The Lovesick People:
“I am sick with love” (Song of Songs 2:5) – Bereft of Your Presence, I am sick with love. (ArtScroll ShirHaShirim)
In the previous letter, we discussed Shir HaShirim – the Song of Songs – the allegorical love song between Hashem and Israel, where Hashem is the Groom/Husband and Israel is the bride/wife. We showed how this allegory is one that is often used by the Prophets of Israel, and we also discussed some of the universal implications of this sacred love song between Israel and her Beloved. In addition, we cited a beautiful reference within this song to our yearning for the Shechinah – the Presence of the Beloved. In this letter, we will discuss a deeper meaning of the following verse from this allegorical love song where Israel expresses her yearning for her Beloved:
“Sustain me with dainties, spread out apples around me, for I am sick with love.” (2:5)
The ArtScroll Shir HaShirim cites certain sources which indicate that the dainties and apples refer to comforting and healing teachings which strengthen Israel during the suffering of her exile. Israel requests these comforting and healing teachings, for she is lovesick for her Beloved.
The classical commentator, Metzudas David, adds another dimension to our understanding of the words, “I am sick with love.” He explains that Israel is seeking courage, strength, and comfort through the return of the Shechinah – the Presence of her Beloved. Israel is therefore saying, “My soul yearns for Her.”
Shabbos – the Sacred Seventh Day - gives us a “taste” of the comfort and joy that we will feel when we are fully reunited with the Shechinah, for the Midrash states, “When Shabbos enters, the Shechinah comes” (Yalkut Reuveni on Exodus 31:16), In this spirit, I will cite the following excerpt from a poetic song which is sung at the Friday night Shabbos table and which refers to the Shechinah:
“Let us now invite Her with a newly-laid table, and with a well-lit menorah that casts light on all heads.” (Askinu Seudasa/Azamer Bishvachin by the Arizal, Rabbi Yitzchak Luria)
Have a Good, Sweet, and Light-Filled Shabbos,
Yosef Ben Shlomo Hakohen (See below)
Related Teachings and Comments:
1. In Aramaic, a language which is closely related to Hebrew, the verb racham often means “love”; thus, a beautiful Aramaic name for Hashem which is used by our sages is Rachmana – a term which can be translated as, “the Loving One.” The Compassionate One is also the Loving One.
When the Hebrew word for “love” appears in the Torah, the ancient Aramaic translation of the Torah known as “Targum Onkelos” usually translates it by using a variation of the word racham. The following verses are among the many examples: Genesis 25:28 and Deuteronomy 6:5. Within the Book of Psalms, we find another example of how racham connotes love, where King David proclaimed: Erchamcha Hashem – I love you, Hashem (Psalm 18:2 – Translation of the Targum, Rashi, and Radak).
2. Regarding the proper love for our Beloved, Maimonides explains in his Mishneh Torah that we are to be constantly enraptured by this love like a love-sick individual whose mind is never free of his love for a particular woman – the thought of her filling his heart at all times, when sitting down or rising up, and when eating or drinking. Even more intense, says Maimonides, should be the love of Hashem in the hearts of those who love Him, and this love should constantly absorb an individual, as we were commanded, “And you shall love, Hashem, your God, with all your heart and with all your soul” (Deut. 6:5); moreover, Solomon expressed this allegorically in the words, “I am sick with love” (Song of Songs 2:5). And Maimonides concludes: “The entire song of Songs is an allegorical description of this love.” (Mishneh Torah, Hilchos Teshuvah 10:3).
3. At the third Shabbos meal, which begins before sunset on Shabbos day, it is customary to sing a love song to Hashem known as, “Yedid Nefesh” – Beloved of the Soul. The composer of Yedid Nefesh is Rabbi Eliezer Azikri, one of the great kabbalists and halachic scholars of the sixteenth-century who lived in Tsfas (Safed), a city in the Land of Israel. The following is an English translation:
“Beloved of the soul, Compassionate Father, draw your servant to Your will. Then your servant will hurry like a hart to bow before Your majesty. To him your friendship will be sweeter than the dripping of the honeycomb and any taste.
“Majestic, Beautiful, Radiance of the universe – my soul is sick for Your love. Please, O God, heal her now by showing her the pleasantness of Your radiance. Then she will be strengthened and healed, and eternal joy will be hers.
All-worthy and Ancient One – may your compassion be aroused, and please take pity on the child of Your beloved (Abraham); because it is so very long that I have yearned intensely to see the splendor of Your strength. Only these has my heart desired, so please take pity and do not conceal Yourself.
Please be revealed and spread upon me, my Beloved, the shelter of Your shalom. Illuminate the world with Your glory that we may rejoice and be glad with You. Hasten, show love, for the time has come, and show us grace as in days of old.”
4. The Art Scroll Shir HaShirim helps us to appreciate the depth and true beauty of the sacred Song of Songs. The translation, as well as the commentaries that are cited, increase our awareness of the loving relationship between us and the Loving One. It is therefore an uplifting and comforting work which can be studied throughout the year; moreover, it can help to strengthen us during this very difficult period when we are experiencing the “birth pangs” of the approaching messianic age.
For information on this highly recommended work, visit: http://www.artscroll.com/linker/hazon/home and write Shir HaShirim on the search line.