May 20, 2022 -

  • 516-935-5454

Small enough to know you. Large enough to serve you.

Springtime Love (Chold Hamoed – 4/15/17)

Rabbi Neil SchumanThe description, “You’re a religious fanatic!” was commonly hurled at me by certain family members in my youth. I preferred to believe I was a religious idealist! I strove to perceive everything through eyes of the Torah and the rabbis in the Talmud. It didn’t see it then, but in truth, they were right, and that idealism may have made me blind to certain obvious truths.

When Passover came around and we’d read “Shir HaShirim: Song of Songs”, the ultimate love song of the Bible, I immediately transitioned its allegory. It couldn’t be so bane as to just be a love song between a man and woman, rather it was a poem echoing the love and tempestuous relationship between God and the Jewish people.

The Artscroll translation of the book takes this path as well: Chapter 1

  1. The song that excels all songs dedicated to God, the King to Whom peace belongs.
  2. Communicate Your innermost wisdom to me again in loving closeness, for Your friendship is dearer than all earthly delights.

Clearly, the verb is “Kiss”, but they translate it as “Communicate your innermost wisdom to me…

Likewise in verse 4, they translate “Draw me after you…” as

  1. Upon perceiving a mere hint that You wished to draw me, we rushed with perfect faith after You into the wilderness. The King brought me into His cloud-pillared chamber; whatever our travail we shall always be glad and rejoice in Your Torah. We recall Your love more than earthly delights, unrestrainedly do they love You.

Rabbi Michael Gold sees the song unfolding this way: A shepherd girl has dark skin tanned by the sun. Her brothers tried to keep her locked away. But then she is spotted by King Solomon’s retinue and taken into his harem. The young ladies tell her how lucky she is to be in the palace of the king. But she longs to be rescued by her lover, who will come skipping over the mountains to free her. She escapes from the palace to wander through the city where the watchmen see her and mock her. In their search, they both just miss each other, yet the shepherd girl and her lover never cease their longing for one another.

When I would try to learn and teach this book in my youth I was never successful. One verse didn’t connect to the other and one metaphor never lasted more than two lines. I grew quickly frustrated and gave up. It was the one book of the Bible that completely befuddled me.

However, if we try to understand Shir HaShirim as the story of two inflamed lovers then it’s comprehensible. The young shepherd girl longs for her shepherd boy to rescue her, and the shepherd boy pines to be reunited with his love. The text can work, for poetry doesn’t have to conform to logic and serial progression.

There are in fact thousands of poems composed about springtime love.

Alfred Lord Tennyson wrote in his poem, Locksley Hall:

In the Spring a fuller crimson comes upon the robin’s breast;

In the Spring the wanton lapwing gets himself another crest;

In the Spring a livelier iris changes on the burnish’d dove;

In the Spring a young man’s fancy lightly turns to thoughts of love.

Ariel Miles writes in “Spring Love”:

It’s funny how

anything that has to do with spring

will always make me think of you

Simple things like

the color of the sky

& if you leave me I’d be blue.

(http://poemhunter.com/poems/spring-love/page-1/3317085/)

In “The Promise of Spring: a Fibonacci” by Elaine George, the same idea is reiterated:

I

Will

Kiss you

While you sleep

Lady dressed in white

And melt your cold heart made of ice

Then,

You

Will rise

Liquefied

High into the sky

And fall as raindrops from God’s eyes

To

The

Waiting

Buds below

Where now you will grow

With me – in the bloom of a rose

(http://www.lovepoemsandpoets.com/poems/spring)

In my youth, when I ignored the simple meaning of the text and rushed to the allegory, I missed out on the romantic message of this text.

Spring is a time to renew our love. Surely, it’s a time to renew our love of God as well, but God definitely wants us to love our spouses, significant others and family and friends as well.

The magical rebirth and renewal of Spring, with love in the air, is meant to have implications everywhere. Perhaps the reading of Shir HaShirim in the synagogue is meant to inspire us to look at our relationships through new lenses and fan those coals of love once more.

Shabbat Shalom

Manetto Hill Jewish Center
244 Manetto Hill Road, Plainview, NY 11803
516-935-5454|Email Us