Prayer for Israel

My mind can not analyze to give words of comfort or wisdom. The number of rockets, the counted deaths, the political theories…

I see only the mother rushing her child to a shelter as she hears the alarm. She is singing comforting words, hoping her daughter does not see the fear in her eyes.

In another shelter sits a woman praying to God that her children are safe. They are with their father across town. She prays they are safe in the shelter there and counts the hours and minutes until they are reunited.

A toddler, a baby, is held in his mother’s arms… she prays that the bombs don’t come for them.

Another mother waits, listening carefully to the news. Her son is a soldier at the front, only 18.

Four mothers grieve for teenage sons who will never see adulthood.

And another mother mourns as her son becomes a stranger to her. She grieves what her son has become.

God give comfort to the mothers who cry out for their children. Hear their prayers. Bring them peace.

What we want for ourselves, do for others!

This week’s post is from guest blogger: Danny Siegel. He has long been one of my mitzvah heroes and I thank him for inspiring me and so many to do tikkun olam.

I was delighted that Rabbi Tziona asked me to write a guest blog, and while I am leaving for Israel for the summer in a couple of days for my 39th year with USY Pilgrimage, I wanted to get to this as soon as I could so it wouldn’t get lost in the shuffle.

As some of you may know, I have been involved in Tzedakah and Tikkun Olam since 1975, focusing on text, practical projects and finding and working with Mitzvah heroes.

I wanted to share with you one of the most important texts I have found.  Not being a genius of Biblical and Rabbinic text, I cannot reconstruct how I found it, but I am happy I did.

The text deals with the topic of how Judaism doesn’t like to leave Mitzvahs in the high abstract, but rather looks for practical applications.  A good example is the over-used and often abused quote from Leviticus l9:18 “Love others as you love yourself”.  You will see below how Maimonides gives us an incredibly insightful way of figuring out how to bring this alive and into the everyday:

This is the commandment that we were commanded to love each other just as we love ourselves.

That is to say that my concern and love for other Jews should be the same as my concern and love for myself —as far as both possessions and per­sonal needs are involved —for whatever the other person’s possessions and wishes.

vchol

Whatever I want for myself, I want the same for that other person.

vchol2

And whatever I do not want for myself or my friends, I do not want for that other person.

This is the meaning of the verse, “And you shall love the other per­son as yourself.”(Leviticus 19:18)

Maimonides, Sefer HaMitzvot, Positive Mitzvah #206

I believe that if we ask ourselves both “what do we want for ourselves” and “what don’t we want for ourselves” we will have a good guide on how to do our Tzedakah and Tikkun Olam work.

One example I liked to use in my talks: infant car seats.  If we want our own children to be safe in a car, then we want others to be safe, and therefore we should have infant car seat drives and get them to people who cannot afford to buy them.

Danny Siegel’s List of Practical, Easily­ Doable Mitzvah Projects

POTENTIALLY LIFE SAVING MITZVAHS

1. Cellphones for survivors of domestic violence

2. Infant car seats

3. Rescuing leftover food to donate: www.rockandwrapitup.org,

*4. Legos, toys, puzzles and games, board games, kids’ card games, marbles, jacks, blocks, bubble blowers, jump ropes, fun stickers

5. Videos and DVD’s (kid and adult) for hospitals

*6. soaps, shampoos, hand lotion, other toiletries from hotels to shelters

*7. gloves, sweatshirts, sweaters, sneakers

*8. Dolls (including baby dolls for residents with Alzheimer’s disease)

*9. Sports equipment

*10. Eyeglasses

FOR EMERGENCY VEHICLES

*11. stuffed animals (gently used) – Police, sheriff’s office, fire department, rescue squads, ambulance units (for hospitals must be brand-new)

MAKING KIDS HAPPY

*12. Fun pajamas, fun socks

*13. crayons from restaurants (and drawing pad, ribbon, note to have fun) Colormyworldproject.org, sgreenwald1995@gmail.com

*14. Dancing shoes

*15. school supplies (and backpacks)

*16. Kid’s books – Gently-used – for kids in shelters, New – for hospitals

17. balloons (and then entertaining kids with them)

