couple in love_58.
(photo credit: Courtesy)
Irecently officiated at a wedding at which the bride gave the groom a ring and
recited the oft-quoted verse from the Song of Songs, “Ani l’dodi v’dodi li” – I
am my beloved’s and my beloved is mine.
The significance of that verse
for marriage is all too often glossed over. Spoken by the woman in the Song of
Songs, it is a remarkable expression of equality and mutuality in the
relationship between men and women. In the that biblical text, the man and the
woman are on the same level. He is hers just as she is his, no more and no less.
When love is involved, as it is in the Song of Songs – a book devoted to the
topic of what real love means – male and female must be equals.
all the more remarkable when we consider that traditional Jewish exegesis has
interpreted that book as being the expression of the relationship between God
and Israel, the male figure representing God and the female representing the
Jewish people. Following the rabbinic principle that “the biblical text never
expunges its simple meaning,” this interpretation does not negate the reference
to the relationship between men and women, but adds an additional level. It
indicates that if we are to attempt to imagine the relationship between God and
Israel, there is no better way than to compare it to the love of man and
This is remarkably daring, since there is no way in which God and
Israel can be said to be truly equal, yet the relationship depicted is
mutual one. The Torah itself often uses that terminology, as do many of
prophets. The Sages adopted that in their reinterpretation of the Song
We, too, refer to God as the “beloved” – dod – Friday evening when we
Lecha Dodi – “Come, My Beloved” – asking God to usher in the messianic
time of the ultimate Shabbat of peace and restoration.
The month that we
are about to enter, Elul, is also connected to the Song of Songs verse.
Sages indicated that the name of this month, which is devoted to
Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur, actually consists of the first letters of
verse’s words – alef, lamed, vav, lamed. They also pointed out that the
read each day of Elul contains the word lulei, which is Elul backward.
can be said to mean that to attain forgiveness and atonement, we rely
fact that “I am my Beloved’s and my Beloved is mine” – the closeness and
mutuality of our relationship to God.
Connecting Elul to this particular
verse gives the month a different feeling than might have been expected.
all, Elul leads up to Yom Hadin – the Day of Judgment. There is little
nothing remotely romantic about standing in judgment. Anyone who has
called to court is well aware of the uncomfortable feeling that
a situation. On Rosh Hashana, we are standing in judgment before the
Judge of all,” to borrow a phrase from the Rodgers and Hammerstein
And yet the Sages had the audacity to address the Judge as dodi
– my Beloved.
As we approach the High Holy Days and prepare ourselves for
the Day of Judgment, we should not allow their seriousness and solemnity
overwhelm us. Rather, we should approach them with the knowledge that,
Judaism teaches, God is ready to accept our repentance with love and to
relationship with us that is close and intimate, even though in reality
far from equal. If we aspire to be worthy of that relationship, we will
to be a loving and willing partner.The writer, former president of the
International Rabbinical Assembly, was the founding director of the
Rabbinical School. His latest book is Entering Torah.