By Rabbi David Aaron
Real love is a process of getting to know somebody. To love you I have to get to know you because how can I make a big space inside of me to include you if I don’t know who you are? So if I just met you, I can’t even begin to know who you are. However, I might spend a great deal of time with you over long periods and still not know you.
My friend David was going out with a woman to whom he ultimately became engaged. Then, one day, shortly before the wedding, he went to see her. It was raining outside and he had borrowed a friend’s raincoat, which just happened to be one of those hip Australian oilskins like those that ranchers in the outback wear. He came into her house, and she took one look at him and said, “Just like I’ve always pictured you.”
“What do you mean-in the rain? What are you talking about?”
“That’s how I’ve always seen you-riding on the range.”
“But I’ve never even been on a horse,” David said.
At that moment he realized that, with the coat, he looked something like the Marlboro Man, and maybe she was picturing him as somebody else. Maybe she had somebody else in mind and had only projected her image of what she wanted onto him. And suddenly it hit him. The whole time they were dating, she was “cheating” on him. She was seeing another man, and that man was him. She was in love with her fantasy, not with who he really was.
People are often in love with love. They are fantasizing their own love story. What they don’t realize is that it isn’t this person whom they love. This person merely represents the person they want to love. They love love, not the person they are with.
Because truly, they don’t even know the person they are with. That’s a very serious problem.
Love is a process of getting to know somebody. Because how can I make a big space inside of me to include you, if I don’t know who you are? So, if I just met you, I can’t even begin to know who you are. Indeed, I might even spend a great deal of time with you over a long period of time and still not know you.
There is a wonderful Hassidic story of two men who are enjoying a drink together, and the one guy says to the other. “You know you are my best friend. I love you.”
And the other guy responds, “Oh yeah? If you really love me, tell me what’s hurting me?”
Of course, he is saying, if you love me, you know me — you know what’s hurting me.
All too often when we realize that we don’t know the other person is when we realize that we are not in love.
In the movie, The Graduate, in which a young man is having an affair with the mother of his own fianc�, there is a scene that brings home this point. Dustin Hoffman tells Ann Bancroft, who is playing the mother, that he can’t go on with the affair anymore.
And she looks at him with eyes of love and asks what’s wrong. “I love you!” she says.
But he says he can’t do this anymore.
She presses: “Why not?”
“Because,” he says, “I don’t even know your first name, Mrs. Robinson.”
They are having an affair, she loves him, but he doesn’t even know her first name!
This is actually the problem with the relationship between the first man and woman in the Garden of Eden. It was love at first sight. “And Adam said, ‘ this is flesh of my flesh, bone of my bone: she shall be called woman, because she was taken out of man.'” This was the original fall in love. Only after the sin and the tension it caused in their relationship that Adam recognizes the woman deserves her own name. “And Adam called his wife’s name Eve…” Prior to the sin he did not acknowledge her as an independent character with a name. He did not appreciate her uniqueness, nor did he sufficiently respect her as an individual, who is other than himself. He saw his wife only in terms of himself; as an extension of himself. He was man and she was woman. They were essentially one and the same. He was enthralled with their oneness; however, he failed to see that she was other than himself, another human being, with her own character.
Only after the breakdown in their relationship did their quest and work for true oneness and love start. Only then did he acknowledge her as different and other than him. Now he is Adam and she is Eve. Now they are different and now they can do the work to get to know each other, making the space to include each other, help each other and become one. It is very significant that only then does the Torah tell us, “And Adam knew his wife Eve.”
An excerpt from Endless Light.