OTHER PROJECTS MAIMONIDES’ HIGHEST LEVEL OF TZEDAKAH –

PROVIDING OPPORTUNITIES FOR EMPLOYMENT

18. Purchasing kippot made by Guatemalan-Mayan women for your guests), www.mayaworks.org

19. Purchasing purses and clutches made by Honduran women as presents for girls and young women, www.Manosdemadres.org

FOR THE SYNAGOGUE

20. Magnifying glasses in synagogue for visually-impaired persons

21. Pull-down flap in Torah reading stand to have the Torah at eye level for people who use wheelchairs

22. Mitzvah crib for collecting items for infants

23. Centerpieces at Synagogue events: sports equipment, books, school supplies.  If flowers: sectionalized (consult your florist) to donate to individuals who live alone or who can’t get out

FOR ELDERS IN NURSING HOMES AND ASSISTED LIVING FACILITIES

24. Plants for elders (and instructions for care of the plant)

25. Certifying your dog or cat to visit

26. Playing mah-jongg and poker with the residents

27. Making dreams come true – Second Wind Dreams (www.secondwind.org)

HUMAN-ANIMAL MITZVAHS

28. Invite a Veterinarian to speak at the synagogue to explain the Full range of human-animal interrelationships and benefits And set up a subcommittee of the synagogue Mitzvah committee Relating to human-animal interactions

29. Support Avshalom Beni’s awesome animal-assisted therapy program In Israel, HAMA-(ISRAEL)-Humans and Animals in Mutual Assistance, with money, donations of medications and equipment: beni.avshalom@gmail.com

30. Volunteer at an organization that provides therapeutic horseback riding For individuals with disabilities. Go to www.pathintl.org to find A local organization

31. Socialize a service guide dog for blind people or other people with disabilities

32. Learn about and observe a local program when children with reading problems and have the program introduced into the religious school, Contact Sharon Frant Brooks: Sfrantbrooks@excite.com

33. Have your local animal shelter train you to match rescue animals with individuals who might need them. 

34. Donating money to an animal shelter to buy dog food for homeless people

HOSPITAL AND HEALTH-RELATED MITZVAHS

35. Donate videos and DVD’s – for kids and adults

36. Certifying your dog or cat to visit

37. Dolls and stuffed animal – new

38. Songs of Love – providing individual songs written for children with life threatening illnesses (www.songsoflove.org)

39. Hearing aid batteries

40. Casting for Recovery retreats for women who have had breast cancer surgery www.castingforrecovery.org

41. Providing challot for Shabbat and holidays

ASSISTANCE TO ELDERS OR INDIVIDUALS WITH DISABILITIES LIVING AT HOME

42. Checking smoke alarms

43. Changing light bulbs and other simple tasks

44. Raking leaves, cutting the lawn, taking care of plants and flowers

45. Shopping

46. Walking dogs

47. Arranging for drivers to take them on errands and to community events

ISRAEL

48. Do advocacy for Israel by reading honestreporting.com, CAMERA.org [Committee for Accuracy in Middle East Reporting in America, www.ngo-monitor.org, www.dailyalert.org and informing friends, schoolmates, and relatives about what you learned

49. Support Israeli Mitzvah heroes making an enormous impact on thousands of Individuals in Israel (go to: http://dannysiegel.com/finalzivreport.pdf for A description of their Tikkun Olam work)

THE BIG TIME

50. Run a bone marrow testing drive: www.giftoflife.org

51. Encourage a local medical school to integrate animal-assisted therapy into the curriculum. Virginia Commonwealth University (Richmond, VA) The Center For Human-Animal Interaction, dekey@vcu.edu, Denice I. Ekey 52. Encourage a local veterinary school to take in animals for a family fleeing domestic violence (Use Google to find the program “Petsafe” at Purdue University’s School of Veterinary Medicine

53. Inform your local shelter for survivors of domestic violence of Face to Face: Surgeons who repair faces of women who are survivors of domestic violence battered free of charge, www.facetofacesurgery.org

To quote Nike, “Just do it.”

a gun in my home

Sunday a friend of the family came to visit.  We were sitting at the table, enjoying some barbecued hot dogs, when I noticed something on his ankle.  It was a gun.  A wave of discomfort washed over me.  There was a gun in my home, near my baby.  I asked our friend to remove his gun, and he did, graciously promising not to bring it next time he visited.  For him, it was an act of polite sensitivity.  Our friend, an off-duty peace officer,  did not feel his gun was a danger to us.  For me, it was a real and present threat to my child’s welfare, and a strong emotional response of protection.

