March 22nd, 2012 - Updated and Revised August 10th, 2014
I am convinced beyond a shadow of a doubt that love is the most powerful force in the entire universe (I wish Hamas would learn that one...). Truly, nothing compares to the driving force behind love, and there's a good reason for that.
Within Judaism, there is a concept that has birthed from years of Biblical/Torah culture called "tikkun olam" - repairing the world. Ever since the fall of mankind in the Garden of Eden this world has been broken, and that damage has resulted in some missing pieces. Those missing pieces form a void within each of us that causes us to chase after things for the sake of fulfillment. Our desires ultimately long for something deeper, something more powerful than the typical day to day mundane. The world offers it's substitutes, and these can distract us for a time, but oftentimes they are nothing more than vanity in the end. Further still, the things of this world can distort and even seemingly destroy that beautiful spark of love within each individual and this is why tikkun olam is so important. As bad as things may be, there is always a means to repair it, we need only a shred of hope to hold on to, faith that it's possible, and love to drive us there. Faith, hope and love. But as the Apostle Paul says, the greatest of these is love (1 Corinthians 13:13).
Love is what drives us to repair this world, and it is unique among all other things in that from it flows all that is good while at the same time conquering all that is evil. The Bible says that G-d is love (1 John 4:8) and that all good things descend upon us from Him (James 1:17). His will is that all mankind would be delivered from evil, sin and death, and experience nothing but His goodness and blessing. Indeed, it is from our own careless actions that there are problems in this world, and this is the by product of the free will we've been given. So how does one overcome this carelessness while both experiencing and sharing with others G-d's love and blessing?
It is a two way relationship where we must humble ourselves and choose to let Him enter into our lives so that through His strength we may follow His commandments and subsequently experience His blessing. Truly, this is the love of G-d (1 John 5:3) and it is His spirit that causes us to walk this way (Ezekiel 36:26-27), the first fruits of the Renewed Covenant that we begin to experience in this world as we look to it's ultimate fulfillment in the age to come. Indeed, the Kingdom of Heaven in which this goodness abounds starts from within each of us (Luke 17:21), but nurturing such beauty is no easy task in this present world that is still broken and influenced by the evil one. And on our own, we may very well be missing some key ingredients to help us walk in the fulfillment that each soul, patterned after the image of HaShem, longs for in this life.
Let's rewind for a moment though and go to a place of total bliss and perfection. In the book of Genesis, we read that all was good and on the sixth day G-d formed a man who He then placed into the Garden of Eden, paradise. But even without sin in the world and no hint of evil to be found, there was still something not quite right.
Lo tov heyot ha'Adam l'vado - It is not good for the man to be alone! (Gen 2:18)
No good to be alone. Most translations then go on to say that G-d will make a helper suitable for Adam, but when we break down the Hebrew (עֵזֶר כְּנֶגְדּֽוֹ) we read in a more literal sense that she is the "helper who stands in front" (Neged) of him!
We read in the Rabbinical literature that
"The woman came out of a man's rib. Not from his feet to be walked on. Not from his head to be superior, but from the side to be equal. under the arm to be protected, and next to the heart to be loved." (Bava Metzia 59:A)
And yet, she is the helper who stands in front of him! I think there is a hint found in the Hebrew there that may be telling us more than we realize...
Within G-d's Law, the Torah, there are clear distinctions between the masculine and feminine forces of the universe. The feminine forces have more of a connection to G-d through a faith that is so profound it is simply beyond rationality. This is what some call trans-rational faith. In comparison, the masculine forces achieve more of a connection to G-d through rationality and intellectual thought. Now these forces are equally important and both are present in both men and women. But of course, it is also clear that women are more feminine and men are more masculine in nature. A good example showing the expression of these forces would be praise and worship and then the study of Scripture respectively. Notice how women enter into worship a lot easier than the men who usually stand very composed, but then how men are quick to speak up about matters of theology and the reason for doing things the way we do it. Liberal culture may wish to erase all differences between men and women, but it is clear that these tendencies in behaviour representing the corresponding masculine and feminine forces within are fundamental to our design. But herein lies the key, because it is these two forces which actually compliment one another and are necessary elements to help the Kingdom in each one of us to grow and subsequently pour out the goodness that this world so desperately thirsts for.
