Love at First Sight

Dear Rabbi Fried,

I am 37 years old and have been looking for “Mr. Right” for a long time. Two weeks ago I met a man who feels it was love at first sight, and we want to get married. I’m torn about it, because I also feel like I’ve fallen in love with him, but it’s been such a short a time. Does that matter, and does Judaism have a way to tell if love is really love? He’s a nice Jewish man and I don’t want to lose him but also don’t want to do the wrong thing.

Impatient and Confused

Dear Impatient and Confused,

Judaism distinguishes affection, attraction, and desire from love. True Love encompasses the former, but attraction and desire doesn’t necessarily include love. 

Love, in the eyes of Judaism, is not something which “happens” or that one “falls into,” like the Western cliché. The Torah teaches that one may fall into a pit, but not into Love!

Love, rather, is something which one builds, nurtures and develops by devotion and giving. In Hebrew the word for love is ahava, which comes from the root “hav,” which means “to give.” The more one gives and invests in his partner, the more love there is. This is also why the numeric value of “ahava/love” equals that of “echad/one.” Through love two spouses become as one. “Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and cling to his wife and they shall become one flesh”.

This does not just happen on its own. It is, rather, a connection which develops, with much work, over years and continues throughout our lifetime.

The feelings you have for this man are a good beginning. There is certainly an important place for attraction in love. But two weeks isn’t nearly long enough to determine if he’s “Mr. Right.” You must be careful not to confuse love with infatuation.

Furthermore, one should always refrain from making important decisions quickly and under pressure. 

You should allow yourself ample time to know this man in varied situations. See how he reacts to stress and anger. See how he reacts when someone cuts him off in traffic. Check his honesty and real devotion. You don’t need to go overboard, but allow yourself that necessary time to be sure the initial feelings last. Also, you must determine that you both have like goals in life. And if he insists on getting engaged this quickly or else he threatens to leave, then perhaps you might call his bluff, but don’t submit to pressure and wait until you are truly ready. 

I also recommend you find a Rabbi you’re comfortable with, to help advise you at this crucial juncture of your life. The Rabbis teach that there are three partners in marriage, the husband, the wife and G-d. When enough time has been spent together and you feel it is right, you need not fear moving ahead. At that point trust in the third partner, the Almighty, to have steered you in the right direction. A Rabbi you know and trust can help you with that. 

Good luck!

Rabbi Yerachmiel Fried

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