I knew my husband had a gun when we started dating.  He is ex Navy and used it for target practice more than “security.”  At first I was curious.  He took me out shooting and all my childhood “Charlie’s Angels” fantasies were realized.  It was fun shooting a gun.  It was thrilling hitting the target… and there were pancakes afterward.  As Tim and I got more serious and discussed marriage, I explained that I respected his right to own a gun, but I didn’t want it in my home.  I did not want a tool used by so many for such violence in the place in which I slept, ate, and hoped to make a family.  As Tim was head over heals in love with me, he agreed, and sold his gun.  There was some grumbling at my “insistence” and then it was a non issue.

On that terrible day when twenty children and their teachers were gunned down at Sandy Hook Elementary School, my husband and I watched the news in horror.  A disturbed man of twenty had taken guns from his mother’s home and shot classrooms full of frightenned little boys and girls. Tim turned to me and said “there is simply no reason to have a gun in your home.”  I was stunned by his change of opinion, but perhaps I should be more surprised that in the days after that shooting, every decent gun owner in American didn’t immediately throw their weapons into a mass bonfire and vow to make Newtown the last tragedy of children shot at school.  But we didn’t, and Newtown was not the last.  Instead we are becoming used to hearing about school shootings on the news. They barely register any more.

Since the Newtown shooting in Dec 2012, there have been sixty five shootings at American schools.  This is an amazingly large number in a short year and a half.  This is not a worldwide phenomenon.  In double that time, there have been five other school shootings: one in France, one in Norway, one in South Africa, one in Brazil, and one in Nigeria. I couldn’t find any more on the internet. This is obviously an issue particular to American society.

When my husband and I had the discussion so many years ago about not having a gun in our home, I told him my deepest fear was that we would be robbed and that the gun would be taken and used for violence against us or someone else.  I didn’t want to be part of putting that violence into the world.  I didn’t want a symbol of murder and grief in my home.

In the United States, we have more freedoms and rights than perhaps any other people in history.  It is a country wealthy in philanthropy, culture, and diversity.  But I fear we hold on too tightly, and perhaps too selfishly, to the mantle of our constitutional rights, when it puts our society as a whole in danger.  No one would argue that we each have the right to drive as fast as we like or to burn down our homes, or even blast music too loudly too late at night.  Yet, we shrink in fear at the idea of limiting (or eliminating) gun access for the safety of our neighborhoods and our children.

Judaism teaches us not to put a stumbling block before the blind (Lev 19:14)   This is broadly interpreted to mean “don’t put temptation before someone and thus allow them to fall into sin.”  We are also commanded to put railings on our roof tops (Deut 22:8), so as not to allow even a trespasser to fall into harm’s way. I believe strongly in our Torah’s wisdom.  In creating a just and right society, we must take care of those who would fall.  Waiting for the weakest among us to do so, then shaking our heads in dismay puts the sin on our shoulders.  Rather let us remove the stumbling blocks and enact the legal fences necessary to keep us safe.

On the 70th Anniversary of D-Day

Mi Sheberach Avoteinu v’Imoteinu, Avraham, Sarah, Yitzhak, Rivka, Yaacov, Rachel, v’Leha, Yevarech et hayalei v’mishpachtam….

God who established covenants with Abraham, Sarah, Isaac, Rebecca, Jacob, Rachel, and Leah, bless the soldiers who fight for our freedom and give comfort to their families.

Almighty God, bless the valiant soldiers of the Allied Forces who gave their lives to protect the welfare of all Your creation 70 years ago on Normandy beach.  May You hold them in the succah of your loving protection for all eternity.

In their memory, we pledge to live our lives with gratitude for their sacrifice, with joy in our gifts, and appreciation for the beauty and fragility of the world.  We honor them with each mitzvah performed, and each act of kindness freely given.

We pray for a true peace in fulfillment of the prophecy: “Nation shall not lift up sword against another nation, nor shall they learn war any more.”

Let all the inhabitants of the world be inspired by your Name and awed by your creation.  May we work together to end violence and needless death and create a for a better world for our children grandchildren.

Garbage Dumping

When I was a kid my friends and I would sing a song called “Don’t Throw your Junk in My Backyard.”  The words are simple: “Don’t throw your junk in my backyard. My backyard’s full.”  Depth and meaning in a nursery rhyme.