Indeed, it is not good for the man to be alone, for he is actually not complete as such. At the same time however, he is not inferior either. Truly, men and women have unique attributes which play different roles, and it is crucial to realize that these roles are equal in importance even though they may differ in substance. But yet there is one instance in which one may triumph over the other. Rabbi Schneerson, the seventh leader of the Chabad Lubavitch movement, states that it is the feminine quality of "trans-rational faith" that must guide the masculine quality of rationality and intellectualism (he says this teaching on Jeremiah 31:21). I am inclined to agree with him because it is this faith which makes all things possible and not just theorized, and that is why the woman is the helper who stands in front of him; her faith must go first.
I used to get caught up in the words of Paul which encouraged one to remain single, just like him (1 Corinthians 7:8) and the reasoning goes on to say,
One who is unmarried is concerned about the things of the L-rd, how he may please the L-rd; but one who is married is concerned about the things of the world, how he may please his wife, and his interests are divided. The woman who is unmarried, and the virgin, is concerned about the things of the L-rd, that she may be holy both in body and spirit; but one who is married is concerned about the things of the world, how she may please her husband. This I say for your own benefit; not to put a restraint upon you, but to promote what is appropriate and to secure undistracted devotion to the L-rd. (1 Corinthians 7:32-35)
Yet, G-d Himself said that it was not good for the man to be alone, and the subsequent blessing given, the first blessing in all of Torah, was to be fruitful and multiply. To bring forth abundant life and joy! While it is certainly appropriate to avoid someone who, even if you love them dearly, is causing you to stumble or is not offering the support they ought to for your devotion to the L-rd, there is something to say for that deep loving desire each one of us has within. Yes, because even with the L-rd in our hearts, G-d has still placed these desires within us, and this is a key element to repairing the brokenness of this world. As the text says, men and women were designed to compliment and thus help one another. It's not that G-d's help alone isn't sufficient, it's that part of His help includes teaching us some very important lessons through all of this!
You see, as the Kingdom births within each one of us and as He calls us to carry out His will here on earth, this is not a calling which we have to do alone. That connection, that love that men and women have for another can help us better understand the full scope of G-d's love, and so encourage us to spread that love to others so that all would come to a heart-felt knowledge of His goodness. Not only that, but to be there to support one another in all times of trouble, and demonstrate Messiah to each other, the Holy Spirit working within us, which is the ultimate comforter and encouragement. Alone we may be strong in the L-rd, but together there is the potential for Him to work even more powerfully! Together, with the union of masculine and feminine attributes, we are complete as G-d originally designed us, and the desire for that oneness also teaches us so much about both love and compassion. And without the realization of love and compassion, there would be no hope, and thus, no point.
The love of G-d is so powerful and truly transcends all understanding, and it is this love which can be manifested and realized all that much more through a G-dly relationship set on serving Him and walking in His blessing. It is important however for both parties to have experienced G-d's love and blessing beforehand, for only He can provide true contentment and we must experience this contentment first or else we risk turning the love we experience between one another into an idol. This is what I believe Paul was warning against. But when we have first found true contentment in the L-rd and He subsequently blesses us with a spouse, it only builds upon and helps us to see even more of His ultimate love that He is constantly pouring upon us. Words cannot describe His amazing love and although I am attempting to lay my heart out on paper, I know that as hard as I try, I shall fail miserably at expressing the true depth of what G-d has to offer us and what He is trying to teach us. Clearly, our Heavenly Father has designed the world in such a way that, even within the Garden, something was initially still missing; a final piece of the puzzle to fully express and demonstrate His love. And as I search within I indeed see G-d filling my heart... He is teaching me, guiding me, leading me by the way I should go, but then suddenly... there you are. A woman of faith; a woman of valour; an Eshet Chayil! Truly, you're the half of my whole, there's no mistaking it.