Our Journey Begins with Love

Hashem’s love for us is everlasting, as Hashem proclaimed to our people, “I have loved you with an eternal love” (Jeremiah 31:2). During the period of our Exodus from Egypt, Hashem openly revealed His love for us, and we experienced miraculous redemption. This period of miraculous redemption is known as, ais dodim – the time of love (Ezekiel 16:8).
Dear Friends,
The Prophet Ezekiel conveyed to our people the following Divine reminder regarding the Exodus from Egypt:
“I passed by you and saw you, and behold, your time was the time of love” (Ezekiel 16:8).
According to Targum Yehonasan, an ancient Aramaic commentary on our Sacred Scriptures, “the time of love” is referring to the Passover period of redemption which began when Hashem spoke to Moshe at the burning bush (Exodus 3:1-22). A similar explanation is cited by the classical commentator, Radak, and he interprets this Divine statement in the following manner:
“I revealed Myself to Moshe at the burning bush, and he did signs and wonders at My command, and I showed him that the time of love had come, for I fought for you against Egypt until I brought you out from there with a strong hand.”
Hashem showed His love for us, and we therefore began our journey with an awareness of Hashem’s love. And as we began our journey, we showed our love for Hashem. This was when we followed our Beloved into the desolate wilderness without proper provisions, as all we had was some hastily-prepared matzos which we carried on our shoulders (see Exodus 12:39). In a later generation, the Prophet Jeremiah conveyed to our people the following Divine message about the love we showed at the beginning of our journey:
“Thus said Hashem: ‘I recall for you the loving-kindness of your youth, your love as a bride, how you followed Me into the wilderness, into an unsown land.’ ” (Jeremiah 2:2)
On the night of the Seder, when we relive the Exodus from Egypt, each of us is to re-experience Hashem’s love for us and our love for Hashem. In this spirit, the Passover Haggadah states:
“In every generation, one is obligated to regard himself as if he personally had gone out of Egypt.”
Passover is “the time of love”; thus, we have a custom to chant an ancient love song after we conclude the Passover Seder. This ancient love-song – the “Song of Songs” – appears in our Sacred Scriptures. It is an allegorical love song written by King Solomon, and it describes the mutual love between Hashem and Israel through a dialogue between a husband and a wife. In this dialogue, Hashem is the “husband” and the “wife” is Israel. A reference to their mutual love appears in the following statement of Israel:
“I am my Beloved’s, and my Beloved is mine” (Song of Songs 6:3).
According to the great Chassidic Rebbe, Rav Levi Yitzchak of Berditchev, the above statement indicates that we and our Beloved seek ways to express our love and appreciation for each other. And he discusses the following examples:
Within the Torah, our Beloved refers to our festival of freedom as, “the Festival of Matzos” (Exodus 23:15). Through this reference to matzos, our Beloved lovingly recalls and praises our willingness to swiftly follow Him into the wilderness with no provisions, except for the matzos that we carried on our shoulders (see Exodus 12:39).
We, however, developed the custom to refer to this festival as Pesach (Passover) – a name which expresses our loving appreciation to our Beloved for “passing over” our houses during the final plague against the firstborn and thereby saving us from the plague that was ravaging our oppressors.
Hashem rescued us from our Egyptian oppressors during “the time of love” – a period of great miracles. During our present exile, we yearn for the future “time of love” when Hashem will once again rescue us from our oppressors with great miracles. This yearning is based on the following Divine promise regarding the miraculous redemption of the messianic age:
“As in the days of your Exodus from the land of Egypt I will show you wonders” (Micah 7:15).
Our yearning for this future “time of love” is expressed in the following prayerful words from a song that we sing on Saturday night after the departure of Shabbos:
“Arouse the time of love, O God, to rescue the people who are praying to see Your goodness at the redeemer’s advent” (B’Motza’ei Yom Menuchah).
During this future time of love, the redeemer’s advent will lead to the age of universal enlightenment and shalom, when the following prophecy will be fulfilled:
“They will neither injure nor destroy in all of My sacred mountain; for the earth will be filled with knowledge of Hashem as water covering the sea bed.” (11:9)
Have a Good and Sweet Shabbos,
Yosef Ben Shlomo Hakohen  (See below)
Related Teachings and Comments:
1. Towards the beginning of the Song of Songs, we proclaim to our Beloved:
“Your oils are fragrant; Your Name is flowing oil; therefore do maidens love You” (1:3).
The commentator, Rashi, explains this statement in the following manner:
The awesome miracles that our Beloved performed when He took us out of Egypt caused His Name to spread over the world like the fragrance of fine oil. This caused other “maidens” – a metaphor for righteous individuals among the nations – to love Him. Rashi specifically mentions Jethro, the father-in-law of Moshe, and Rachav, the woman from Jericho who helped Israel. These are two converts whose love for Hashem led them to join our people through accepting the Torah and its path of mitzvos.
2. In the following verse from the Song of Songs, Israel expresses her yearning for her Beloved by saying to Him:
“Draw me, we will run after you” (1:4).
Why does Israel first say “me” and then “we”?  The following answer is found in the commentary of Rav W. Wolf on the Song of Songs:
Israel is asking her Beloved to draw her close to Him, so that humankind will be inspired by her example. As a result, both Israel and humankind will together follow Hashem. Israel is therefore saying, “Draw me close to you, and then we – I and all humankind – will run after you.” (Cited in the Art Scroll “Shir HaShirim” – Song of Songs)
3. Hashem told us that the ais dodim –  time of love – had arrived. This unique Hebrew term for love, dodim, has a plural form, and it therefore suggests the idea of mutual love. As mentioned above, the idea of mutual love is expressed by the statement, “I am my Beloved’s, and my Beloved is mine” (Song of Songs 6:3). 
4. The explanation of Rav Levi Yitzchak of Berditchev about the mutual love between Hashem and us appears in the ArtScroll Haggadah with a commentary compiled by Rabbi Joseph Elias. This explanation also appears in the ArtScroll edition of the Song of Songs with a commentary complied by Rabbi Meir Zlotowitz. For information on these two highly recommended works, visit: www.artwscroll.com  


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