Pesach and Shir HaShirim

The Jewish festivals are called moadim, from a Hebrew verb meaning “to meet.” They are times for us to have a special close meeting with Hashem. The festivals are also called mikraei kodesh – holy convocations. The following piece dealing with the Jewish festivals, Jewish holiness, and love of Hashem is adapted from the Maggid’s commentary on Shir HaShirim 3:11.
The Torah states (Vayikra 23:2): “Hashem’s appointed festivals that you are to designate as holy convocations – these are My appointed festivals.” On holy days, such as Shabbos and Yom Tov, we anticipate that Hashem will grant us a special awakening to holiness. But to receive this awakening, we must prepare. The Rambam, in Moreh Nevuchim, part III, ch. 51, teaches that Hashem draws close to a person to the same degree that the person draws close to Him. Thus, Shlomo HaMelech declares (Shir HaShirim 7:11): “I am unto my Beloved, and upon me is His desire.” That is, God’s level of yearning for us, and the degree to which He reveals to us His hidden secrets, depends upon us. The Torah exhorts us to designate the festival days as holy convocations – to make an effort, from our station on earth below, to strive toward sanctity and purity. If we do so, then these days become Hashem’s appointed festivals as well – special days on which Hashem awakens us to lofty levels of holiness. We thus see that the root of the holiness of the festival days is our own effort to enhance our level of holiness. As the Zohar puts it: “An awakening below generates an awakening above.”
Shlomo HaMelech declares further (Shir HaShirim 3:11): “Go out and see, O daughters of Zion, the king – the perfect one – in the crown with which his Creator adorned him on the day of his wedding, on the day his heart rejoiced” [the word “king” in this verse is usually read as referring to Hashem, but the Maggid reads it as referring to the Jewish People]. As our Sages state (Shir HaShirim Rabbah on the verse), the wedding day mentioned in this verse is the day of the Giving of the Torah. We can say further that the crown mentioned in this verse alludes to the lofty character traits that the Jewish People received on this day. Although these lofty traits have been compromised by our sins, their basic core remains imprinted within us. Thus, Shlomo HaMelech describes Knesses Yisrael as saying (Shir HaShirim 1:5): “I am blackened, yet beautiful, O daughters of Jerusalem – [I am] like the tents of Kedar, [yet also] like the curtains of Shlomo.” In essence, we are as beautiful as Shlomo’s curtains; we look shabby only because we are soiled by sin. If we cleanse ourselves, our beauty will emerge in its full splendor.
In a similar vein, our Sages teach: “Before praying that words of Torah should enter your heart, plead for mercy that banalities should exit your heart.” Our hearts are designed to serve as vessels for storing spiritual bounty, but much of the storage space is taken up with negative influences – i.e., intellectual and emotional junk. We must clear out this junk. [Although the Maggid does not mention the point here, various sources teach that clearing out the chametz corresponds to clearing out the negative influences within us.] If we do, we then will be able to take in the Torah’s words. The Shema teaches a similar lesson. The first paragraph begins (Devarim 6:5-6): “You shall love Hashem your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your might. And these words that I command you today shall be upon your heart.” The way to gain a feeling of love for Hashem is to shed all other attachments, and place the words of His Torah directly upon our hearts.
David Zucker, Site Administrator

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