biblical love story

Jewish Dating Advice from the Bible. Part 2: When Love Isn’t Enough

One of the most frustrating and unfortunate situations to be in is a relationship where you are in love with your partner and he or she is in love with you, but your partner insists that he cannot marry you and breaks up with you. Have you ever been in that situation?

An outside observer might be quick to assume that your partner is obviously “not that into you“, for why else would he break up with someone he is truly in love with? Well, contrary to the famous latin dictum amor vincit omnia (love conquers all), when it comes to choosing a marriage partner, love might not be the only thing you need for matrimonial success.

Jewish Dating Advice

In the bible Abraham marries Sarah. They live together for many decades without a child. Finally, Sarah compels Abraham to take her maidservant Hagar as a second wife. Soon after, Hagar gives birth to a boy (Ishmael). Over a decade later Sarah miraculously gives birth to Isaac and then demands that Abraham banish Hagar and Ishmael. Forty years later Sarah dies and Abraham finds Isaac his mate, Rebecca. Then he marries a woman called Ketura, who bears him many children and lives with him for the rest of his life.

According to Rabbinic teachings (Midrash), Ketura was Hagar, who never married anyone else out of her great love for Abraham. Sure, I would have advised her to move on with her life, but I wasn’t there. So she waited and hoped that Abraham would one day take her back, and he did.
Abraham clearly loved Hagar, for why else would a man of his age (well into his hundreds) marry? Now Hagar was not some unattractive, uneducated, nobody. According to rabbinic tradition Hagar was a beautiful Egyptian princess. So given his love for her, why didn’t Abraham keep her as his wife in the first place?

The obvious answer is that Sarah gave him an ultimatum: either she goes or I go. The rabbinic commentators explain that Abraham knew that his destiny and future lay in Isaac and therefore, despite his love for Hagar, he decided that he must choose Sarah. For Abraham, destiny conquered love. Only once his destiny was assured could he marry Hagar again.

To be happily married you need more than love. You need to share common goals and values. You need trust and respect. You need to believe that your partner will be able to handle all the tough stuff that life will inevitably throw at you. You need to see your partner as the parent to your future children. You can love someone as a lover, but not see them as your spouse. It’s unfortunate when that happens, but it can often be avoided by communicating early in the relationship about what you both are looking for in a spouse, and acting on the information you receive. If your partner tells you, or leads you to believe, that you don’t fit into his or her destiny, don’t do a Hagar and wait around. Find someone who you can build your own destiny with.

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