The day began worse than the one before had ended. Nothing seemed to be going right … and even less looked like it could. And, at the exact moment that I was beginning to think that it might be time to just “give up” and call it a day even before the sun finished coming up, an email flashed across my screen:
Good morning. I am Hashem, your father
I love you very much.
I am handling all of your needs
And problems today.
I don't need your help
I know what I'm doing
Have a nice day!
Wow, I thought to myself, that is some kind of faith. It was a faith that was contagious. And, for that nano-second that I read the words without trying to process them theologically, I felt a little less pained – a little more energized – which led me to be a lot more engaged with what became the rest of my day.
I tell that story not because it is a lead into a discussion of Christian missionaries, which is the conclusion that most would come to when the first part of the story is told. After all, “they” are the ones that talk about love all the time, aren’t “they”? I tell the story because that email came from a Jewish organization that we usually associate only with punctilious engagement with the commandments. Here was a “group” that most would consider only Halakhic (obsessed with the minutiae of his observance) reaching out with comfort and encouragement … reminding me that God loves me. That nano-second made a huge difference in my day, and changed much in my thinking as well.
Why do I tell that story now? Because there is a tradition, during these intermediate days of our observance of Passover, to read the Biblical Book: Song of Songs … a love song between God and humanity … a whole book devoted to teaching us just one thing: “I am Hashem, your father,
I love you very much”
The Song of Songs is a very controversial book. If made into a movie it would probably be rated somewhere between “R” and “NC-17”. And yet, it has, since the time of Rabbi Akiba, been understood to be saying much much more. What is it saying? It is trying to remind us that God loves us … that God is waiting for us as a lover awaits his/her partner … that there is a longing in God’s heart that we might find life what it is supposed to be.
Why doesn’t the book just come out and say so? Why the explicit imagery that could lead one astray? I would suggest that the vocabulary and idiom that is used is purposeful. The book is written as it is to connect with us directly and on a level that would draw our desire for the love it offers to the surface. That is, “it gets us where we can be gotten!” The book is not meant to engage us theologically. Rather, it is written to engage us “humanistically” – from/at the core of our being.
And the connection with Passover? Again, to remind us of the depth of God’s love. That God brought us out of Egypt not because of who we thought we were or what anyone else thought about us … we weren’t the greatest or the largest or even the best. What we were is what God wants us to be: open to the love that is offered … ready to step out from between the narrow places that confine us … wanting to return that love in kind.
Yes, there are times when we feel the world crashing in on us. There are times when we find ourselves enslaved by any number of different Pharaohs. However, when we feel like that it is especially important to open the book: Song of Songs and let its voice remind you: “I am Hashem, your father, I love you very much!”