Great love stories have obstacles. Boy meets girl, boy marries girl is not a plot; there must be mishaps, distance, reconciliations, passions overcoming everything that seems to threaten the romance. The chambermaid must find the Prince, or the lovers from two warring families embrace.
What is true in romantic life is also true in spiritual life. Devotion to God, Torah and Israel is not easy. The very difficulty is part of the passion, however.
A rabbi once asked a boy why he missed synagogue on Shabbat. “I’m sorry Rabbi, I had a soccer game.” The rabbi looked puzzled. “Soccer, what is this soccer?” The boy was amused and explained the game, and said you have to kick the ball into the goal. The rabbi brightened. “Well, go on Sunday when no one is there, and kick the ball in and come to synagogue on Saturday.”
“No” said the boy, “you don’t understand. It isn’t worth anything if there isn’t someone blocking the goal. It has to be hard. You have to have an obstacle to overcome.”
“Yes,” said the rabbi, “just so.”
Rabbi David Wolpe is spiritual leader of Sinai Temple in Los Angeles. Follow him on Twitter: @RabbiWolpe. His latest book is “David: The Divided Heart” (Yale University Press).