Kenneth Cohen

Love Letters

The custom among Ashkenazi Jews is to read the “Song of Songs,” or Shir Hashirim, of King Solomon, on Shabbat Chol Hamoed. The connection to Passover is that it is the holiday of redemption, which is alluded to, in the book.

There is actually a story told of two young lovers, who claim that their love is true. They are mocked by others, and forced to separate from one another. Their love letters speak of the day when they will be reunited, and all the world will recognize that indeed, their love was true and like no other love.

The reference is that special relationship between G-d and the Jewish people. The separation refers to our long exile, when we were separated from Hashem. The love letters referred to our Torah study and prayers. The reunion referred to the redemption when all the world will recognize, that Judaism is the one and only true religion.

It was Rabbi Akiva who saw this book as “Holy of Holies.” He felt that the analogy of the love between a man and a woman, was accurate in describing the deep love between Hashem and the Jewish people.

The Rambam elaborated on this idea. He explained that it is necessary to have a relationship of passion and absolute trust between husband and wife. Without such a relationship, it would be difficult to have such a relationship with G-d.

Judaism emphasizes the importance of having two great passions in life. Love of spouse and love of G-d, are what ground a person in this world. It allows us to put other pursuits in the world into perspective. Nothing is as important as these two great loves.

When one realizes this, and is constantly working to make these bonds stronger, he will find contentment in this world. Life has many challenges and disappointments. Learning how to cope with these challenges, takes a great deal of work. But if we understand that love of G-d and love of spouse, is our greatest priority, we will have the tools to deal with every situation.

The Song of Songs was making this statement. The exile was long and painful. But we survived as a people because of our love of Hashem and His Torah, and the power of the Jewish family, solidified by the deep love between husband and wife.

About the Author
Rabbi Cohen has been a Torah instructor at Machon Meir, Jerusalem, for over twenty years while also teaching a Talmud class in the Shtieblach of Old Katamon. Before coming to Israel, he was the founding rabbi of Young Israel of Century City, Los Angeles. He recently published a series of Hebrew language-learning apps, which are available at