I. The Cosmic Roots of Marriage

When a man and woman unite in marriage, their personal union draws its power from the cosmic marriage that underlies the whole of existence — the bonding of the divine masculine and feminine energies emerging from the Creator's Infinite Light to generate existence, a world, and life.

Indeed, the entire Seder Hishtalshelut--the kabbalistic blueprint of the spiritual infrastructure of creation—is modeled on a male-female dynamic: masculine "lights" (orot) unite with feminine "vessels" (keilim), masculine "wisdom" (chochmah) unites with feminine "understanding" (binah), male "holiness" (kedushah) unites with female "immanence" (shechinah), and so on. On each level, masculine and feminine energies unite to "give birth" to the next link in the chain of spiritual "worlds" that channel the flow of divine vitality into our world.

Readings on the Cosmic Roots of Marriage:

This male/female dynamic pervades every level of existence. The relationships between spirit and matter, heaven and earth, G‑d and the people of Israel, the Written Torah and the Oral Torah, the Jewish people and the Shabbat, soul and body, mind and heart—all these are "marriages" in which the coming together of contrasting forces results in the creation of life on every level.

The significance of this correspondence is twofold. One the one hand, "From my flesh I perceive G‑d" (Job 19:26) — we can use our own marriages as a metaphor and model through which to better understand the divine reality. This works in the reverse as well: because we know that human marriage derives from the cosmic marriage of G‑d and creation, studying the mystical texts which scrutinize these divine processes allows us to better understand the foundations of our gender differences, how to bridge the gender divide, and how to become better husbands and wives to our spouses and better actualize the tremendous potential of marriage.

II. Becoming One

In the first human marriage, Adam and Eve are initially created as "a single, two-faced body." The single being is split in two — a man and a woman — creating the essence of sexual tension: a primal memory of original oneness, countered by the strangeness of otherness and difference. Like every groom, Adam is apprehensive; he wants to keep his options open. Married, he sees the light. "This is it!" he proclaims. "A bone of my bone, flesh of my flesh... Therefore a man will leave his father and his mother and cleave to his wife, and they shall become one flesh."

Readings on Becoming One:

This process of separation and alienation, and subsequent reunion, is reenacted by the wedding of every couple. A soul which was sheared in half enters two bodies. The attraction between the sexes is a direct result of the soul's deep longing to reunite with its long lost other half; a feat accomplished by the wedding canopy.

The essence of marriage is to become one. If man and woman would have simply remained the "single being" that they initially were, there would have been no alienation, no mystery, no reunion; no marriage. If they would have been initially created as two distinct beings, the gap of difference would have been insurmountable — there would be no way for them to become truly one. It is their intrinsic oneness, coupled with their acquired distinctiveness and difference, that is the secret of marriage, of creation, of life.

III. Love

Love is a paradox. Many paradoxes, in fact.

It is the most altruistic and the most selfish of human emotions. The most giving and the most fulfilling. The most spiritual and the most physical. The most natural and the most irrational. The source of our deepest pleasures and our deepest agonies.

Readings on Love:

We call it an "emotion," yet love is much more than a feeling. Everywhere we look — nature, human society, physics — the giver/recipient equation is the very math of existence. Yet the math doesn't add up. One plus one never equals two. In love, one plus one equals one. And also three.

The key to love is selflessness, and the fulfillment it brings. As counter-intuitive as it may sound, the ostensibly self-consumed, egotistical human being can gain no greater satisfaction than through giving and committing.

The reason? The soul. The soul's selflessness is as great as the body's selfishness.

Perhaps the ability to truly love is the area in life most profoundly impacted by the teachings of Kabbalah. The more in tune a person is with the soul, the greater the capacity for pure love, unsullied by ulterior motives and ego.

Love is the language of the soul. Without an understanding of the soul, we are breaking our teeth, speaking with a horrible accent, and constantly confusing our verbs for nouns... Kabbalah teaches us the language of the soul, and allows us to unleash its unlimited capacity for love.

IV. Intimacy

Look closely at the fabric of the universe, examine it from any angle, probe any cell of its form and you will find the same motif again and again: Two opposites in fission and fusion, parting and reuniting to give birth to change, movement and life. Matter and anti-matter, positive and negative, nucleus and periphery, information and chaos, life and death, mind and body, self and other—will it ever cease to amaze us that these opposites somehow harmonize to create a glorious world?

Readings on Intimacy:

If we could find the molten core of this paradox and know its secret we could control all of reality. We could make life as beautiful as we wish and realize our sweetest dreams.

Where is that core? The Kabbalists tell us it is in the union of a man and a woman in body and in spirit. When that union is made under the conditions it deserves, with the right preparations and mindful focus, its waves ripple outward through substance of reality. No facet of the cosmos is left untouched, unaltered. Every voice of the Creation resonates in unison as an orchestra plays back the soloist's melody. And so the lives of that man and woman, their children and their children's children are filled with the music of the heavens down on earth.

Nothing is more sacred than this union, the very fount of life itself. And nothing is more crucial to our mission in this world. All of life, all of being, depends on the harmony of male and female, a harmony placed in our hands and hearts. That it is why, for most of us, it presents the greatest challenges we ever face.