Home > Judaism, San Diego > Biblical Isaac understood love and marriage

Biblical Isaac understood love and marriage

November 14, 2009 Leave a comment Go to comments

 By Rabbi Leonard Rosenthal

SAN DIEGO–The great opera diva Maria Callas once famously said: “Love is so much better when you’re not married.”

Our patriarch, Isaac, would not have agreed! The Torah tells us that Isaac was taking a walk in a field when Eliezer returned from Aram-naharaim with Rebecca: “…looking up he saw the camels approaching…Isaac then brought her into the tent of his mother Sarah, and he took Rebekah as his wife. Isaac loved her, and thus found comfort after his mother’s death.” (Gen. 24:64-67)

Rabbi Menachem Beker writes that many Jewish sages noted the superiority of early Jewish culture to contemporary mores in matters of love and marriage. Today most people think that a couple should fall in love before they decide to marry. The result is that this type of love, which is more infatuation, soon fades and couples may argue or split up if this is all that bound them.

Rabbi Beker continues that our ancestors, ‘from whose wells of wisdom we drink and through whose lives we are blessed,” thought differently. The Torah tell us that Isaac acted directly opposite of today’s  custom. First Isaac married Rebecca and then only afterward did he come to love her. 

I do not belittle romantic love, but the excited infatuation that one feels at the beginning of a relationship usually cannot sustain it for long.  Romantic love must evolve into a long and faithful commitment to one’s partner and marriage.

Dr. Morris Mandel, a columnist in The Jewish Press, wrote in his column: “Fidelity is rooted in love. The object of love is not only “union” but unity. It represents a life of truth, such as loving husbands and wives can perceive and share. It is unity in the full sense of the word. To reach that stage of complete oneness calls for unreserved absorption, both physical and spiritual. It is the job of a lifetime.” (May 23, 1977)

 Golde in Fiddler on the Roof put it even more plainly, though less poetically, when she sang to Tevye: “For twenty-five years I’ve lived with him, fought with him, starved with him. Twenty-five years my bed is his. If that’s not love, what is?”

Perhaps John Lennon wasn’t completely right when he sang: “All you need is love.” To sustain a marriage you do need love, but also a lot of hard work and compromise.

Rosenthal is spiritual leader of Tifereth Israel Synagogue in San Diego

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