I grew up dreaming about my Prince Charming, besotted with the idea of “love” as I understood it. I knew my grandmother had been married by the age of nineteen to a man who absolutely adored her, and their love was a lasting one.

On Sundays, my grandfather used to take my grandmother and me out for ice cream. The two of them would share a cone and smile at each other. I remember the way he looked at her and the way she returned his gaze. To him, she was clearly the most beautiful woman alive, and I could tell by his expression that he felt lucky to be married to her. As they passed the ice cream cone back and forth, I knew my grandmother felt cherished and protected by my grandfather. Even after so many years of marriage, their love seemed fresh and new.

From watching my grandparents interact, love seemed easy. From watching my grandparents interact, love seemed easyI developed the conviction that love was easily attainable, and I became consumed with the idea of romance. I read romantic novels, watched romantic movies and dreamed romantic dreams. One thing was certain: if love was involved, I was hooked.

But as I grew up, I began to see problems in the world of love. I watched people compromising themselves for romances that were obviously temporary. I saw momentary pleasure taking the place of true intimacy. I met children and adults who had been thoroughly hurt by their parents’ bad marriages. I watched couples separate after years of dating because they knew they could never marry each other, and that left me perplexed because I had always assumed that marriage was the goal of dating. I found it ironic that in a world obsessed with analyzing and discussing others’ relationships, it has become tough to find good relationship role models.

And I wondered: is the romance of my grandparents’ generation already an ancient phenomenon? Does my generation, witnessing skyrocketing divorce rates and illicit affairs plastered across the media, even believe that true love is possible? Do we realize what we are missing?

A Divine Relationship

The Jewish nation is likened to a bride. We found “Mr. Right” in G‑d, but through our actions we grew apart from Him. Consequently, we lost the Holy Temple in Jerusalem, our strongest connection to Him. We have become used to life without a Temple, and to us it seems normal, but it is not. We are missing out on a deep, soulful relationship with G‑d, and that is something to cry about.

In fact, we have a designated day to grieve over this loss: Tisha B’Av—the ninth day of the month of Av. Perhaps, if we take a closer look at this day of fasting and commemoration, we’ll better understand how to fix and maintain the important relationships in our lives.

Night of Sadness

After the Jewish people escaped from Egypt, we needed a homeland. G‑d promised us the Land of Israel, and we began to journey through the desert in the direction of the Holy Land. But before we were to enter the land, the people approached Moses and requested he send ahead a group of men to scout out the layout of the land and its inhabitants, so that they could strategize how to conquer this new and foreign country.

Moses agreed, and assigned spiritual leaders from each of the twelve tribes to act as spies. When they returned, the entire nation assembled to hear their reports. Ten of the leaders publicly pointed out why the Jewish people would not be successful in acquiring the Land. Their words planted seeds of doubt in the minds of the Jewish people, and some began to wonder if they might have done better to remain in slavery in Egypt. That night the Jewish people cried, afraid of the land and afraid of its inhabitants.

This night of sadness took place on the ninth of Av, a day which has become synonymous with tragedy and mourning. The sin of the spies is considered the source of all the other tragedies which would occur on Tisha B’Av in later years.

Lack of Trust

The reason the sin of the spies was considered so grave was because the Jewish people lost faith in G‑d so quickly, when they had just been privy to open revelations of G‑dliness. He performed miracle after miracle: He bombarded the evil Egyptians with plagues, split the Red Sea, and revealed Himself at Mount Sinai. But still, we lost faith in Him.

The cornerstone of any relationship is trust. Without trust in G‑d, we ultimately permanently damaged our relationship with Him.

Physicality Versus Spirituality

The deeper reason the Jews in the desert cried upon hearing the spies’ report was a desire to remain close to G‑d. Life was good in the desert. Miracles happened on a daily basis. The Jewish people knew that entering Israel would involve returning to reality, toiling on the land instead of receiving manna from heaven, thus having less time to spend studying the Torah.