As a rabbi, I often find myself called on to try and rally volunteers around a cause or person in need.  Inevitably as I make call after call, I listen more than I talk.  Each person has a full plate of tsuris, an illness, a sick relative, financial difficulties, a flood in their basement, a legal issue… While most of my congregation are going about their lives and routine, they are dealing with pain, stress, and often anger.  This is the way of life, each of us bearing up under the weight of what we are given to carry.  With help from friends, neighbors, family and community, we bear it well and hopefully move through it, knowing that everyone else is struggling too.

Then there are those who so badly want to dump their anger and pain on others, they heave it at you like garbage. I always want to look them in the eye and say “doing my best, don’t throw your junk in my backyard, my backyard’s full.”  David Pollay wrote a book called The Law of the Garbage Truck based on a remarkable experience in a New York cab.  A car almost caused an accident which the cabi managed to narrowly avoid.  He stopped by the side of the road only to have the car’s driver explode at him in anger.  The cabbie only smiled and moved on.  Pollay was astounded but the cabbie said, “people try to dump their garbage on you, their anger and pain, but you don’t have to receive it.”  This became the core of Pollay’s book.  We have a choice when we receive negativity from others, we can accept it, feel bad about ourselves, and pass it on to the next unsuspecting person, or we can simple refuse to accept it, smile and move on.

This week I have been witness to some terrible garbage dumping.  I have seen hospitals endangering the care of their patients.  I have seen nursing homes behaving unethically.  I have seen care professionals dumping their charges like yesterday’s garbage.  Through it all, I have wanted to bang heads together, to scream, to yell, to lash out in anger.  But in my arms was my precious baby daughter, facing her own burden, a new tooth pushing its way into our lives.  And so I smiled and I moved on.  I looked closer and I saw the community of neighbors and friends rallying around an elderly person in need, fighting for him, caring for him, and wading through the red tape.  I saw the holiness of God in unique individuals brought together for this cause, each putting aside their own burden to help someone who could no longer carry his alone.

In this week’s parashah, bamidbar, God asks Moses for a census of the Israelite people.  The Hebrew word used in this directive is pekudim.  Pekudim is an interesting word, used in the Torah to mean count, remember, destiny, and accounting.  From this the rabbis learned that God was counting not our numbers, but our individuality.  Each of us is unique and special to God.  Each of us counts, would be missed by the world if we were not here, is part of the destiny of our circle, our family, our community.  Every single one of us has something that counts toward the whole, that is accounted for in the lives of those we touch.

There is a Jewish law that orders us not to dump personal garbage onto pubic land.  The talmud explains that while private land ownership is fleeting, (it can be lost or taken away,) communal land belongs to us always.  Likewise, in the census, our individuality was counted towards the whole.  Each of us has pain and anger but to dump it into the community as anger, neglect, or cruelty only weakens us first as a whole and finally as individuals.  Whether it is whispered gossip or screaming tantrums, we taken something away from our world and our souls when we dump this garbage onto others.

Hear Our Cries Of Outrage

God, who demanded we cry out against our slavery in Egypt

Hear our cries of protest now, our anger, our anguish, our outrage

300 school girls abducted at gunpoint from their school in Nigeria

Taken, enslaved, trapped, sold, raped, abandoned…

A parent cries for her child as I embrace mine

I will not stand idly by the blood of my neighbor

I-We demand action, from ourselves, our governments

I-We will pray with our feet, our voices, our consciences

God, give comfort to the child, the parent…

as we step from silence into action

God, lend us your strength, stand next to us as we

pray for the girls still held against their wills

as we step from silence to action

to redeem the captive

 

 

 

 

Lentil Spinach Pancakes

Did you know the Talmud contains everything from legal proofs to ghost stories and recipes?  Why should my blog be less?  Hold on to your hats.  There’s a Rabbi Tziona original recipe coming.

e strawberryEliyana is a marvel and a wonder.  She started crawling last week.  Next week she turns one.  There will be cake for baby and tequila for the parents.  Recently she has refused to eat baby food, another notch in her development, but one that left me scratching my head.  She adores strawberries… but until today that was the only healthy finger food she would eat.  It was time to get serious.  I went on the internet, called other parents and compiled a list… then I started cooking. 

