Shir HaShirim

Shir HaShirim, couched as a tale of courtship, is an account of the special relationship between Hashem and the Jewish People. The exodus from Egypt is the event that brought forth the Jewish People as a nation – a people bound to Hashem – and for this reason we read Shir HaShirim on Pesach. In Shir HaShirim 1:4, the Jewish People entreat Hashem: “Draw me along and I shall run after you.” The Maggid notes that this request seems self-contradictory. When someone is being drawn along, this indicates that he does not want to go, and must be led by force. But when someone is running after another, this indicates that he wants to meet up with the one he is pursuing. The Maggid explains the request with a clever parable.
A man’s wife died, and he remarried. His son from his first marriage was destitute. The man wanted to provide for his son regularly, but his new wife kept him from doing so. He asked some rabbis for advice. They told him to send his son a signed promissory note stating that he still owes him a certain sum as wedding money. This move would prevent his wife from refusing to let him give his son money. But the ploy did not work: When the son came to his father’s house with the note in hand to collect the money, his stepmother chased him away. “You forged this note,” she bellowed, and the son gave up and left.
After some time, the man ran into his son while traveling, and he asked him why he did not come to collect the money. The son replied: “What can I do? Your wife hollers at me and chases me away.” The father responded: “Let me tell you what to do. Send a rabbinical court officer to summon me to court, and I will then be forced to pay you the money.” The son demurred, saying: “Is this a proper thing to do, for a son to coerce his father to pay him a sum of money by hauling him into court? What will people say?” The father explained: “Don’t be foolish. I am not telling you to actually haul me into court. We are only going to stage a scene to make it look to my wife as if you are forcing me to pay. So send the court officer as I told you. Then, the moment I leave the house, I will come running after you—willingly, without any coercion. For my true desire is to help you, and I would do so right away if my wife weren’t holding me back.”
The parallel is as follows. We are Hashem’s people, and our souls emanate from the Divine Spirit above. Our souls constantly yearn to cleave to Hashem and to serve Him wholeheartedly – the Divine emanation within us is drawn toward the source from which it came. But the evil inclination – the “yeast in the dough,” as our Sages call it (Berachos 17a) – holds us back from improving our ways. Hence we entreat Hashem to pull us along—that is, to compel our evil inclination to acquiesce to the life of serving Him. Once the evil inclination is subdued, we will naturally run after Hashem, for our souls yearn dearly to cleave to Him.
Chag Kasher V’Sameach!
David Zucker, Site Administrator

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