The Sages of Blessed Memory taught that: "When love depends on another factor and then the other factor disappears, the love disappears.
However, if love doesn't depend on any other factor, then it never disappears."
True love and unconditional love aren't simply romantic notions.
As humans created in the image of God, we are born with the capacity to love someone without any expectation of something in return. The role model for this true and unconditional love is God.
According to the mystical tradition, God created the universe through an act of divine contraction. In essence, God's presence had to be made smaller in order to allow room for the universe to be created. In this act of creative divine love, God also created humankind, because out of love, He had to adapt His "existence" in order to allow for the existence of others. We, who are created in God's image, imitate this act of love whenever we manage to minimize our own needs and desires in order to better make room for the needs and desires of the ones we love.
The greatest "contraction" of self is when we choose (if able) to have children.
Any loving parent knows how they need to minimize their own needs on a daily -- and sometimes hourly -- basis, to better provide for the needs of their child.
The formula for marital success is a unique admixture of "contraction" between spouses.
This formula is different for each couple, but it is a combination of luck and labor that provides the foundation for every loving relationship.
"Mazel" (luck) is an important quality of a couple who can manage their individual needs naturally, as the relationship demands, and "Avodah" (labor) is their willingness to work hard at the need to manage one's needs, even when the instinct to do so isn't clearly present.
Relationships grow -- or are stifled -- depending on our willingness to embrace the hard work of true love.
But our ability to succeed at creating and sustaining true love is limited by the dynamic of only being able to control ourselves. Our spiritual health -- and the health of our relationships -- is at its strongest when we are able to look into a mirror and know we really are doing our best.
This Autumn I am blessed with officiating for multiple weddings.
For a clergy person, weddings are one of the great perks of our sacred duties; there is present an abundance of joy. I always pray at the huppah (wedding canopy) that each happy couple should experience the love that Torah says existed between Isaac and Rebecca: Isaac married Rebecca; she became his wife, and he loved her (Genesis 24:67).
The more time that Isaac and Rebecca were married to one another, the more their love for the other grew. For bride and groom: "I pray you should discover and renew the power of true love each and every day, so that your love grows ever stronger."
Constant growth and affirmation of one's true love can become the foundation of love's long-term success.
And what can be true of husband and wife can be true with all of our loving relationships.
Each day, our love for those we cherish and protect can grow stronger and more committed, and in this way, God's presence in our lives -- like the love we, as humans, yearn for -- becomes even more real and true.
May our lives be continually blessed with love, both Divine and human, and may we strive to make the love in our lives ever more sacred, knowing that it is truly a gift from the Source of all life, love, and blessings.
Rabbi Mitchell M. Hurvitz Senior Rabbi Temple Sholom of Greenwich Co-Founder of the Sholom Center for Interfaith Learning and Fellowship and a Past-President of the Greenwich Fellowship of Clergy For an archive of past Greenwich Citizen columns, please visit www.templesholom.com.