Life is a love story. In the beginning, there is just you. In order to love, you need to withdraw yourself from the center and create a space for an other. Love starts only when you do that-move your self out of the way to make room for another person in your life.
In other words, if you are self-centered, you are not ready for love. If you are self-centered, you can't make enough space to nurture an other. And true love is not only creating that space within your life for an other, but giving him or her that space and respecting and maintaining that space. It is being a part of another life and removed from that life at the same time.
And once we're able to withdraw ourselves from the center and create space for an other, we must develop a keen sensitivity for just how uniquely different-just how other-our partner is. When we fall in love, we tend to see what we have in common and overlook the differences. That is what the expression "Love is blind" means. But true love is not blind. True love is seeing-seeing the differences, the otherness, the good and the bad. True love is seeing and still loving.
In Hebrew, the verb "to see" is directly related to the verb "to respect." And that is what seeing with the eyes of true love means. True love requires that we see and accept and respect those we love for who they are, without projecting our dreams and fantasies upon them. That is very hard, because we tend to try to fit those we love into our imaginary pictures of love. And if they don't quite fit, we try to alter them to fit.
But if we succeed in seeing not just what we have in common with those we love, but what makes us different, and if we appreciate and honor those differences, then we can take the next step, toward giving of ourselves to our partners. And simultaneously we must enable our partners to do the same for us, allowing them to make a space in their lives for us, allowing them to acknowledge and respect our otherness, and allowing them to give of themselves to us.
When G-d said to Abraham Lech Lecha, what was He actually asking Abraham to do? If this command really means “Go to yourself,” it seems to be contradicted by the remainder of the statement: “…from your country, from your birthplace and from your father’s home.” Are these not the fundamental elements that make up a person’s sense of self? My nation, my birthplace and family together create the context for my identity and establish the vital ground for my sense of self. In addition, they represent citizenship, property rights, and inheritance, all essential sources of personal security.
What G-d is actually saying to Abraham is, “Go to yourself and leave yourself,” bidding him to seek himself and at the same time abandon everything that establishes and confirms selfhood. The very order of the statement verifies this, as it is not in chronological order. A person first leaves his father’s home, then his birthplace and then finally the country’s borders, not the other way around. Clearly, G-d’s intention is not just a geographical move, but also a spiritual journey, expressed in the order of psychological difficulty. Abraham is summoned to seek a new identity, a higher self-independent of nationality, land and family. Ready to let go of normative self-definitions, Abraham accepts this new identity. Unlike the usual person whose self, identity and security are founded upon and confirmed by nationality, land or family, Abraham’s new identity is founded upon his relationship to and love for G-d.
If you define yourself through your relationship to G-d, then G-d, the Eternal, becomes part of your personal definition and identity. In doing so, you discover your higher immortal self. Abraham paved the way back to mankind’s immortality and godliness. He accepted the greatest gift—the Divine Spirit immanent within humanity.
Abraham understood that you discover your higher self when you show your love for G-d.
The concept of a soul mate is very misunderstood these days. We seem to think that we can recognize our soul mates the moment we meet-love at first sight.
A student once said to me, "Don't you think I would know my soul mate if I met her?"
So I asked him, "Do you know yourself?"
How many people think they would know their soul mates instantly, when they don't even know themselves? And somehow they think also that an encounter with a soul mate is an event preordained in heaven, and therefore is accompanied by all kinds of signs from above.
Indeed, unusual occurrences can happen. But beware of signs; G-d is only testing you to see if you can make responsible choices.
If you are looking for some mystical assurance that your relationship was made in heaven, you should recognize that the only thing made in heaven is what you are going to build on earth. That is it.
Not too long ago, I did a singles workshop in Manhattan. The place was packed. I asked the participants to write a list of what they were looking for in a future partner. I then asked for volunteers to share their list with the crowd. People anxiously put up their hands hoping that by the end of their reading some other lonely soul would call out, "Yoo-hoo, here I am."
So my first volunteer got up, and he nervously read: "I am looking for someone who is warm, soft, calm ... " At that point someone rudely called out: "Get the guy a cat." The crowd burst into laughter. Not exactly a love-your-neighbor-as-yourself scene. After that all the volunteers' hands quickly went down.
I then cautioned the group that lists like these can be misleading because they are only describing a persona, and not a soul. The question is are you looking for a persona partner or a soul mate? Lists can sometimes get in the way of meeting your soul mate.
There is a wonderful old children's story that illustrates how we all yearn to be loved for our true selves.
Once upon a time, there lived a very good but very poor couple, who had a son. When the boy was born a relative sent some expensive and elegant cloth as a birthday present. The mother stored it away and said, "When my son will be a man I will send him into this world with a beautiful robe made of this material."
One day, when the boy grew up, a rich merchant invited all the town's people to a feast. The son came in his usual tattered clothing, and no one made room for him at the table. Broken-hearted at the rejection, he went home.
To console him, his mother gave him a beautiful robe made from the elegant cloth she had stored away all these years. The boy returned to the feast dressed in his new finery.
The rich man saw him, rushed over and bowed, and asked him to sit beside him. The boy took off his elegant robe, holding it by the food and said, "Eat robe, eat as much as you want."
"Why are you talking to your coat?" asked the rich man.
"Because when I was here before, in poor clothing, no one paid any attention to me. But now I come in fancy robe and you treat me royally. It is clearly not myself you invited to eat beside you, but my robe."