Even if we have mixed feelings about Valentine’s Day (is it a holiday about love? Greeting cards? Flowers?), our thoughts today often turn toward the nature of our sacred relationships. One of my favorite Jewish meditations on love can be found in “Fiddler on the Roof,” when Tevye and Golde sing “Do You Love Me,” to each other. The song takes us back to the anxiety of their wedding day, when they would meet for the very first time. They describe themselves as scared, shy, and nervous, unsure of how the rest of their lives would unfold living with a perfect stranger. “What if we had nothing to say to each other?” “What if my “bashert” (my destiny) was living in another shtetl?
Despite these fears, the song redefines the meaning of love, observing that over the course of twenty-five years, Tevye and Golde have shared a life together: they’ve cooked and cleaned, celebrated Shabbat, raised five daughters, and muddled through the hardships of poverty and oppression. As Golde replies, in a barbed rejoinder to the idea of romantic love, “If that’s not love, what is?”
These days, we no longer depend on the village “yentas,” to find a mate, but instead rely on the all-knowing “super-empowered” yentas of the internet. But even as our romantic possibilities have expanded, the wisdom of Tevye and Golde remain as true today as it was for our great-grandparents. We find true love not in the grand romantic gesture, but in our constancy and our commitment to a covenant of mutual obligation and reciprocity. Indeed, when we are fully present for our loved ones, every day becomes another opportunity to sustain and build our most valued and meaningful relationships.