The three-mile flat loop around the beautiful urban Lake Merritt in Oakland is rarely empty as people of all colors, traditions, style, and ages are running, pushing strollers, walking, talking. I catch trails of conversation passing by others, nodding, smiling with a ‘have a good day’: “She said they might get back together”; “he said that…”; “I don’t know what to do about her”; “It’s so complicated between us; I don’t quite understand what he…”
It seems that relationships take up a front and center place of our time and attention. Sharing life with another human being can be the most powerful and beautiful, and just as much painful and challenging experience a person can have. It can bring us the most pleasure, blissful times; it can drive us up the wall, dragging us down to desperate, sad, dark places. We aggravated facing the other; we’re even more pained when we dare look at ourselves. We think we’re the only ones dealing with this, and sometimes we are. But sometimes we’re also just very isolated and unaware that even “good relationship” and long term couples, have great challenges; that it’s not all a ride into the sunset with a “live happily ever after” caption smeared across the screen.
How do couples make it through life’s hurdles? We have each experienced ups and downs in our lives. Nevertheless, we believe it’s possible and we believe there is great value in learning not only from pathology and mishap but from relationships that are considered lasting and successful.
We have therefore opted to be introduced and reintroduced to four timeless couples. According to tradition, the Cave of Machpela, literally meaning “the cave of the doubles” in the city of Hebron, nestled in the Judean hills, holds the graves of four couples: Adam & Eve (or Havah in Hebrew), Abraham & Sarah, Isaac & Rebecca and Jacob & Leah – the first four couples mentioned in the Hebrew Bible, and according to that traditions, the first major four couple in the world.
Much of the Book of Genesis deals with their lives. Every incident, every line though the often crypt description is full of meaning and significance. The ancient text comes to life as we close our eyes and note, not just the written text (and problematic translation) but the spaces in between; when we allow ourselves to explore what “really” happened in the lives of these couples at home, in the garden, on the road, behind the tent walls and the veil’s cloth; what were their relationships like?