A Roman matron once asked Rabbi Yehoshua: “What has your G‑d been doing since creation?”

“He makes marriages,” the sage answered.

“Well, anyone can do that,” replied the matron.

“Are you sure?” retorted the sage.

The matron set about to prove her point. She took 1000 of her slaves and 1000 of her maid-servants and coupled them, expecting to have given them lasting happiness. By the next morning, however, everything went haywire. There were fights, shouting, and absolute havoc.

Apparently, there is something G‑dly in getting a couple together.

But keeping them together is just as important and perhaps, just as G‑dly. It is no accident that the percentage of divorce in Torah observant homes is drastically less than the national average. It’s not because divorce is taboo. On the contrary, the Torah allows — and in certain instances, encourages - divorce. It’s just that in Torah observant homes, the foundations of marriage are different and the ongoing routines of the home foster communication and commitment between spouses.

Parshas Chayei Sarah

This week’s Torah reading elaborates on the description of the engagement and marriage of Isaac and Rebecca, recounting the miracles that showed that G‑d had destined her to be Isaac’s wife. It concludes by stating: “Isaac brought her into the tent... and she became his wife and he loved her.”

With the latter sentence, the Torah is teaching us the fundamental approach that we should have toward love and marriage. Love comes after marriage not before.

For genuine love has little resemblance to the romantic love we hear about in today’s society. Most of that type of love has self-gratification as its goal. From that standpoint, when looking for a person to love, we seek out one who will make us feel good. Our motivation is selfish; we are looking for what we want and what we need.

Genuine love, our Sages tell us, is not dependent on any particular factor. It does not come because one’s partner is attractive, interests are shared, or pleasant time is spent together. It is not dependent on what we can get out of the relationship. Instead, genuine love involves self-transcendence, going beyond one’s own desires and needs and dedicating oneself to the other person.

That’s why genuine love involves marriage, a commitment that has no limits. Marriage is a three partnered relationship, a bond between a man, a woman, and G‑d. If G‑d is left out, the man and the woman will be entering a relationship based on what each one can get out of it, with each of them bartering with the other, giving and taking conditionally. In the long run, one’s commitment is to oneself and not to that other person.

On the other hand, when a couple marries and sees G‑d as an integral part of their marriage, their relationship rests on a foundation of self-transcendence. How can two people come together as one? Because they step beyond their individual identities and focus on the spiritual core that they share. Every soul is an actual part of G‑d. When we highlight the G‑dliness within our souls and within others, we will be able to look past the petty concerns that create strife and discord and connect to the spiritual core which is common to each of us.

When love follows marriage, it is an adult, mature commitment. Each partner cares for the other, not because of what they can get, but because of what they can give. They are dedicated to a life above their self-interest. That’s why they build a home and a family, showing that their relationship is not contained to themselves, but serves as a source of positive influence to their children and to all who visit their home.

Moreover, this type of love is not less satisfying than romantic love. Yes, it will lack the roller-coaster ups and downs that romance affords, but the commitment will be deeper, more involving, and more genuine. Consequently, it will also be more fulfilling. When two people build a home together in this manner, they will experience the tranquil joy that comes from simultaneously being in touch with one’s self and transcending one’s self.

Looking to the Horizon

In his commentary to the Torah, the great Jewish philosopher and mystic Nachmanides writes that each of the seven days of creation is paralleled by a millennium in the spiritual history of the world. For example, the first day is associated with the creation of light, an unbounded source of positive energy. Similarly, in the first millennium of existence, animals reached immense sizes; men and women lived for hundreds of years and received manifold unearned G‑dly blessings.

The concept of love before marriage and love after marriage has parallels with regard to our relationship with G‑d. It is explained that G‑d and the Jewish people are described with the analogy of man and wife. The giving of the Torah represents the stage of betrothal and the wedding will be in the era of the Redemption.

At present, our observance of the Torah and its mitzvos has a certain element of self-concern. A person observes because he wants to connect to G‑d; he wants to advance spiritually. While it’s true, these aren’t the ordinary types of self-concern. Nevertheless, his love for G‑d and service of Him revolve around his self. He is searching to fulfill his spiritual desires and advance in refinement.

In the era of Redemption, the G‑dliness in the world and within our souls will be apparent and we will not have a thirst and a yearning for a bond with Him. Instead, the connection will be felt as an ongoing fact of our existence. It won’t be sought after, because it will be the constant reality. In that spiritually charged environment, man will do mitzvos for G‑d’s sake and not his own. We will appreciate that every mitzvah is a means of drawing G‑dliness into the world and in that way, bringing the world to its consummate fulfillment.

Nor must we wait for Mashiach’s coming for this mindset to assert itself. Knowing that this is the truth, that ultimately, the connection between the world and G‑dliness will be revealed, we can begin living in this manner at present, acting in an outward oriented manner, doing things for others and for G‑d, not only for ourselves.