Love at second sight

  • Parshas Ki Tetze - Rabbi Yossi Goldman
Why are so many marriages failures? And why do so many fail so soon after the wedding?
by Rabbi Yossy Goldman, Sydenham Shul | Nov 21, 2019

This week, we read about the first shidduch (Jewish arranged marriage) in history. Abraham sends his trusted servant, Eliezer, to find a wife for his son, Isaac. He returns with Rebeccah, and they live happily ever after. The verse tells us, “And [Isaac] took Rebeccah, she became his wife, and he loved her.” So, it would appear that in the Biblical scenario, true love comes after marriage, not before. Before a marriage can take place, there must be a commonality between two people, shared values, mutual aspirations and, yes, certainly a degree of chemistry. But true love must be nurtured over time.

Without doubt, a primary cause of many marital breakdowns today is the unrealistic expectations that people have going into marriage. Our generation has been fed a constant diet of romantic novels, hit-parade love songs, glossy magazine advice, and Hollywood fiction, all of which bear little resemblance to the real world.

“We fell in love!” “It was love at first sight.” I confess to being a bit of a romantic myself, but surely “love at first sight” has to be a contradiction in terms. “True love” takes years to develop. If you are honest with yourself, the only thing you can feel at first sight is lust. “Love at first sight” is a monumental bobba meise (old wives’ tale)!

So, we “fall in love” thinking it’s real, hoping it will be true and lasting, and then at the slightest disappointment, we fall right out of love. Which only proves that it wasn’t true love in the first place. True love takes years. True love is the mature conviction that our lives are intertwined and inseparable no matter what – even if my partner gets wrinkled, goes grey, flabby, or loses his money. That kind of love is measured not in romantics but in long-term commitment.

The first rule is patience. Love takes time. It needs nurturing. Sadly, too many give up too soon.

Second, the Hollywood effect leaves us so naively impressionable that our partners have to be the proverbial Prince Charming or Princess Kate. But then, at the first sign of imperfection, “Hey, I bought a lemon! I’m outta here!” Remember, nobody is perfect. Not even you, my dear. In the passage of time we do indeed discover the little imperfections of our chosen partners. Some things can be unlearned with gentle encouragement and, again, patience. Others, we may just have to learn to live with. Acceptance is an art. Weigh up in your mind the relative significance of minor inadequacies against the greater good in the grand scheme of things. You may very well realise that you can actually live with those small, petty irritants. Admittedly, if it’s something major then you may need to go for some serious counselling.

Marriage is the beginning, not the end. If we can be realistic about our relationships, we can find true love. But it takes time, patience, and the wisdom to overlook the little things that annoy us. Then, please G-d, with true commitment will come true love, togetherness, a lifetime of sharing, and the greatest, most enduring contentment and blessing in our personal lives.


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