I first came to know it as a Chinese proverb, when I met Lauren, she was working on her MBA and she related it to me as a business school mantra. When I arrived at the Jewish Theological Seminary I constantly heard it in the context of an individual’s Jewish learning. If you aren’t going forward, you are going backwards!
Is your “love” falling or rising? In our vernacular, falling is typically taken as dwindling and rising as surging or growing. It is certainly countenanced in today’s world that you meet someone (your bashert) you “fall” in love and then you get married and live happily ever after. On your weddingday, is your “love” at its apogee? I hope not!
We are told in Chayei Sarah this week in 24:67 that when Isaac married Rebecca, “she became his wife; and he loved her.” It certinaly seems out of sequence from what we are accustomed to. We would say he “fell” in love with her and then he married her.
Perhaps we can learn a lesson about love from Isaac’s actions. In today’s society, we say the word “love” so casually. We use the word indiscriminately, thereby rendering it a meaningless term. Count the number of times you say the word “love” during the course of the day and you will be quite surprised. Phrases like “I just love that dress” or “I love Challah Fairy (or Rockland Bakery) babkah” are heard constantly. But can you really, truly love an inanimate object? Even when we say that we love a person, another human being, do we really love them for the right reasons? Or do we contrive our own definition of love by thinking that I love her because she’s beautiful or I love him for his position in the community?
Isaac is reminding us of the true meaning of love. Many times, people will fall in love, get married, and the relationship starts to go sour from there. Isaac is teaching us that instead of falling in love, we should be rising in love. I am by no means advocating for arranged marriages as with Isaac and Rebecca, but we can still rise in love like one of our patriarchs and matriarchs do in our parsha. A relationship between two partners should be a dynamic one. We should not “fall” into our love and then watch it fall with us. The verse is telling us that when Isaac got married, his love was just beginning. His love for Rebecca grew every day, knowing no bounds or limitations. His love was real; it was not static, nor did it become stale depending on what Rebecca was wearing or by the situation they were in. It was an everlasting love, one that we should try to emulate.
My prayer for this Shabbat is that whoever we love in our lives or for whomever we may love in the future that we are able to have the same introspection as Isaac and Rebecca to love each other through the ups and downs of life. Let this Shabbat be one in which we can express our true love and gratitude to one another, and like our challah every week, be rising.
Rabbi Jeffrey Abraham