On Monday night, millions of Jews (and many non-Jews) will take part in one of civilization’s long-running story-telling rituals – the Seder Night. This springtime celebration of rebirth offers us a precious opportunity to pay attention to our lives, to discover how we are enslaved, and to take a significant step towards true freedom.
But who is this ‘we’?
Are we only concerned with the liberation of ourselves?
Our tribe, people, ethnicity, race, gender, sexuality, country…?
According to the beautiful ‘Fourfold Song’ of Rav Kook, the highest aspiration of Judaism is for each individual to simultaneously sing the songs of:
One’s family or tribe;
All of life.
We learn here, and throughout our tradition, that the path to attaining authentic freedom is to start from deep within oneself, and to work gradually, patiently outwards. For example, the Torah says “Love your neighbor as yourself,” from which we learn: we can only truly love others to the extent that we love ourselves.
According to Rav Kook, this ‘Fourfold Song’ is the Song of Songs, aka the Song of Solomon, which is traditionally read in homes and synagogues on Pesach. The Song of Songs is a sensual love song, or really a string of songs. It is at once:
- A personal song, between a woman and her lover;
- A song of the relationship between a people and the Divine;
- A song between the human soul and its Creator;
- The song of all Creation.
These four songs flow into each other and nourish each other, thus creating the dance of life. Like the Song of Songs, the song of the Universe has no perceptible beginning or end and consists of both movement and stillness, giving and receiving, ebbing and flowing.
According to the Sfat Emet, we sing the Song of Songs on Pesach because its subject is a “necessary love.” On Pesach, when we re-live the Exodus, we are privileged to a glimpse of profound freedom, not merely the absence of slavery, but true freedom – a state where everything is in tune with this love.
And so, we sing the Song of Songs to attune ourselves to the necessary love underlying all life. If we listen, we might, as the Sfat Emet puts it, “Wake up to the song in all creation.”