Translated and adapted by Chaya Sara Ben Shachar
You know that ice cream. The one you love. The pecan fudge or strawberry swirl. Everyone's got "an ice cream," I think. Something that beckons to them at the end of a long day. My personal favorite is cookies 'n cream. Every once in a while, when I have some in stock I give into a craving. I get the half gallon out of the freezer, fill up a cup, add some sprinkles and dig in. "It tastes good," I think. I dig deeper into the cup and then deeper. Within five to seven minutes the ice cream is gone and the good feeling it engenders is over as well. That's passion. Here one minute, gone the next. It's that rush of adrenaline. That quickened heart-beat. A feeling that peaks, and then falls flat. Passion is in food, in new furniture…and in our relationships. Love, and especially spousal love, is physical. It has an element of excitement, thrill, a peak, and when its basis is only physical at some point it falls flat. That's just the way it is. So how do we get it to last? How to achieve that perfect marriage? Everlasting bliss? Can't love be permanent? It can be. But when it isn't only physical. Because by the nature of things, every peek leads to a slope. So we need something that's above nature to keep our relationships strong. Something of permanence Something spiritual. Something holy. If I'd have shared that same cup of ice cream with a group of disabled kids, chances are the good feeling would last a lot longer. Maybe even forever. Because acts of giving are lasting. They're holy. Holiness is about looking out for others. It's about caring for my spouses needs before my own. It's about putting the interests of a nation before the interests of an individual. It was the basis of Yaakov (Jacob's) marriage to Rachel. Spiritual love, as opposed to physical passion, dominated their relationship. He agreed to work as a shepherd for seven years in exchange for her hand in marriage. The Torah says of those years that ""They appeared to him like a few days because of his love for her" (Genesis 29:20). But Rachel's father, Lavan (Laban), tricked Yaakov. He gave Leah, Rachel's older sister, to Yaakov as a wife instead. He then told Yaakov that to marry Rachel he would need to work for another seven years. "And Jacob did so" (Ibid 28). On a basic level Yaakov's willingness to work for long seems to reflect something less than true love. To the modern mind, love equates a rush of passion; if Yaakov was willing to wait so long where was his passion? Yaakov's passion for Rachel was beyond the physical. Yaakov loved Rachel's essence. He loved her for the spiritual completion their marital union would bring about. And during the fourteen years that he waited, Yaakov built himself up spiritually. He rose to new heights so as to be worthy of that completion. Yaakov's deeper self enjoyed every minute, every year of elevation. Passion? Hardly a term for Yaakov and Rachel. Holiness and spiritual fulfillment would better describe their marriage. An everlasting union.