Pesach – Shir HaShirim

On Pesach, we read Shir HaShirim, so I present here a selection from the Maggid’s commentary on Shir HaShirim in Kol Yaakov. It is written (Shir HaShirim 8:1): “Would that you would be like a brother to Me …. I shall find you in the open, I shall kiss you – and I shall not be mocked.” Rashi and other commentators interpret this verse as a statement by the Jewish People to Hashem, but the Maggid interprets the verse as a statement by Hashem to the Jewish People. He develops one of his explanations of the verse from a Midrash in Bereishis Rabbah 39:1:
“And Hashem said to Abram: ‘Go you forth from your land’” (Bereishis 12:1). R. Yitzchak spoke up [quoting Tehillim 45:11]: “Hear, O daughter, and see. Incline your ear and forget your people and your father’s house.” [The Midrash expounds on this verse and then continues:] “For the King desires your beauty, for He is your master” (ibid. 45:12). “For the King desires your beauty” – to beautify you within the world.
The end of this Midrash indicates that Hashem desires to adorn a righteous man with lavish worldly blessings. Yet we know that certain righteous men suffer. The major Torah commentators all deal with the question of why this is so.
They answer that Hashem imposes suffering on a righteous man when he cannot resist the temptation to chase after luxuries, which cause spiritual harm. Hence a completely righteous man, who is immune to this risk, is granted a life of blessing. The completely righteous man partakes of his worldly bounty only to the extent needed to sustain himself; he has no hankering at all for luxuries. We know of supremely pious men who were blessed with great wealth, but drew from it only the minimum required to satisfy their basic needs.
For example, our holy teacher Rabbi Yehudah HaNasi raised his ten fingers upward just before his death and declared (Kesubos 104a): “Master of the Universe! It is revealed and known before You that I toiled in Torah with my ten fingers and I took no benefit [from material blessings] even with my little finger.” Hashem knew that Rabbi Yehudah HaNasi would not be harmed by wealth, for he would make use of it only to the extent necessary, without indulging in luxuries. Hence Hashem granted him great wealth, in order to increase his fame.
The Midrash we quoted above brings out this idea. The Midrash begins by quoting Tehillim 45:11: “Hear, O daughter, and see. Incline your ear and forget your people and your father’s house.” This verse is telling us to cast off our inborn physical desires. If we do so, then we merit the blessing indicated in the verse that follows, Tehillim 45:12: “For the King desires your beauty, for He is your Master.” Hashem will adorn us with wealth and honor, for we will be immune to the spiritual harm that such blessing can cause.
Our verse brings out this idea as well. Hashem exclaims: “Would that you would be like a brother to Me!” Hashem exhorts us to subjugate our drives under the rule of our intellect: to totally cast off our hankerings for illusory worldly pleasures, so that our every move is dictated solely by intellect. If we do so, Hashem tells us, then: “I shall find you in the open, I shall kiss you – and I shall not be mocked.” Hashem is saying: “When you fortify yourselves spiritually, I will be able to shower you with material blessing. I thus will be able to dispose of the cynical claim of the wicked, that I hate righteous men and therefore grant them only a bare minimum of material good. They will be forced to admit that I love righteous men, and seek only to promote their welfare. The wicked will see that I withheld material blessing from the righteous only out of a desire to protect them from spiritual harm. It is only when the righteous were not yet spiritually strong enough to handle material blessing that I held it back. But when they became strong enough, I granted them blessing in great abundance.”
David Zucker, Site Administrator

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