You shall love the L‑rd, your G‑d, with all your heart and with all your soul. (Deuteronomy 6:5)

We share a multifaceted relationship with G‑d: He is our king, and we are His subjects; He is our father, and we are His children; He is our shepherd, and we are His flock. These metaphors are more than poetic words used to describe the relationship. Rather, they imply the different sentiments and attitudes which the relationship demands of us: reverence, awe, obedience, trust, etc. In addition to all these emotions, we are also instructed to love G‑d. This aspect of the relationship is portrayed by the husband-wife relationship we share with G‑d: a relationship characterized by passionate love. It therefore follows that an understanding of the husband-wife dynamic can enhance our love affair with G‑d.

Love. It’s a basic need. Every person needs to feel loved and cherished—by family, friends, and needless to say, by his or her spouse. Love itself is an intangible quality. It’s not what the other person does for you; it’s the sentiment which is behind the act, the feeling which is the motivation for the deed. It’s the life behind the relationship. There can be two married couples, both of who “go through the motions” and daily grind of marriage—but one couple shares a spark which is conspicuously absent by the other.

Why is a transcendent feeling like love so contingent on actions?

Yet the acts which express the love cannot be underestimated. Feelings of love cannot exist in a vacuum; they must be translated into deeds. “But I love you; isn’t that all that matters?” is not an appropriate response when your spouse reminds you that you once again “forgot” to call to say you’ll be at work late. Very early in my marriage I found out that “I love you, honey, but I’ll let you clean up after dinner tonight” earns a quick ticket to the doghouse.

Why is a transcendent feeling like love so contingent on actions? While the question may sound profoundly philosophical, the answer is quite simple. If love is complete, it consumes the entirety of the person. It cannot be relegated to any single aspect of one’s personality—not even the totality of one’s feelings and emotions. Love means being all there for the one you cherish. Only when love translates into actions—when it is expressed by the eyes and the mouth and the hands and the feet—is it all-encompassing and complete.

“I love G‑d and share a very personal relationship with Him” sounds very spiritual, but it is an imperfect affection. If our love for G‑d is real and true, then it must express itself in everyday action. It’s not enough to have a “good Jewish heart”—one’s nose and one’s stomach and arms and legs also need to be Jewish.

“Like a face reflected by water, so too, hearts reflect each other.” G‑d’s love for us is complete and eternal. But if we want this love to be revealed, we must perfect our love for Him by expressing it in the totality of our actions. For when “I am to my Beloved,” then “my Beloved is to me.”