The Torah and prophets often describe an exclusive relationship that is like a marriage between God and Israel. To disobey God’s commandments or to worship other gods is described as unfaithfulness or adultery in that relationship. But the imagery of a marriage goes further than just the idea of exclusivity, where worship and obedience belong only to God. He also taught Israel to love Him, and not to be apathetic towards what He said. This aspect of desire is described in Song of Songs through the imagery of two lovers.
God has chased after Israel with love even in her unfaithfulness, but what He truly desires is for her to have love like His; to stir up the desire to chase Him as well, even amidst confusion or pain or a sense of His distance. This brings an equality in the relationship that can only be responded to with gratitude and respect; thankfulness for the approachability of God.
In chapter five of Song of Songs, we find that at this level of relationship it isn’t just unfaithfulness or adultery that destroys the closeness. Apathy and a lack of desire are also an end to it. Throughout this poem we see the woman and the man seeking each other with deep emotion; in chapter five the woman will not even get out of bed to see the one she loves, who stands so close at the door. Until she praises him and seeks him later in the chapter, it is all over between them. This is because of the depth of the relationship that is offered and desired by God, with Israel and with all of humanity. Indifference can’t exist in such a place.
Even when we refuse to be unfaithful in big things, it is often hard to have integrity in the small choices everyday. May we be “bold as a leopard, light as an eagle, swift as a deer, and strong as a lion,” to do the will of our Father.
(From a lecture by Rabbi Ari Lobel)