Romance. Passion. Love unrequited due to cruel twists of fate, or achieved due to good luck. These are the kind of romantic tensions that drive the plotlines of everything from dime novels and popular cinema to classic literary masterpieces. These love stories usually end with either catastrophic or blissful resolutions — everyone either dies (as in Romeo and Juliet) or lives happily ever after. But in the Western mindset, life after the goal is reached, the happily ever after part, is rarely dealt with. The curtain simply comes down. Viewed as such, the romantic pursuit is, in effect, the goal.

In the Jewish view, romance is only a piece of a much larger puzzle — which includes both a clear picture of the blissful state being worked for and an equally clear way to live once that state has been achieved.

It is quite a difference.

During my youth, I was asked to deliver the sermon at my religious school's Consecration Service. I went on and on about the glories of being Jewish but then added that, even after years of religious education, I really didn't believe in G‑d. Instantly, a hush fell over the room (voicing a thought like this thirty-odd years ago was taboo). Forging on, I concluded, "But although I may not have an unquestioning belief in G‑d, I have my young, intelligent Jewish mind looking for Him, and who can say which position is better?"

As I returned to my seat, people whispered, brilliant, and, so insightful. The Rabbi took my place at the pulpit and said my attitude was, in fact, the real Jewish approach of constant questioning and searching rather than blind belief.

In other words, there are — so people think — only two possibilities: either you have blind faith in the stereotype of G‑d, or you are on an often painful but dramatic, romantic search. To actually find G‑d, or absolute meaning in life, and remain a mature, cultivated person is categorically impossible. As someone put it, "If you talk to G‑d, you're holy; if He talks to you, you're insane."

If you ask the man on the street what he's working for in life, he might reply, to make a better world. Then ask him, And once we've eliminated war, injustice, disease, ignorance and all the rest — then what? He'll probably shrug his shoulders. Similarly, ask a spiritually oriented person what Judaism is about and he or she might answer, "Our search for G‑d." Follow with, "And once we've found G‑d?" The response will probably be, "The searching itself is the finding."

Why this unwillingness to ask what is it all for? What does a real relationship with G‑d mean?

Approaching G‑d from the Western mindset that the pursuit equals the goal leaves most people without a developed grasp about who and what G‑d is. And without this comes fear of the unknown. Many people are afraid to think about G‑d because they're afraid of where it might lead them. It's safer to focus on The Search and forget about the possibility of The Consummation, or to declare axiomatically that G‑d has not actually communicated with us and never will.

Granted, this makes for a good, taut storyline that can hold people's attention until the final curtain. But if G‑d created man and did not communicate what He wants of us, what does that tell us about G‑d? Did He create us for sport, to sit back amused as we grope for an understanding of why we're here? Or is He actually incapable of communicating with us? What parent, after his child is born, throws him on the street and says, OK junior, go experience life, or gives him a new car but never teaches him how to drive?

Although there are individuals and philosophies willing to accept such possibilities, Judaism considers them inconsistent with the nature of G‑d. Judaism provides clear-cut concepts of who and what G‑d is and what our relationship to Him can and should be. Precise answers are offered to the question of what the perfect world is and how to live happily ever after. The Torah makes what were searching for crystal clear.

But where, you may ask, is the romance in the relationship? Where are the passion and tension of the search? If we have all the answers neatly packaged, aren't we abrogating our free will and our spirit of inquiry?

The answer lies in the ultimate Jewish love song — the Song of Songs (Shir HaShirim) — that we read on Passover. Through the Haggadah we relive our people's exodus from Egypt. Egypt in Hebrew (Mit'zrayim) comes from the word for limitations (meitzarim). Going out of Egypt — on a deeper level — means breaking out of our limitations and constrictions.

And since G‑d is infinite, no matter how intense or fulfilled our relationship with Him is, we can always search for ways to attain a stronger, purer bond. Therefore, the minute we reach one level in our relationship with G‑d, our love creates the yearning that compels us to strive for the next. In this context, each stage (each goal) is unique and attainable unto it'self, "For this is very close to you: it is in your mouth and heart to do it" (Deuteronomy 30:14). Judaism offers us both the tension and passion of romance as well as the bliss and release of fulfillment. And each one feeds the other: the more intense the fulfillment, the greater the yearning for higher fulfillment; the greater the yearning, the more intense the resolution.

The Haggadah tells us to think of ourselves as going out of Egypt in every generation. Inner Dimensional Judaism adds: every day of our life, we pursue a constant romance and love affair with G‑d.