The Hebrew word “aviv”, spring, sounds almost the same as “be’ahava”, with love, and is identical in its gymatria. Just a coincidence?
We might never know. It’s up to us to choose what we want to see. That too, is what Pesach is all about, and that too, is love.
Among the Five Megillot (scrolls) in the TaNaCh, Shir Hashirim – Song of Songs – is the one we read on this holiday. It was Rabbi Akiva who famously insisted: “the whole world is only worthy as the day the Song of Songs was given to the People of Israel; for while all the writings are holy, the Song of Songs is – kodesh kodashim – holy of hollies” (Mishna Yadayim, 3:5). What is “holy of hollies”? According to Rav Sherki, we have 3 categories: chol, daily or mundane, kodesh – holy, and kodesh-kodashim – holy of hollies. That is the place where the mundane and holy touch, like in the inner most chamber of the Temple, and like in the Song of Songs.
Shir Hashirim is passionate, poetic, and full of colorful imagery (a belly like a “heap of wheat”?), but perhaps what is most striking are the intense details. There is no “he’s a good guy”; “she’s a nice person”. No generalizations, but a great attention to every little minutia. The beloved know each others’ every move, every wrinkle, the way he smiles, the way she listens. They can see each other clearly, even from miles apart. They hear each other without words.
Love makes it so everything matters. Small things are suddenly a big deal that can make or break a whole day. One kind gesture; one silly word. Everything is magnified; everything is critical; everything has significance.
This is what we do just before Pesach too. Remember how we looked for every little spec of chametz, every crumb? It all had to be burned, for between lovers there is no room for even the littlest thing; nothing separates them.
And then comes Pesach eve, and we celebrate that G-d “passed-over” our homes; that we were taken to freedom and liberation; that we were given another chance.
Through what great merit did we deserve this? Have we done anything grand?
Our sages tell us that there are 50 gates of “tum’a” טומאה, “spiritual impurity” and distance, and that we made it to gate 49. But nevertheless, G-d “passed-over” our mishaps and saw our “potential”, our ”light” and the “big picture”.
And that too, is love.
Rashi says that the word “u-fasachti” ופסחתי “and I will pass-over”, means “vechamalti” – וחמלתי “and I have shown compassion”. There is great compassion – and love – in, at times, being able to not see every detail, in skipping over.
Indeed, the Pesach prep has to be scrupulous. Such is winter: we count rain days, precipitation, temperatures, clothing, supplies. But then spring comes, and that’s all gone. The windows are open; heater is off, and we are joyful to see just the smallest blossom. There is no way to “measure” that. We say thank you not because the tiny flower is physically greater than however many months of darkness and cold we had, but because it’s here; because it exists; because it reminds us there is hope. Our joy and appreciation “skip over” all the previous – cold, dark, slushy – days.
The Song of Songs introduces a loving form of “passing over”, expressed in the lover’s voice rushing to the beloved, leaping and skipping over any obstacles:
קול דודי הנה זה בא, מדלג על ההרים, מקפץ על הגבעות
Behold! my beloved! behold, he comes, leaping upon the mountains, hopping upon the hills.. (2:8)
It seems like love is both about paying close attention to details, and about skipping over; about daily tedious hard work, and about dancing for joy and not seeing every little mess as a big obstacle to joy. The art and challenge is when to apply which. Perhaps figuring that out is also at the heart of the journey from slavery to freedom.
Chag (Hug) Same’ach & Shabbat Shalom!