Do you think that after all our rebellions against Him, Hashem would still want us back if He didn’t love us? After all that we have done to Him? We know He wants us back. Don’t we say every day that He will send a redeemer “b’ahavah” – with love (Shemoneh Esrei)?
If Hashem did not love us, our history would have ended thousands of years ago. And during Elul we remember our mutual love. This love between the Ribbono shel Olam and Am Yisrael is the foundation of everything – all history, all hope, all ruchnius and the entire existence of our Holy Nation.
How do we begin Shabbos, the holiest day of the week? With Shir HaShirim, the passionate outpouring that describes the ageless love between Hashem and His People.
Chapter two: “Like an apple tree among the trees of the forest, so is my beloved among the youths; in his shadow I long to sit, and his fruit is sweet to my taste. He brings me to the house of wine, and looks at me with love. Sustain me with raisins, refresh me with apples, for I am lovesick…”
Chapter three: “On my bed at night I sought him whom my soul loves; I sought him, but I did not find him. I will rise and go about the city, in the streets and in the squares…. I will seek him whom my soul loves. I sought him, but I did not find him…”
Did you ever read of such heights of passion or depths of longing? This is the love between Am Yisrael and Hashem. Our eternal search for Him has been the entire purpose of our national existence.
Listen to the suffering of Am Yisrael (chapter five): “I sought him, but I could not find him; I called him, but he did not answer me. The watchmen who go about the city found me; they struck me; they wounded me; the guardians of the walls stripped me of my mantle…”
Has there ever been such love and such suffering as ours?
But we do not give up, and we are sustained by the conviction that our quest will be rewarded. This conviction is reflected in the songs of Shabbos, beginning with Lecha Dodi, which describes the chassanah between us and our Creator.
Why is Shabbos a bride? Because on Shabbos the Nation of Israel and Hashem become one again. Shabbos is not a theory; it’s in our heart and soul because it is an expression of love. “Enter in peace, oh crown of her husband. Even in gladness and good cheer, among the faithful of the treasured nation, enter Oh bride! Enter Oh bride” (Lecha Dodi).
But we don’t limit our expression of love to Shabbos. We begin and end every day with an expression of love – “Shema Yisrael, Hashem Elokeinu, Hashem Echad.” What is the Shema telling us? Hashem, our God, is the One and Only.” Is this not marriage?
Every day we say, “You shall love Hashem your God, with all your heart and all your soul and all your resources.” Is that not a marriage vow? And the Shema goes on to list the consequences of love and, God forbid, the consequences if we forsake the One we love. We don’t want to get divorced from Hashem. Divorce from Hashem is called Galus, exile, and the pain is beyond description in a world that hates us.
“And you will swiftly be banished from the goodly land that Hashem gives you.”
If that is not divorce, what is it?
As Shabbos ends, we express our longing for the days of our simcha with Hashem. “Majestic, beautiful, Radiance of the universe, my soul pines for Your love…. Please… spread upon me, my Beloved, the shelter of Your peace…” (Yedid Nefesh).
This is exactly the emotion the Torah wants us to feel as we enter the days leading to Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur. We refer to Hashem as “Melech” on Rosh Hashanah. Isn’t that exactly what a bridegroom is called? When we stand for the chassan at the chuppah, are we not standing up for a king?
“A groom is similar to a king. Just as a king does not go out in public alone, so too a groom does not go out in public alone. Just as a king wears garments of honor, so too does a groom wear garments of honor during the seven days of rejoicing. Just as everyone praises a king, so too everyone praises a groom during the seven days…. Just as the king’s face shines like the sun, so too does a groom’s face shine like the sun, as it says (in Tehillim 19), ‘He has set up a tent for the sun, which is like a groom going forth from his bridal chamber’ ” (Pirkei d’Rabbi Eliezer, chapter 16).