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Shabbat Chol haMoed Pesach 04/02/2010

Shabbat Chol haMoed Pesach

submitted by Robert Rabinoff

On Shabbat Chol HaMoed Pesach we read Shir haShirim (Song of Songs).  This beautiful book/lyrical poem, which many also recite during Kabbalat Shabbat services, is a love story, and was almost left out of the canon.  R. Akiva argued that if all the books of Tanach are holy, then this is the Holy of Holies.  Besides its substantial literary merits, why is it held in such high regard?

We must understand that Shir haShirim is not a love poem about individuals – it was canonized because it is to be understood allegorically as a representation of the love between Gd and Israel.  Indeed Rashi, whose commentary always focuses on the plain meaning of the verses, explains this book entirely allegorically.  Were it not understood that way, it would never have been accepted into the canon in the first place.

Freud identified eros, love, as the force that integrates, that draws disparate natures closer together, and unites them into a greater whole.  In this sense it is opposite to thanatos, or death, which is the entropic tendency towards dis-integration and inertia (now you understand Woody Allen better <g>).  There are no two natures more disparate than Gd, Who is infinite, and any of His creatures, which are finite.  Yet it is the power of love that it can bridge even this gap.

Gd loves Israel and shines His countenance on us; our Torah and our way of life allow us to bask in the light of infinity.  And Israel is in love with Gd, as it says “You shall love H” your Gd, with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your might.”  And this love moves us ever closer to Gd, ever expanding our hearts and our minds towards infinity, infusing the precious, infinite value of life into inert matter, until all matter and all spirit sing Gd’s praises.

On Pesach we celebrate our redemption from Egyptian bondage, but we know, both from history and from our present situation, that this redemption was only partial.  We are still not completely free.  We are still a small people in a small land, and we are still buffeted by external forces, most of them hostile.  On this Shabbat, when we read Shir haShirim, let’s let our minds soar and imagine clearly what it will be like at the time of the final Redemption, when all people will truly be free, liberated from narrowness of mind and heart, free to express their innate love for one another and for Gd.  “Love!  It’s a new world Golda!”  With Gd’s help may we experience this new world speedily and in our day.