Reaching for the Holy

From a man I admire greatly, Rabbi Moshe Kempinski of Jerusalem

I am My Beloved’s and My Beloved is Mine.

Moshe Kempinski

The old city of Jerusalem during these evenings is awash with people. They arrive in large groups. They arrive with their families. They arrive alone. They do not come as tourists. They are not here to tour any location. They are not here to see anything.

They are here to feel and listen.

During the days of Elul and Tishrei each individual soul undergoes a spiritual voyage that is unparalleled in its intensity and awesome in its implications. It is in the month of Elul that we begin again the courtship with the Beloved and the Hebrew letters that make up the word Elul are also the first letters of the verse ” Ani Ledodi VeDodi Lee-I Am My Beloved’s and my Beloved is Mine.

This powerful verse comes from the ultimate love poem written by King Solomon as beautiful allegory of a love story between the infinite and the finite. The great sage Rabbi Akiba declared, “Heaven forbid that any man in Israel ever disputed that the Song of Songs is holy. For the whole world is not worth the day on which the Song of Songs was given to Israel, for all the Writings are holy and the Song of Songs is holy of holies.” (Mishnah Yadayim 3:5). It is clearly an allegory as the young maiden and her beloved keeps changing. At times he is a shepherd, at times a king and the young maiden keeps changing roles as well.

During the month of Elul, then , thousands of Israelis of all walks of life find there way into the old city of Jerusalem .Especially in the late evening or early morning the people make their way towards the old city like love stricken lovers. The late hours at the western wall sound and look like midday hustle and bustle. Every where you turn you see people in prayer or simply stand in awe. A people living out the verse “Ani Ledodi VeDodi Lee-I Am My Beloved’s and my Beloved is Mine. “ , sometimes without even being aware of it

Yet that verse from that sanctified poem of love and relationship when literally translated becomes somewhat confusing. Ani Ledodi Vedodi Lee, really translates as ” I am to my Beloved and My Beloved is to me”

I was puzzled about the verse until the evening of this years Rosh Chodesh Elul.Every eve of the new month a group of Jewish activists have reinstituted an ancient custom of walking around the gates of the Temple Mount and reciting in song and dance the psalms of ascent at each gate. The purpose of the march is to fulfill the verse “Encircle Zion and march around her, count her towers” (Tehillim – Psalms – 48:13) and the verse “You should seek to cause Him to dwell and you will come there” (Devarim – Deuteronomy 12:5). The verse means that if we show our yearning for Him to dwell in the Temple, then we ourselves will merit the day wherein we may come to dwell in the Temple again, as a House of Prayer for all people.

It was not my first time marching with them but this time as we prepared to leave the Western wall plaza ,one of the young men began filling the air of one of the wheels of the portable wagons that carry the loudspeakers and music. He over filled it and the tire blew with a very loud bang. Every security guard and soldier went into a preparatory stance. It took several long seconds before the tension level was reduced .Yet they were still left with a heavy wagon that was missing a wheel.. That didn’t seem to deter or stop anybody. After all they were individuals in love entering into the month of Betrothal to their ultimate divine Beloved. As a result one individual after another continued to volunteer to help carry that part of the broken wagon through the long trek around the temple mount walls. They were individuals in love and love means constantly moving forward towards the beloved. They, the sons and daughters of Abraham, were driven forward just as their ancestor was bidden to go forth.

That is the deeper meaning of the verse “” Ani Ledodi VeDodi Lee-I Am My Beloved’s and my Beloved is Mine”. The relationship is defined by the constant move towards, I am to my Beloved and my Beloved is to me. When we returned after the long walk we saw a western wall plaza awash with streams of Jews of all sorts filling its every available space.

The Jewish people whether they are consciously aware of their relationship with G-d or not ,are driven by an inner call to “come towards”.

That is their eternal strength and with that we enter the betrothal month of Elul.

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