(Shir Hashirim [Song of Songs]
1. [Shmot 33:20-23] “…you are not able to see my face…and you will see my back…” This is obviously a metaphor, since God does not have a body. In the blessing of the kohanim, they say, “May God shine His face upon you…” What does “God’s face” mean, and what does “God’s back” mean?
2. [Shmot 34:7] “…visiting the sins of the fathers on the children and on the grandchildren until the third and fourth generations.” The Torah tells us that the children and grandchildren will suffer because of the parents’ sins. Elsewhere [Dvarim 24:16], however, it says, “…each person will die only for his own sin.” How can we understand the first pasuk in a way that seems fair and makes sense to us?
3. [Ezekiel 37:5] “…I will cause breath to enter into you…” In this prophetic vision, God causes the nation to be reborn. Does this prophecy mean that national rebirth will come about only through God’s actions, or could this vision be saying that the people will also help to make it happen?
4. [Ezekiel 37:11] “…our hope is lost…” In the prophetic passage, the Jewish people are saying that hope is lost. In the national anthem of the state of Israel, Hatikvah [The Hope], the poet uses these same words from Ezekiel, but changes them to say that our hope is not lost. What is it about the way of the Torah or about the Jewish people that does not allow us to say that our hope is lost?
5. [Song of Songs] R. Akiva said that all the holy books are holy, but that the “Song of Songs” is the holy of holies. Why is this book, which is about the great love and yearning between a man and a woman considered the “holy of holies”?
Through Pesach and especially through the matzah that one eats on Pesach night, one acquires an elevated state of mind, and realizes that God’s Light fills the whole world. However, in order to acquire this state of mind in a more permanent way, one has to pass through obstacles. These obstacles are symbolized by the maror—the bitters—that we eat at the Pesach seder. These obstacles could be from one’s surroundings or they could be from one’s own stubborn personality. However, God reduces the effect of these obstacles, and this is symbolized by dipping the marror into the charoset (mixture of nuts and honey). By passing through these obstacles, one comes to that elevated state of mind.
–R. Natan of Breslov (1780-1844) based on R. Nachman of Breslov (1772-1810)
This study page is dedicated to the memory of Sarah Bella bat Yitzchak Kummer, Chaim Yosef Yechiel ben Eliyahu Kummer and Eliyahu and Margaret Kummer