Shir HaShirim, usually read by Ashkenazim on Shabbat Chol HaMoed Pesach (1) and by Sephardim before every Shabbat, presents on the surface as a secular love poem. In fact, it was the last (or among the last) scroll to be accepted into the canon (Mishna Yadayim 3:5). Understood as a metaphor of the love between God and the Jewish People, we can understand how it really is integral to the Written Torah.
Most rabbinic texts that I’ve studied emphasize God’s great love for Am Yisrael. Often overlooked, and perhaps of much greater urgency is what is left unsaid. We, the Jewish People, need to love our Creator just as passionately as He loves us, not merely intellectually. Taking our cue from the twice-daily Shema, loving requires all of our heart, not only our mind.
If mountains and rivers and valleys, representing the physical world, tremble and leap in the Psalms of Kabbalat Shabbat, to greet God with the approach of that closer Shabbat relationship, can we do any less?
- This year, as with all years when Pesach begins on Shabbat, Shir HaShirim is read first day in Eretz Yisrael and last day in the diaspora.