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Love. We can fall into it so easily. One look, one smile, one laugh and we are captivated.
When we fall in love, our brains respond to a chemical reaction similar to what happens when taking cocaine. We crave it, can’t get enough of it. Love can motivate our actions and reactions. Love can make us blind.
But according to Kabbalah, this kind of love is not true love. This kind of love is based on need, which is the complete opposite of the kind of love great kabbalists have written about for centuries.
True love is profound, deep, and selfless. True love connects us to the Light.
In the biblical story, Vayetze, Jacob meets his future wife, Rachel. It starts the way many love stories start, with a very quick courtship. Jacob sees her approaching a well and is so taken by her beauty that he moves a heavy stone from the well and waters her flock of sheep—a feat that normally took several men. She was very impressed by his display of strength. Then Jacob kisses her, one of the few times an unmarried couple in the bible kiss. He is overwhelmed by love and raises his voice and weeps with emotion.
Just a typical story of love at first sight. Right?
Well, as the story continues, we learn just how deep Jacob’s love for Rachel goes. She takes him home to meet her father, Laban, who welcomes him with open arms. After a month living with the family, Jacob offers to work for Laban for seven years in return for Rachel’s hand in marriage. It appears not to be a common case of infatuation after all. On the contrary, it is a story of deep, kabbalistic love.
In Secrets of the Bible, Michael Berg states:
“In its ultimate form, the love Jacob & Rachel achieved is known as the Desire to Share. Their love had nothing to do with what either one could get from the other. The love they shared was an appreciation of what they were both capable of giving. When Jacob saw Rachel…he recognized the Light that she could reveal for the world.”
But this love would be tested. When the seven years were up, Jacob says to Laban, “Give me my wife, for my days are fulfilled.” Laban was a trickster and presented Rachel’s older sister, Leah to Jacob. He married Leah while she was veiled, believing he was committing his life to Rachel. When he discovered how he had been deceived, Jacob was understandably upset. Laban explained his culture’s tradition to marry off the older daughter first, but agreed to allow Jacob to marry Rachel after another seven years of labor.
At that, Jacob could have given up on Rachel. Yet he did not. He continued to work for Laban and finally earned Rachel’s hand in marriage after 14 years of labor. It was a truly selfless act motivated purely by love. Kabbalist Rav Berg, explains that this kind of love happens when, “You feel the unity with the individual, not how you feel with the chemistry.” Only unity on a soul level could drive Jacob’s ambition.
What underscores true, selfless love is unity or oneness. Oneness means that your soul connects to the soul of another. It means you release your selfish desires and consider the needs of the other. And the person you love does the same. Our ego interferes by convincing us that our needs are more important. Instead of a continuous flow of sharing, when our ego gets involved, we interact with others on a superficial level, literally blinded by our egos. Subsequently, we are unable to recognize ourselves in the soul of another.
Often the feelings that excite the most passion at the beginning of a relationship are driven by the Desire to Receive for the Self Alone, not a Desire to Share. Kabbalist Rav Berg explains:
“What do you mean by true love? If you’re referring to the expression of the warmth, the excitement, the desires that become aroused, the chemistry that is so wonderful, my friends, that is not a sign of love. On the contrary, a sign of love is something so simple. You just know it’s there…You just know you don’t want to be without this person for one moment.”
Kabbalah teaches that unselfish love is crucial, not just for the bliss we feel when united with the soul of another. It is the key to self-transformation and positive change for the world. When we connect to a partner on a soul level, we are better able to connect to others, whether friends or strangers. When two people, like Jacob and Rachel, unite in unselfish love, their ability to rise above selfishness weakens the collective ego and the spiritual energy of the world strengthens.
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