I recently finished watching two seasons of the show Love Is Blind, where couples date and propose to each other sight unseen by simply talking to each other in pods where they are physically separated by a wall. The purpose of the show is a social experiment to determine whether people can fall in love just for who they are inside, without seeing each other and factoring in physical looks, class, race, ethnicity, etc.
It’s a fascinating show as the couples that get engaged sight unseen then actually meet each other (i.e., see each other for the first time) and then go into the real world and, of course, face challenges and fights.
I won’t spoil the show for you, but let’s just say, the results are inconclusive as to whether love is really blind and whether what’s inside of people can trump the physical attraction and other superficialities that typically we see at first. In a sense, the show is analogous to Judaism in terms of whether we can consider and reflect on the soul of the person (the breath of G-d inside us) versus the external physical body and socioeconomic circumstances of a person.
Interestingly, in this regard for Shabbat Shuva, the Rabbi today spoke about teshuvah and our ability as people to change and raised the question:
Are we a body with a soul inside or a soul with a body outside?
In short, the question is what is the primary and what is the secondary of who we really are as people. Perhaps, some would say simply that we’re both body and soul equally. We have a Yetzer Hara (evil inclination) that is driven by all of our endless physical/body needs and desires, and we have a Yetzer Tov (good inclination) that is driven by our soul’s search for G-d, holiness, and true meaning in this world.
Similarly, Rabbi Moshe Chaim Luzzatto, in the book “Derech Hashem” (The Way of G-d) teaches us that our body is geared towards the physical and our soul towards the spiritual. However, it is the soul that is clearly the primary, and the body is secondary in order to serve the soul in order to elevate itself, strive for perfection, and work to attain closeness to the Almighty G-d. We do this by working to make the physical and mundane into something that is holy and spiritual by recognizing, loving, and serving G-d in everything we do. As Rabbi Luzzatto says:
Man was only created to cleave to his creator, and that he was placed in this world to suppress his (evil) inclination and subordinate himself to his Creator with the power of the intellect — the opposite of the desire of materiality and its inclination.
Thus, Rabbi Luzzatto continues:
The true intention of all of the commandments would be to come close to Him, may He be blessed, and to be enlightened by the light of His countenance. And (the intention) of preventing sins is to escape from being distanced from Him.
In short, the soul and body are in a type of partnership in fulfilling our purpose in this world, which is to refine our character, learn, grow, and work to perfect ourselves so we can merit to bask in G-d’s Divine Countenance of light, love, and holiness. By passing the tests of the physical world, we turn our spiritual potential for good into actuality.
If we as human beings pass the tests that Hashem provides for us, then we in essence remove our spiritual impurities and darkness so that we can cleave to Him, who is the ultimate of good and holiness. Furthermore, at the time of resurrection, our bodies will no longer hide the light of our souls inside and behind the veil of our physicality, but instead, our souls will literally shine through our bodies like a candle in a glass lantern. That is the time when the primacy of our G-dly souls and the subservience of our physical bodies to it will shine forth brightly and everyone will recognize the truth, oneness, and perfection of G-d.
As long as in this material world, the body hides the soul of the person, then love can never be fully blind because people cannot see the true brightness of the soul inside or realize the primacy of people’s spiritual inner selves without getting distracted by the physical aspects of the person, including attraction (which as we all know fades over time) and, of course, class, race, and ethnicity. Yes, physical/chemical attraction is an important part of intimate relationships, but at the end of the day, it’s what’s inside that counts, not only in this world, but for our eternal being and purpose.