Shir HaShirim

On Shabbos Chol HaMoed Pesach, we read Shir HaShirim, a poetic portrayal of the mutual love between Hashem and the Jewish People. Accordingly, I present a selection from the Maggid’s commentary on Shir HaShirim. In Shir HaShirim 2:4, the Jewish People describe how Hashem lovingly cares for them: “He brought me into the house of wine and lovingly set me under banners.” Shir HaShirim Rabbah 2:13 presents various homiletical interpretations of the closing phrase of this statement, וְדִגְלוֹ עָלַי אַהֲבָה. In particular, the Midrash expounds:
Said R. Acha: “In regard to an ignoramus who reads an expression of love as an expression of enmity – for example, in place ofוְאָהַבְתָּ  (and you shall love) [he reads] וְאָיַבְתָּ (and you shall regard as an enemy) – the Holy One Blessed Be He declares: ‘וְדִלוּגוֹ עָלַי אַהֲבָה’ – ‘his omissions I view with love.’” Said R. Yissachar: “In regard to a schoolboy who reads Mosheh as Masheh, or Aharon as Aharan, or Ephron as Ephran, the Holy One Blessed Be He declares: ‘וְלִגְלוּגוֹ עָלַי אַהֲבָה’ – ‘his garbling I view with love.’”
On occasion, our Sages present teachings based on a garbled reading of a word in a verse. For example, in Mishlei 3:9 it is written:  “Honor Hashem with your wealth (הונך), and with the first of all your produce.” In connection with this verse, the Midrash expounds (Yalkut Shimoni, Nach, 932): “Honor Hashem with what He graced you with (חננך). If you have a pleasant voice, go lead the prayers.” The Maggid explains that it is one of the wonders of Hashem’s Torah that even elementary reading mistakes yield a valid teaching. Hashem constructed the Torah in this way because He cherishes the efforts of a simple man who learns with a whole heart and sincere intent. Hashem regards his faulty reading with the same love as He has for an accurate reading.
The Maggid notes that the gracious attitude Hashem shows toward a simple man’s learning is in line with how He relates in general to all efforts toward serving Him. Hashem is pleased by the humble offering of a poor man just as much as by the lavish offering of a rich man.  Hashem values all sincere efforts at serving Him; He desires only that a person serve Him to the best of his ability. When a semi-literate man makes a sincere effort to learn, Hashem regards his error-riddled reading with the same favor as the precise reading of a scholar who is well versed in grammar. Hashem recognizes that the man has good intentions, but simply lacks the ability to read accurately. Hashem values the learning of simple men so highly that He built into the Torah the capacity to allow even elementary reading mistakes to be given a valid interpretation. Our Sages tell us that, at the Giving of the Torah at Sinai, Hashem showed Moshe every Torah teaching that would ever be developed over the course of history (Yerushalmi, Peah 2:4). It follows that even the interpretations that arise from reading mistakes were conveyed to Moshe at Sinai. This is a clear sign of how much Hashem cherishes the learning of a simple man.
David Zucker, Site Administrator

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