Broccolli trees were a flop.  Chicken was rejected and the bagel was deemed best for throwing at the floor.  Finally we hit on Carrot Pancakes! Halleluya.  Still I wasn’t satisfied.  She needed something green, something with protein.  So I invented THE LENTIL SPINACH PANCAKE:

PUREE: 3/4 cup lentils, 1 cup fresh spinach, 1/2 tsp onion powder,  2 eggs, IN SEPERATE BOWL MIX: 4 tbsp whole wheat flour, 1/4 tsp salt, 1 tsp baking powder, STIR DRY INTO WET SLOWLY, plop by spoonful onto warm frying pan prepped with olive oil.  YUM.

I served Eliyana the lentil spinach pancakes cut into spears she could hold in her hand with yogurt for dipping.  She actually sang a little song while eating.  It went like this: Mum, mum, mum, mum, mum….  High praise indeed and I sat down to savour the moment.  Unfortunately she would not repeat the song for the ivideo… but enjoy nonetheless:

movie Eliyana eating spinach pancakes apr 2014

I thank God for bringing us in health and joy to these moments.

shehecheyanu

Yom HaShoah

Today is Yom HaShoah and I am still haunted by the words of the survivor who spoke last night. Rabbi Jacob Jungries was eleven years old when he and his family were forced on to a cattle car headed for Auschwitz. He explained that the car was small, it could have maybe held 30 people standing very close to each other, but the Nazis pushed 90 people into that cattle car.  He remembered the horrible lack of air saying to his father “I can’t breath.”  He remembered that half the people in that car were dead by the time they reached Auschwitz, from lack of air.  ”The Nazis,” he said, “were cheap, they didn’t want to waste the cyanide.”

Rabbi Jungries and his sister were saved because a group of American Jews paid ransom money to the Nazis.  The group was moved to Bergen Belson.  Still he says, 87 Rabbi Jungries were murdered by the Nazis… the rabbinate was the family business.  I thank God for the mizvah of Pidyon Shevuyim, ransoming the captive.  There was little action taken to save the Jews from the Nazis.  Those who spoke out and acted for what was right, truly stand out against the great silence that swept the nations.  Rabbi Jungries touched me deeply.  He said that the entire world was at fault for the murder of 6 million Jews, 1 million of them children. Those who actively participated were equally guilty as those who stood by and did nothing.

I pray for the strength to make my life a difference.  I pray for the wisdom to stand up for what is right and help those who suffer, though they may be half a world away.  I pray that the Shechina stand close to me as I ask others to join me in tikkun olam.

 

Fair Trade Chocolate Seder

This year I made my seder a Fair Trade Chocolate themed one.  Dinner was simply matza pizza and salad, fair trade coffee, and fruit.  For the first time, I freed myself from cooking, and spent all my energy on creating a meaningful and modern Passover ritual experience.  The key was the Kosher for Passover Fair Trade Chocolate, available for the first time this year through Fair Trade Judaica and Equal Exchange.  I placed pieces of fair trade chocolate on my seder plate next to the marror and haroset, a reminder that slavery continues today and we have a  choice and a responsibility to speak out.

Initially I used Haggadot.com to collect all my sources and put them together, but ultimately I had to used Microsoft word to gain better control of the finished Haggadah.  As we began the Maggid portion of our seder, I passed around the beautiful fair trade chocolate and we talked about the issues of child and slave labor used today in cocoa fields.  We read testimonials from escaped slaves and prayed for the strength and wisdom to make a difference in this world.  It brought great meaning to our seder.  After all, how could we thank God for our freedom while enjoying chocolate that came to our table by way of slavery.  My deepest thanks to Fair Trade Judaica who made Fair Trade Kosher for Passover Chocolate a reality.

Reading Song Of Songs on Passover

It is traditional to read Song of Songs on the Shabbat that falls within Passover.  I have to thank Rabbi Benjamin Scolnic who opened my eyes to the depths of Shir Hashirim in his article “Why do we sing the Song of Songs on Passover?”. I had always learned that Song of Songs is an allegory for the love between Israel and God but had some modern skepticism.  After all the verses are quite erotic, which seems a more pagan than Jewish description of God.  Rabbi Scolnic convinced me otherwise. Below is a text study I created based on Rabbi Scolnic’s scholarship:

1. Was Song of Songs originally conceived as metaphor for the relationship between God and Israel?

a)  The difficulty with the allegorical approach is that while this interpretation was dominant for a thousand years and more, it is not easy to sustain, because the love described in the Song is so obviously and in such rich detail the love between man and woman. Contemporary Scripture scholarship has routed the allegorical inter­ pretation: The Song is secular love poetry, a collection of love songs gathered around a single theme. . . .    It was placed in the canon o f the Scriptures because it was so well loved by the Israelite people that the Scriptures seemed a good place to preserve it.

