Leo Finkle's capacity for loving humans correlates directly with his capacity for loving God. Finkle realizes and ruefully acknowledges this correlation during and after a lengthy and uncomfortable conversation with school teacher Lily Hirschorn, several years older than he, who asks, “When . . . did you become enamored of God?”
Although furious at marriage broker Salzman for misleading both of them, Leo responds honestly: "I am not . . . a talented religious person. . . . I think. . . .that I came to God not because I love Him, but because I did not. . . .” Meditating on their conversation, Finkle faces “the true nature of his relationship to God.” As he faces that relationship, he realizes “that apart from his parents, he had never loved anyone. Or perhaps it went the other way, that he did not love God so well as he might, because he had not loved man.”
In despair, Finkle descends into a deep and lengthy depression, from which he is redeemed by the sudden, inexplicable, but genuine love which wrenches him to the soul when he beholds the photograph of Salzman’s “wild” daughter, Stella, who is “dead” to her father. Humbly stating that he might be of service to Stella, Finkle persuades Salzman to arrange a meeting. When he sees her waiting tentatively, dressed in white [for purity] and red shoes [for pain and experience], his soul explodes with love: “From afar he saw that her eyes--clearly her father's--were filled with desperate innocence. He pictured, in her, his own redemption.” Able at last to love a human, Finkle will now be capable of loving God.