But what we failed to understand is that entering the Land would enable us to live in the ultimate reality. We have become used to life without a TempleG‑d wants us to live in this physical world and use its very physicality for spiritual purposes. Our mission in the world is to infuse our surroundings with spirituality and G‑dliness. The spiritual vortex of the world is Israel, Jerusalem in particular, and specifically the Holy Temple. The ultimate relationship connects the physical and spiritual worlds, enhancing each of them. Unfortunately, the Jews in the desert didn’t realize that entering the Land of Israel would have accomplished that, creating a better reality than they had in the desert.

I once asked a rabbi why the Western Wall is so important to the Jewish people. Shouldn’t our holiest site be Mount Sinai? After all, Mount Sinai is the mountain where G‑d spoke to Moses and gave him the Torah. It is there that each and every Jew heard firsthand the voice of the Almighty. Yet this mountain is not considered the holiest place for a Jew. That title is reserved for the place where the Holy Temple stood.

The mission of a Jewish person is to take physical matter and make it holy. The mission of a Jewish person is to take physical matter and make it holyIn the desert and at Mount Sinai, G‑d spoke to us, and that was incredible! But we were like infants being fed by our mother; we were not yet partners with the Almighty. The Temple site is so holy because there we built a home for G‑d out of our own blood, sweat and raw materials. It is the place where we worked together with the Almighty to bring His presence down to earth, thus infusing the physical matter with holiness. Holiness with G‑d is a more mature relationship than we had at Mount Sinai. It is a love affair. It takes two to make it work.

Where Did We Go Wrong?

The Jews in the desert were being noncommittal. They had the ultimate romance with G‑d, who granted them constant miracles. We had found our perfect match, and yet we were scared to move on to the next stage of the relationship. Our greatest flaw was that we did not want to grow. We wanted the overwhelming passion of new love, and were afraid to move into an unknown future.

The romantic stage of a relationship is indeed wonderful, but it doesn’t last, because romance is not true love. True love is based in reality. It is when we share the mundane experiences of life with our partner that we learn to truly love. Our shared moments and growth are our most intimate, and our partnership makes the world a better place.

A good relationship is not about lust, attraction or “me.” A strong relationship is born when both partners focus on giving, and exploring what’s special about “us.” The ultimate partnership is between two people who can “build” with each other. G‑d, too, wants to partner with us in building. The Temple can stand only as long as we keep building it through nurturing our relationship to the divine.

Relationship breakups are tough. Whenever a relationship dissolves in books or movies, the woman ends up sitting on a couch and eating ice cream to “get over” her partner. But we observe Tisha B’Av because we can never “get over” the relationship we have lost with G‑d. This relationship is not disposable. It is irreplaceable.

And yet, we cry. We cry because we know He wants a relationship with us, but we messed up. We cry because the home that we built with G‑d is destroyed, and we want to build it with Him again. We cry because, even 2,000 years after our falling out, we still crave His love and yearn to be as in love with Him as He is with us.

Rectifying the Divine Relationship

Most importantly, we don’t cry because we feel hopeless. We cry to change ourselves. We cry because through tears we hope to grow. This world was created for us to connect with G‑d, and we must cultivate our inner longing to unite with Him. Our relationships with each other are a taste of this divine relationship. With that in mind, how could we not direct every effort into developing and cultivating them? How can we settle for anything less?

Sometimes it can be difficult for us to relate to the loss of a Temple we never knew and a relationship with G‑d we never experienced. We don’t even know anyone who has known it!

But if we recognize the loss of the Temple as the loss of our greatest relationship, perhaps we can relate a bit more deeply. We’ve missed 2,000 years of anniversaries.We have the chance to be the couple who emanates love

We have the chance to be the couple who emanates love. The pair whom people stop to ask: “What’s your secret?” We have the chance to be the light unto the nations—but we can’t do it without partnering with the ultimate source of the light.