Genesis 23:1 says, “And Sarah was one hundred and twenty and seven years old,” and then we go on to the life of her son Isaac and how he met Rebecca.
The Zohar says there is a lesson to be learned here concerning the deeper secret of Sarah and how her particular life influenced everything else that came after her. In other words, it was Sarah’s influence that brought about almost everything that followed.
Sarah represented the totality, the total unity, like the seed that contains all of the subsequent versions of that seed—the root, the branch, the leaf, the fruit. All of these will diversify and ultimately emerge separately into physical reality, into a world that appears to be governed by time, space, and motion. Sarah embodied the idea of unity, and our effort today is to merge and create unity.
It is only in this physical world that chaos, separation, seems to have emerged. The lesson is that we can transform the illusionary reality of this physical world into a world of unity that is diverse and yet does not embody separation and conflict.
The Bible continues in Genesis 24:67, “And Isaac brought her into the tent of his mother Sarah, and took Rebecca, and she became his wife and he loved her, and Isaac was comforted after his mother’s death.” This seems strange: In modern day romance one falls in love and then contemplates marriage. But to contemplate marriage first and then find out you are in love does not seem to fit with the modern psyche.
The Zohar says this verse teaches us the difference between love based on the physical reality, which involves emotion and therefore psyche, and true love. Many believe that true love is the expression of warmth and excitement—the desires that become aroused, the chemistry that is so wonderful. But this is not a sign of love, according to this verse. On the contrary, the sign of love is something so subtle you just know it is there. You do not feel anything other than not wanting to be without this person for one moment.
The candle that was always lit in the tent of Sarah had gone out when Sarah passed away, and when Isaac brought Rebecca into his mother’s tent, the candle re-ignited, and the Zohar explains that this was when he contemplated taking Rebecca as a wife for he knew that she possessed the same qualities as Sarah—a spirit of unity—the oneness of this entire universe, and a spirit of sharing and caring. These were the aspects that Isaac sought in a future wife, and these are the aspects that people should seek when contemplating marriage today.
True love is a consciousness, and not something you can measure with your five senses. Irrespective of how he might have felt regarding the chemistry or emotional feelings between himself and Rebecca, Isaac knew that to sustain this marriage and the love that would ultimately be generated, it had to be based on this principle of unity—experiencing the diversity and yet always coming back to the same idea that they are one. If this consciousness does not exist irrespective of disagreements, irrespective of not seeing things the same way, this is a sign it is not true love. For we know that ahava or love is the aspect of 13, which is echad, or one. This is true love. It is when you feel unity with the other person, not how you feel with the chemistry between you. And I am not saying that the chemistry does not mesh; those other aspects are also important. I am not here to entirely minimize their importance. But what is of prime importance is how these two people feel about the closeness that manifests itself as unity, as oneness—this is true love.