In the Name of Love: Shabbat Pesach Day 8 2018

by Adam J. Rosenbaum

Pre-Game Chatter: Fifty years ago yesterday, the Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr., was assassinated; a great leader who preached love and non-violence was slain in the most violent of ways. How can Jewish tradition help us to appreciate Dr. King’s legacy and the challenges that remain?

When it comes to love, it’s worthwhile to look at the Song of Songs, which will be chanted in synagogues on Saturday, the final day of Passover:

The Pitch: “Oh, give me of the kisses of your mouth, For your love is more delightful than wine.” — Song of Songs 1:2

Swing #1: “The material intellect said, expressing its desire, ‘Would that God would kiss me with the kisses of His mouth!“, that is, cleave to Him so far as possible, for ‘kissing’ indicates cleaving and coming close, and thus the sages said of Moses, Aaron, and Miriam that they ‘died by a kiss,’ that is, that at the time of their deaths they cleaved to God.” — Gersonides

Swing #2: “It was said in reference to when God gave them God’s Torah and spoke to them face to face. And that love is still more pleasant to them than any pleasure, and they are assured by God that He will appear to them again to explain to them the secret of its reasons and its hidden mysteries, and they beseech Him to fulfill His word.” — Rashi

Swing #3: “The word שפתים, instead of meaning ‘lips’ is derived from שפת הנהר, ‘the banks of the river,’ meaning ‘the boundaries of the river.’ Keeping this in mind, the meaning of the whole verse quoted above is: ‘the wise man who is tuned in to the fundamental aspects of wisdom in the celestial domains, a wisdom which is freely available at all times without interruption, can answer all questions and questioners correctly, being always in tune with them.’ He can do this as he has reached the outermost limits (שפתים) of this wisdom.” — Rabbeynu Bachya

Late-Inning Questions: Dr. King once famously said, “Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.” How do our commentators interpret the Song of Songs as an allegory of the love between God and Israel? How do Dr. King’s words, coupled with the words of our text, remind us that love lasts beyond all of life’s challenges, including death?

On-Deck at Emanu-El: It was a pleasure to celebrate the beginning of Passover with 106 other people at our congregational Seder. I hope that your Seders were festive and thought-provoking, and that the topics discussed will help to inspire us as we face the spring and summer ahead.

The Big Inning at the End: Shohei Otani already has shown his prowess with the bat and on the mound. Is this the beginning of an era when the Major Leagues will welcome more “two-way” talents to the game’s highest level?

Hag Sameach and Shabbat Shalom!