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The Zimzum of Love: A New Way of Understanding Marriage
The Zimzum of Love: A New Way of Understanding Marriage
Rob Bell
HarperOne, 2014
160 pp., $24.99

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Jason Hood


The Zimzum of Love

"Energy flows in this space."

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Exec 2: "Exactly. I've been thinking for years he should write an autobiography titled, 'Finally Christian.' But no chance we get him. He's busy selling those surf retreats."

Exec 1: "Don't worry, we've got influence." Jots down a note: "Call Oprah."

Audio from conference call including Acquisitions Editor, Marketing Executive, Junior Publisher, and the Author (RB). Underlined phrases and sentences are ideas found in The Zimzum of Love or its promotional material.

Junior Publisher: "Our team is surprised it took you a year to come up with a first draft for something this short, but I'm glad we're underway."

Acquisitions Editor: "I love the way you start the book with one individual—at first, it's just you—and then another individual, each their own center of gravity. You're making a subtle, profound statement—we don't have to start with God, or community. There's no external center of gravity. Just inviolable, independent individuals, two independent atoms who start to revolve around the relationship in a new center of gravity, just the two of them. Before, it was just you. Now, there are two."

Marketing Editor: "When I was an intern we had someone try to start a marriage book with God's design and plan for the world—you know, Genesis, male-female complementarity, that sort of thing. We talked him off that ledge. Other religious people were talking about what we owe God and how we revolve around him, not ourselves. We tried to get world religions involved but they kept talking about community and marriage. We couldn't market any of that."

AE: "Anyway, you're doing well. But we need a gimmick, a hook that jumps off the bookstore rack. Something Eastern-sounding. Remember, you're touring with Deepak now."

RB: "Okay. Let me dig through some esoterica and get back with you." RB scribbles a note to himself: "A word that sounds Eastern?"

Months later, another conference call, same participants:

JP: "Rob, I've been worried. Normally these books take six weeks to write—a few lovely stories, basic relationship principles, etc."

RB: "I've got stories. But now I've got something else, that magic gimmick-hook thing. Tsimtsum."

ME: "Dimsum?"

JP: "Sounds like a stretch, Rob."

RB: "No, Tsimtsum."

ME: "I hear it now. Eastern religion. Ancient flavoring. I love it. Tell me more."

RB: "It's Jewish, in fact, and only a few hundred years old, not ancient. When God wanted to create the world, God had to contract. God pulls away from the world to create room for something other than God to exist and thrive."

ME: "Um, before we get specific let's firm up the brand. The ancient Hebrew concept of Tsimtsum.' Sounds trustworthy. Has an ad fontes sheen. Sells much better than 'post-medieval' or 'early modern.'"

RB: "Okay. We can freshen it up as 'Zimzum.' And you can use it as a verb."

ME: "'An ancient new way of understanding marriage.' That's the subtitle."

JP: "But let's slow down, because I'm getting stuck here. What does zimzum have to do with marriage?"

RE: "Well, we create space. Like God."

AE: "Like deism? You pull away from the person to save the relationship? Brilliant. Codependency seems like a limited audience, but maybe there's hidden gold there. I know I always need some space from my partner. That's why I volunteered to edit the collected works of Jacob Neusner."

RB: "No, it's not deism … see, there's this space between you and your partner, and energy flows in this space. It's like creation: God zimzums, creating and making space in love for something Other. 'Tsimtsum' means to "unleash energy and create space for someone to thrive while they're doing the same for you, unleashing energy and generating the flow that is the lifeblood of marriage."

ME: "I'm confused. Are you making space and contracting, or are you moving forward with energy?

AE: "And is zimzum a place or an abstract concept? Or is it a verb? Or is this just a metaphor?"

RB: "Actually, it's Kabbalah."

ME: "Don't tell people that. Madonna cornered Kabbalah. And she's lame. Please continue."

RB: "As you intentionally create space for this person in your life and they create space in their life for you, this movement creates space between you—space that has an energetic flow to it … like an energy field or an electric current. We zimzum this Space that is responsive, sacred, dynamic, and it contains a flow of energy where we become quantumly entangled with one another. The energy field is at the heart of marriage. You can learn about, label, and impact this flow of energy. Marriage is awesome because the upside is infinite."

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