Andrew M Greeley and Jacob Neusner, The Bible and Us: A Priest and a Rabbi Read Scripture Together (New York: Warner, 1990)

b)  In Mishnah Eduyot 5:3, Rabbi Akiva claims that Song of Songs is the “Holy of  Holies”  How could the rabbis, who were horrified by fertility cults, sacred prostitution, and idolatrous rites, understand this piece of erotica as allegory for our relationship with God?  A key distinction between the Israelite and             pagan portrayals of Divine love is that no pagan culture spoke of a god as a husband or lover of his people.  Song of Songs is the continuation of a long prophetic history of describing our relationship with God in terms of fidelity, using the metaphor of husband and wife. The Song of Songs is the completion of the metaphor.  The prophets denounced infidelity and the Song of Songs  spoke of reunion and love.

Rabbi Benjamin Edidin Scolnic, Why Do We Sing the Song of  Songs on  Passover?, Conservative Judaism, Vol 48

c)   From Amos to Ezekiel, the prophets describe infidelity to God as adultery, promiscuity, sexual laity, and prostitution:

i) Hosea 1:1-2  The beginning of the word of the Lord by Hosea. And the Lord said to Hosea, Go, take unto thee a wife of whoredoms and children of whoredoms: for the land hath committed great whoredom, departing from the Lord.

ii) Hosea 3:1 Again the Lord said to me: Go, love a woman who is loved by her  spouse but commits adultery; Just as the Lord loves the Israelites, though they turn to  other gods….”

iii) Ezekiel 16:15-59 But thou didst trust in thy beauty and play the harlot because of thy renown, and didst pour out thy harlotries on every one that passed by; his it was.  And thou didst take of thy garments, and didst make for thee high places decked with diverse colors, and didst play the harlot upon them; the like things shall not come, neither shall it be so. Thou didst also take thy fair jewels of My gold and of My silver, which I had given thee, and made for thee images of men, and didst play the  harlot with them; and  thou didst take thy richly woven garments and cover them, and didst set Mine oil and Mine  incense before them. My bread also which I gave thee, fine flour, and oil, and honey, wherewith I fed thee, thou didst even set it before them for a sweet savor, and thus it  was; saith the Lord GOD.

iv) Isaiah 57:3-13

But draw near hither,

Ye sons of the sorceress,

The seed of the adulterer and the harlot.

Against whom do ye sport yourselves?

Against whom make ye a wide mouth,

And draw out the tongue?

Are ye not children of transgression,

A seed of falsehood,

Ye that inflame yourselves among the terebinths,

Under every leafy tree;

That slay the children in the valleys,

Under the clefts of the rocks?

Among the smooth stones of the valley is thy portion;

They, they are thy lot;

Even to them hast thou poured a drink-offering,

Thou hast offered a meal-offering.

Should I pacify Myself for these things?

Upon a high and lofty mountain

Hast thou set thy bed;

Thither also wentest thou up

To offer sacrifice.

And behind the doors and the posts

Hast thou set up thy symbol;

For thou hast uncovered, and art gone up from Me,

Thou hast enlarged thy bed,

And chosen thee of them

Whose bed thou lovedst,

Whose hand thou sawest.

And thou wentest to the king with ointment,

And didst increase thy perfumes,

And didst send thine ambassadors far off,

Even down to the nether-world.

Thou wast wearied with the length of thy way; yet saidst thou not: ‘There is no hope’; thou didst find a renewal of thy strength, therefore thou wast not affected. And of whom hast thou been afraid and in fear, that thou wouldest fail? And as for Me, thou hast not remembered Me, nor laid it to thy heart. Have not I held My peace even of long time? Therefore thou fearest Me not. I will declare thy righteousness; thy works also—they shall not profit thee. When thou criest, let them that thou hast gathered deliver thee; but the wind shall carry them all away, a breath shall bear them off; but he that taketh refuge in Me shall possess the land, and shall inherit My holy mountain.

