Rabbi O’s Weekly Parsha: Rabbi O’s Weekly Parsha: Beshalach 

(Exodus 13:17-17:16)

Here’s an obvious grammatical mistake: ‘and the Egyptians was chasing them’. Rashi comes to the rescue and explains that the ‘mistake’ was intentional because it brings home the point that they pursued the Jews after they left Egypt ‘with one desire like one man.’ They were unified in their desire to capture the Jews. They had no particular feeling or love for one another; their shared goal is what united them. As the saying goes, my enemy’s enemy is my friend. People might unify for a goal and even work well together and form personal relationships, but it never lasts because the relationship was based solely on a common enemy. As the Mishna (Pirkei Avos 5:19) says, ‘When love is dependent on something, when the ‘something’ ceases, the love ceases.”

The unity of the Egyptians was practical but there was no bond between them. Each needed the other to help fulfill his own desire – the destruction of the Jewish people. We may not have any feelings for one another—we might even hate each other—but we’ll unite to rout out our mutual enemy. Once that’s done – we have no reason to have a relationship. In 1939 Hitler and Stalin made the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact to work together on a united front but once Hitler no longer needed Stalin, he invaded Russia with millions of soldiers and killed over 25 million Russians in the process.

The same is true for every one of us. If your love is dependent on something that you need or desire from another person, it is without foundation. As soon as you no longer get what you need—or need what you are getting—you will begin to lose the feeling that you have. If you love someone for their beauty, when they get older or someone better-looking comes along, you will lose interest because there are better looking people out there. If you love someone for his or her career or social status, if finances change, so too will the relationship. Consider the case of someone you love because he or she boosts your ego, when you argue, you won’t feel close or anymore. Finally, if you love someone because they give you warmth and love, then when they have their own challenges and can no longer shower you with the emotional validation you are used to, you’re going to start to feel that you might have made a mistake.

Love is contingent upon ‘something’ will last only as long as the ‘something’ does.

The only love that is lasting is ‘love that is based on nothing’ – on nothing that you are looking to gain from the relationship, only that you are forgiving of their humanness and touched by their G-dliness. Granted, initially people form a bond because of some attraction. Love at first is always dependent upon something — whether common interests, common experiences, or physical attraction. But true love transcends this.

True love occurs when the two parties have grown so close to one another, have shared so much together, that their love no longer needs external prodding or stimulation. By sharing their lives and experiences with each other, by giving to each other and growing together, a couple merges into a single entity, caring more about the other — and about the whole — than the individual. You are moved by their goodness and feel a passionate need to hold them close to your heart, mind, and soul—and to give to them. They become your life, and your life becomes theirs. You surrender yourself to the other person and fall into a deeper and more impersonal space that is, at the same time, passionate and transcendent. There are still ups and downs, because we are human – but in essence such love is eternal. This type of love isn’t limited to marriage, deep and meaningful friendships can also be everlasting as long as both people are not in it merely for what they can get out of the friendship.

Indeed, the classic Jewish example of a deep friendship is that between David and Yonatan. David was King Saul’s son in law and Yonaton was the king’s son. One would think there would be natural rivalry concerning who would be the next king, but these two great men had no agenda other than their deep friendship.

Other types of love may bond people very close for as long as it serves to do so. As happened with the Egyptians, however, that ‘love’ will eventually drown in the sea.

Who in your life do you truly love?

Good Shabbos