Shir HaShirim

On Pesach we read Shir HaShirim, which describes the bond of love between Hashem and the Jewish People – a bond that was formed at the time of the Exodus. I present here a selection from the Maggid’s commentary on Shir HaShirim.
Shlomo HaMelech writes (Shir HaShirim 7:7): “How beautiful and how pleasant you are, O love laden with delights!” The aim of this verse, the Maggid says, is to point out how the love between Hashem and the Jewish People differs from the typical love relationship between two people. Typically, when one person shows love for another, the loved one does not take delight in this love in and of itself. Rather, he or she values the love only on account of the kindnesses the lover does for him or her because of it. If the loved one knows that the lover does not plan to do him or her any special favors, he or she will not feel any real joy from the love. For example, if a man has a servant who loves him wholeheartedly, but is lazy and sloppy in his work, the servant’s love will be worthless to him.
The love between Hashem and His people Yisrael is of the opposite sort. Our Father in Heaven values our love for Him even if no good deeds result from it. Indeed, when the Torah says (Devarim 6:5), “You shall love Hashem your God,” the Torah is telling us that love of Hashem is in itself a mitzvah. And likewise, the love that Hashem shows for us is sweet and pleasing to us independent of any specific benefit. Thus, Shlomo HaMelech writes (Shir HaShirim 1:2), “Your love is more pleasing than wine,” with the term “wine” representing all worldly blessings. Similarly, Dovid HaMelech declares (Tehillim 63:4): “For Your kindnesses are better than life.” Asaph also expresses this idea, stating (ibid. 73:28): “But as for me, God’s closeness is my good.” Hashem’s devoted love for us is in itself a source of joy.
Tehillim 4 includes a brief discussion of those who do not adopt this lofty attitude. Dovid HaMelech describes such people as saying (ibid. 4:7): “Who will show us good?” These people are not satisfied with Hashem’s love in and of itself. Instead, they hanker to see concrete benefit from this love. Dovid concludes by declaring that he is of a different mind (ibid. 4:8, homiletically): “You brought joy to my heart at the time their grain and wine became abundant.” Dovid is saying: “My chief joy is Your love and Your greatness. Hence, when You grant bounty to others, this, too, heightens my joy and exultation.”
This is the idea behind our verse: “How beautiful and how pleasant you are, O love laden with delights!” The message is that the love in itself is a great delight. The point is brought out even more sharply in the earlier verse that we quoted just above (Shir HaShirim 1:2): “Your love is more pleasing than wine.” If a person takes delight in love someone shows him only because of the benefits the lover provides, then it does not matter whether the lover provides these benefits directly or through an emissary. But if the person takes delight mainly in the love itself, then he or she feels special pleasure when the lover gives a gift directly, for this shows how great the love is. Knesses Yisrael declares that a show of love from Hashem is worth more than any worldly blessing. Indeed, this is the intelligentattitude toward benefits Hashem provides. Only a fool delights in the benefits alone. A man of true wisdom, while he values the benefits, delights more in the love that Hashem shows in providing them.
Chag Kasher V’Sameach!
David Zucker, Site Administrator

Leave a comment

You must be logged in to post a comment.