2. Does Song of Songs speak to today’s theology?

a)   The love described in Song of Songs is a struggle, a longing, a search.  It  describes a theology of yearning.

By night on my bed,

I sought him whom my soul loves.

I sought him but I found him not… (Song of Songs 3:1)

Harold Frish, Poetry with a Purpose: Biblical Poetics and Interpretation (Bloomington: Indiana Univeristy, 1990)

b)   In the metaphorical interpretation, human love and covenantal love are reflections of each other. Thus at the end of the Song the woman describes her  love for her man as being like “God’s Flame,” the love between them will not   only be as strong as death; it will be as strong as God’s love for His people. The Song then can be seen as a double metaphor. Not only is God’s love like human love, but, our love, yours and mine, is like God’s love. Human love must be seen as sanctified because it is like God’s love. The metaphorical interpretation does not interpret away human love. Rather, it sacramentalizes  it: human love is a hint of divine love, and divine love is a hint of what human love can really be.

Andrew M Greeley and Jacob Neusner, The Bible and Us: A Priest and a  Rabbi Read Scripture Together (New York: Warner, 1990)

3.  Is the Song of Songs a Midrash on Exodus?

a)  Song of Songs 2:14

My dove in the cleft of the rock

In the hiding place of the steep

Show me your  visage

Let me hear your voice

For your voice is lovely

And your visage is beautiful.

Shir HaShirim Rabba:  R. Eliezer decoded the verse in the hour that Israel stood at the sea. My dove in the cleft o f the rock in the hiding place o f the   steep [Song 2:14], that they were hidden in the hiding place of the sea—Show me your visage; this is what is written, “Stand forth and see the salvation of the  Lord” [Exod. 14:13]—Let me hear your voice; this is the singing, as it says, “Then Moses sang” [Ex. 15:1]—For your voice is lovely; this is the Song—And  your visage is beautiful; for Israel were pointing with their fingers and saying “This is my God and I will beautify Him” [Ex. 15:2].

b)   Song of Songs 2:8:1

Hark!

My Beloved!

There He Comes,

Leaping Over Mountains,

Bounding Over Hills.

Shir HaShirim Rabba:  R. Judah says, The voice of my beloved . . . this refers to Moses.” When he came and said to the Israelites, “In this month you will be redeemed,” they said to him, “Our lord Moses, how are we going to be redeemed? And did not the Holy One, blessed be He, say to Abraham, And they shall work them and torment them for four hundred years. (Gen. XV 13), and now we have in hand only two hundred and ten years?”18 He said to them: “Since He wants to redeem you, he is not going to pay attention to these reckonings of yours.” But Leaping upon the mountains, bounding over the hills. The reference here to mountains and hills in fact alludes to calculations and specific times. “He leaps” over reckonings, calculations, and specific times. “And in this month you are to be redeemed: This month is the beginning of months (Ex. 12:1).”

4. Song of Songs and Finding God in the Synagogue

There are many Jewish people who feel separated from God. We often don’t recognize their agony. It is to these people that I would bring one or both of these passages from Shir Hashirim Rabbah:

Whither has your beloved gone, O fairest among women? (Song of Songs 6:1) The nations of the world [here] speak to Israel: “Whither has your beloved gone? From Egypt to the Sea, to Sinai. Whither has your beloved turned?” And Israel answers the nations of the world . . . . “Once I had cleaved to Him, can I be apart from Him? Once He had cleaved to me, can He depart from me? Wherever He may be, he comes to me.” (SS Rabbah 6:1:1)

My beloved is like a gazelle. Just as a gazelle leaps from mountain to mountain, from hill to hill, tree to tree, thicket to thicket, fence to fence, so the Holy One, blessed be He, leaps from one synagogue to another synagogue . . . .    (SS Rabbah 2:9:2)

“In the first passage, the nations are saying to the Jewish people: “Where is your God? You’re downtrodden and He’s off somewhere doing miracles. He used to do miracles for you at the Red Sea and Sinai, but what has He done for you lately?” The Jewish response is: He’s on His way. And where is God coming? In very simple fashion, the second passage says that He’s going from shul to shul, looking for those who have felt separated from Him.”

Rabbi Benjamin Edidin Scolnic, Why Do We Sing the Song of  Songs on Passover?, Conservative Judaism, Vol 48