As we discussed in previous letters, the Song of Songs is an allegorical love song between our people and Hashem, the Compassionate One. Within this song, we proclaim:
“Many waters cannot extinguish the love” (Song of Songs 8:7).
The commentator, Rashi, explains that the term “waters” is a metaphor for “nations”; thus, we are proclaiming that many nations cannot extinguish our love for Hashem. (Another example of how nations are compared to “waters” is found in Isaiah 17:13.)
In what way do these nations attempt to extinguish our love for Hashem? The commentator, Metzudas David, explains that they attempt to extinguish our love for Hashem through seductive persuasion. He does not elaborate, but contemporary examples can be found among certain Christian groups in various nations that use sweet words and acts of lovingkindness in an attempt to persuade us to abandon our commitment to the Torah – our Covenant with our Beloved. They tell us that our commitment to the Torah can no longer save us and that our only hope for salvation is to adopt the Christian faith. In a covert attempt to achieve their goal, certain Christian groups sponsor an annual pro-Israel parade in Jerusalem which attracts Christian participants from many nations. In both their overt and covert missionary activities, these groups often use traditional Jewish rituals, songs, and quotes in order to attract Jews to their religion. In our previous letter, we discussed their missionary goals, and we included quotes from their own leaders which indicate that they wish to “convert” us.
Why, however, does the above proclamation from the Song of Songs use the term “waters” to refer to people that try to persuade us through sweet words and loving deeds to abandon our Covenant with our Beloved? My good friend and neighbor, Reb Yehudah Leib Stein, offered the following insight: He pointed out that within our tradition, the term “waters” can be a metaphor for chesed – lovingkindness or overflowing love. This metaphor is discussed by the Maharal of Prague in his commentary to Pirkei Avos (1:2). The Song of Songs therefore uses the term “waters” to allude to the seductive acts of lovingkindness of those people who seek to persuade us through their acts to adopt their religion. Despite their many efforts, and despite our current problems, they will ultimately fail, for our love for Hashem will endure; thus, we proclaim to our Beloved: “Many waters cannot extinguish the love”!
Through this enduring love, we will renew our commitment to the Torah and thereby fulfill our universal mission to serve as a model of the Torah’s teachings within the Land of Zion. We will then experience the fulfillment of the following Divine promise to our people: “Nations will walk by your light” (Isaiah 60:3).
At the dawn of this new age, there will no longer be attempts to extinguish our love for Hashem; instead, the nations will be inspired by the light of this love. They will therefore journey to Zion in order to study the precepts of the universal path within the Torah which will enable them to fulfill their own special role within the creation. As the Prophet Isaiah proclaimed:
“It will happen in the end of days: The mountain of the Temple of Hashem will be firmly established as the head of the mountains, and it will be exalted above the hills, and all the nations will stream to it. Many peoples will go and say, ‘Come, let us go up to the Mountain of Hashem, to the Temple of the God of Jacob, and He will teach us of His ways and we will walk in His paths.’ For from Zion will go forth Torah, and the word of Hashem from Jerusalem.” (Isaiah 2:2,3)
The nations will not, however, have to become part of our people in order to serve the Compassionate One. As Rabbi Samson Raphael Hirsch explains in his commentary to Psalm 24:6, each nation may still retain its own characteristics, but must always use them in conformity with the supreme Divine moral Law. And he adds: “It is this spiritual and moral subordination to the One God and to His Law that unites all the diverse cultures and national entities of the world into one harmonious whole.”
Regarding the messianic age, it is written, “The earth will be filled with the knowledge of Hashem” (Isaiah 11:9). In this age of universal enlightenment, will our people still have a unique role? In a prophecy describing the messianic age, Isaiah conveyed the following message to our people regarding our role as “kohanim” – ministers – to the peoples of the earth:
“And you will be called ‘kohanim of Hashem’; ‘ministers of our God’ will be said of you.” (Isaiah 61:6).
There is also a Divine promise which indicates that other peoples will no longer say to our people, “Accept our religion, and go with us!”; instead, the peoples of the earth will say to us:
“Let us go with you, for we have heard that God is with you” (Zechariah 8:23).
The above prophecies indicate that we will serve as teachers and guides to the enlightened peoples. In this spirit, Maimonides writes in his chapter on the messianic age:
“The occupation of the entire world will be solely to know Hashem; therefore, the People of Israel will be great sages and know hidden matters” (Mishneh Torah, The Laws of Kings, chap. 12:5).
We, the People of Israel, studied the Torah for thousands of years, even during the dark exile when various nations and their missionaries attempted to “convert” us through brutal force or through seductive persuasion. We, however, proclaimed, “Many waters cannot extinguish the love”; thus, we will merit to serve as teachers of the Torah to an enlightened world.
Have a Good and Sweet Shabbos,
Yosef Ben Shlomo Hakohen (See below)
1. There are many verses within our Sacred Scriptures that inspire us to remain loyal to the path of the Torah, our Covenant with our Beloved. For example, when we renewed our loving commitment to the Covenant before we entered the Promised Land, Moshe Rebbeinu – Moses, our Teacher – reminded us that the Covenant is also for the future generations:
“Not with you alone do I seal this Covenant and this oath, but with whoever is here, standing with us today before Hashem, our God, and with whoever is not here today.” (Deuteronomy 29:13,14)
And he added: “The hidden matters belong to Hashem, our God, but what is revealed to us and our children forever is to fulfill all the words of this Torah” (Ibid 29:28).
2. Malachi was the last of the biblical prophets, and in the concluding words of his prophecy, he reminds our people that we will merit to be redeemed from our exile through remaining loyal to the Torah and its path of mitzvos:
“Remember the Torah of Moshe, My servant, which I commanded him at Horeb (Mount Sinai) for all of Israel – its statutes and its social laws. Behold, I will send you Elijah the Prophet before the coming of the great and awesome day of Hashem.” (Malachi 3:22,23)