quest for union with G‑d. Our desire for intimacy is one of the profoundest expressions of our existential craving for Truth, for Oneness, for G‑d.

As the Book of Genesis states, "G‑d created Man in His image, in the image of G‑d He created him; male and female He created them." Clearly, it was in the union and oneness of the genders that the first Adam, the first human being, reflected the image of G‑d.

This view of relationships and intimacy is expressed in the very Hebrew names for man and woman given by Adam in Genesis. The Hebrew words for man and woman -- Ish and Isah -- both contain the Hebrew word for fire, Eish. They also each contain one more letter--a yud and a hei respectively--which when combined makes up G‑d's name. The significance of this is profound. Man without woman, and woman without man, lack the fullness of G‑d's name. When they unite, the two-half images of the divine within them also unite. The fire and passion drawing them to each other is their yearning to recreate the full name of G‑d between them.

At a Jewish wedding ceremony, this blessing is recited: Blessed are You, G‑d, King of the Universe, Who created the human being in His image... Why is this blessing said at a wedding ceremony? Wouldn't it be more appropriate to say such a blessing when a child is born? The answer is that it is through the uniting of man and woman that the image of G‑d is most closely reflected.

Our desire for intimacy is one of the profoundest expressions of our existential craving for TruthThe ramifications of this idea are important. It means that marriage is not a suspension of one's natural individual self for the sake of uniting with a stranger. Rather, through marriage man and woman return to their true natural state, a single being reflecting G‑d, each in his and her own unique way. Marriage allows wife and husband to discover their full and complete self, a self made up of masculine and feminine energy.

Know Thyself

We may travel through life unaware of this dimension of self, seeking oneness with the divine. Throughout our years on this planet we may behave as though this element of self does not exist. Though its symptoms reverberate through our consciousness -- most often in the feelings of emptiness and lack of contentment when our spiritual self is un-satiated -- we are prone to dismiss it or deny it. After all, at least in the short term, it is far easier to accept that we are nothing more than intelligent beasts craving self-gratification than spiritual souls craving for G‑d.

When we view the surface self, selfishness is easier than selflessness; isolation more natural than relationship; solitariness more innate than love and commitment. Only when we "split our sea," when we discover the depth of our souls, the subtle vibrations of our subconscious, do we discover that oneness satisfies our deepest core; that love is the most natural expression of our most profound selves.

"To match couples together is as difficult as the splitting of the sea," the Talmud states. The challenge in creating and maintaining a meaningful and powerful relationship is the need to split our own seas each day, to learn how in the depth of our spirits we yearn to love and share our lives with another human being and with our creator.3

Talmud, Sotah 2a. The Talmud is discussing second marriages, however, in many Jewish works, this quote is applied to all marriage (see for example Akeidas Yitzchak Parshas Vayeishev).
This notion of viewing the macrocosm as a metaphor for the microcosm is central to all Jewish writings. "Man is a miniature universe," our sages have declared (Midrash Tanchumah Pekudei 3), a microcosm of the entire created existence. The human being thus includes the elements of the land as well as the elements of the sea -- man has both a terrestrial and an aquatic aspect to his life. In Kabbalah terminology, the sea is defined as alma d'eiskasya, the "hidden world," while land is described as alma d'eitgalya, the "revealed world" (Torah Or Parshas Beshalach).
This essay is based on a discourse by the second Chabad-Lubavitch Rebbe, Rabbi DovBer (1773-1827), known as the Miteler Rebbe. (Published in Maamarei Admur Haemtzaei, Kuntrasim, Derushei Chasunah.)
Rabbi Yosef Y. Jacobson is editor of, a website of Jewish news and commentary in English and Yiddish. Rabbi Jacobson is also a popular and widely sought speaker on chassidic teachings, and the author of the tape series “A Tale of Two Souls.”
Originally posted on
Image: Detail from a painting by Sarah Kranz. Ms. Kranz has been illustrating magazines, webzines and books (including five children’s books) since graduating from the Istituto Europeo di Design, Milan, in 1996. Her clients have included The New York Times and Money Marketing Magazine of London.
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Anonymous New York December 12, 2016

It will be wonderful to become one with another. I'm sure I am ready and strong enough to bond. Reply

ARG Brooklyn December 12, 2016

Eloquent, Expert.. Hashkafically DEEP.. Perfect ..Just beautiful

Alevai my intended (only zivug and seconder) will already chap :)

Kol HaKavod Reply

Anonymous Ny August 31, 2016

Thank you Rabbi Jacobson.
I think my soul longs for that "oneness".
i wish I could tap into the sea of my subconscious mind/ heart ? Whatever it is ? im at a crossroads in life & love and i can't hear my own heart. I like the correlation between Land & sea and the conscious & subconscious. It makes the sea part seem less unattainable to grasp. Your essay was helpful and very beautiful. I love that notion of man & woman completing each other with a balance of masculine & feminine. This makes sense to me. Once again, Jewish wisdom fills me with a sense of content. Thank you.🙂 Reply

Barry Solomon Redondo Beach, CA via April 22, 2014

My marriage Sorry about those whose attachments are not as strong as mine but there is hope.
Anita and I have been married almost 51 years and are in love now more than when we married. Warts and all we love each other
and hopefully as I approach my 79th birthday on Jan 8th 2015 we will still be together and celebrating a Kiddush at our local Chabad
Barry Solomon Reply

Mordi January 16, 2011

almost Almost two years later... the article presents a beautiful idea and romantic notion. It doesn't play out all that often. Selflessness, deep abiding respect, and sense of humor are in short supply once the knot is tied. Not always, but all too often. Reply

Deborah Hope, MN January 15, 2011

Great article. My marriage of 17 years is struggling to survive yet I still found this article inspirational. Even though my husband does not choose a relationship with me - I am thankful that G_d does. Thank you for the encouraging spiritual food to"split my sea" discovering the depth of my soul and oneness with G_d. Thank you for the blessing to get my feet wet.
Shalom Reply

john smith fort lauderdale, fl April 4, 2010

critics it seems from the responses to the words written above coincides with the difficulty of finding a mate. a little ironic if though about in any depth. a firm belief or commitment tends to make it more difficult to open oneself to be whole with any other including a member of the opposite sex to walk the earth hand in hand for eternity. Reply

Anonymous Charlotte, USA February 7, 2009

I have been confused and unsure of feelings that I have been having lately. After I read this article I saw things in a different light. Feelings for someone having passion for someone wanting to be with someone is not a bad thing. Reply

Mordi February 6, 2009

i don't buy this message no matter who wrote about it Reply

giuseppe April 11, 2007

beautiful page, but one fundamental thing is missing.
was it Moses who opened the red sea? was it the people who opened the red sea?
no, it was the power of G-d alone.
without that , "splitting our own seas each day" becomes a crushing appeal to man's ubris Reply

Susan Drucker Laguna Niguel, ca, usa via April 8, 2007

Awesome article I thoroughly enjoyed reading this article. Reply

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