*An excerpt from a Bible lecture given at Makuya World Holy Convocation at Lake Biwa in August, 2018

Rabbi Benjamin Lau

Leaning from the Song of Songs

Not every person gets to say what Prof. Teshima said, "I am always with You." Ordinary life is more like a moon than a sun. There are days when all is full and there are days when all are missing. A person's connection to the LORD is a relationship that undergoes many changes in life. We always pray to be together with Him. But there are days when we sleep and do not pay attention; there are days when we pray, and suddenly we do not hear an answer.

A believer always wants to pray and hear an answer. Like a child who comes home and knocks on the door, saying, "Mom, Dad, open the door for me." How does a child feel, when standing outside all alone and shouting, "Mom, Dad!" and no one opens the door?

Sometimes father is outside, he goes to his children, knocks on the door, but they do not hear. Why don't they hear? Maybe the TV sound is loud, or they're sleeping in a bedroom. Father is outside and knocking, again knocking. What does he do at the end? He goes away. Then a boy suddenly wakes up, "Oh, Daddy was knocking on the door." He runs to the door, but the father has gone. So he starts looking for him. Does he find him, or does he not find him?

Reading the Song of Songs, we learn about the experience of the encounter between man and woman, between father and children. You can learn the Song of Songs in many ways. There is a private story like drama, of a man and a woman; sometimes he looks for her, and sometimes she looks for him. You keep reading whether they do meet or do not meet.

But Rabbi Akiva taught us that the Song of Songs was not only a love story of man and woman. Rabbi Akiva said that the Song of Songs was the Holy of Holies. The relation between man and woman is like a relation between the people of Israel and God. Everything that happened to the people of Israel happens in the Song of Songs.

People who Had Fallen Asleep

The people of Israel looked for the LORD and the LORD searched for the people of Israel. Then they had the temple of King Solomon. It was one moment in the history of the Jewish people that the LORD found a home within Jerusalem. In the days of Solomon there was peace, there was joy, and there was security; the LORD lived in Zion.

One who reads the Song of Songs sees chapter 5, verse 1, "I came to my garden, my sister, a bride." This is the moment of the encounter between man and woman, the people of Israel and God; it is the most joyful moment in the Song of Songs. You finish verse 1 and go to verse 2, you do not believe what happened. "I am sleeping but my heart is awake. The voice of my beloved is knocking, 'Open to me, my sister, my spouse, my dove, my perfect one, that my head is filled with dew, my locks with the drops of the night.'"

What happened? One verse before there was harmony. What happened between verse 1 and verse 2? After there was harmony, they suddenly forgot, "I sleep." The people of Israel fall asleep. They do not notice that they have a home, that there is God, that there is joy. They just fell asleep.

After Solomon's days came days of civil war between brothers in Israel. The people of Israel broke up into two states and fought each other. They forgot God. Prophets came and tried to restore but could not succeed until the LORD left the house. Ezekiel the Prophet describes to us how the LORD leaves Jerusalem, goes to Mount of Olives and says, "Goodbye to you, Jerusalem."

The house of man and woman will fall apart; there will remain an empty house, a house without light and without joy. Then the enemies came and drove people of Israel out of the country to Babylon. We were in Babylon for 70 years. Then the LORD sent Cyrus, King of Persia, who said,"The people of Israel, please go home." Not many returned. "I’m asleep." They did not hear the LORD calling them home. The LORD knocked on the door, "Open for me, my sister, my wife." We did not get up in time. When God was knocking on the door, we did not wake up. This happened several times throughout the history of the Jewish people.

To be continued.
Click here to read "Prayer Yearning for the Beloved (1)"
Click here to read "Prayer Yearning for the Beloved (3)"