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Shir HaShiriym/Song of Songs 2:9 My beloved is like a gazelle or a young stag. See him: standing behind our wall, looking through the windows, peering through the lattices.
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This verse, one of a number of verses outside the Torah that the rabbis traditionally connect with Pesach, is full of unusual words that occurs either only here or in a small number of places in the Hebrew Scriptures. Rabbinic Judaism expects Messiah to come at Pesach and this and the following two verses are tied together by the ancient rabbis inPesikta Rabbati (Piska 15, section 10):
My beloved is like a gazelle or a young stag. Behold, he is standing behind our wall, he is looking through the windows, he is peering through the lattice. My beloved responded and said to me, 'Arise, my darling, my beautiful one, and come along. For behold, the winter is past, the rain is over and gone.' (Song of Songs 2:9-11, NASB)
This section of Pesikta Rabbati starts with comments from Rabbi Isaac and Rabbi Berechiah. Rabbi Isaac said: As a gazelle appears and then disappears, so [Moshe] the first Messiah, appeared to Israel and then disappeared from them. Moshe went up Mt. Sinai to spend time withHaShem for two forty day intervals and then at the end of his life went up Mt. Nebo and never returned. Rabbi Berechiah said in the name of Rabbi Levi: Like the first redeemer, so the last redeemer; as the first one appeared before them and then disappeared from them, so the last redeemer will appear to them and then disappear from them. At the Last Supper, Yeshua told the disciples, "A little while, and you will see Me no longer; and again a little while, and you will see Me" (John 16:16, ESV). He was with them when He spoke, but within a few hours He was arrested and crucified the next day. He was then with them again for a period of forty days after the Resurrection until His ascension. Unlike Moshe, however, Yeshua has promised to return so the two men in white at the ascension reminded the disciples, "This Yeshua, who has been taken away from you into heaven, will come back to you in just the same way as you saw him go into heaven" (Acts 1:11, CJB). Yeshua is our Redeemer - there will be no-one else. He is G-d's final and greatest revelation.
Taking up the argument again, Pesikta Rabbati goes on: To test their faith, he will have them go to the wilderness of Judah as it is written, "Assuredly, I will speak coaxingly to her and lead her through the wilderness and speak to her tenderly" (Hosea 2:16, JPS). Israel has been through the desert in nineteen hundred years of exile from her land, while G-d has been coaxing and calling for her to return to Him. Rabbi Isaac son of Rabbi Marion said: At the end, the Holy One, blessed be He, will appear to them and bring down manna for them. How do we know? Because, "Only that shall happen which has happened, only that occur which has occurred; there is nothing new beneath the sun!" (Ecclesiastes 1:9, JPS), so Israel will dwell in the desert: "I the L-RD have been your G-d ever since the land of Egypt. I will let you dwell in your tents again as in the days of old" (Hosea 12:10, JPS). Only when Israel is prepared to let go of her own self-sufficiency and dwell in tents again, trusting solely in G-d will she find peace and security.
The day after the feeding of the five thousand, Yeshua found Himself debating manna with the crowd. They said, "Our fathers ate the manna in the wilderness; as it is written, 'He gave them bread from heaven to eat'" (John 6:31, ESV), attributing the manna to Moshe, but Yeshua told them, "Truly, truly, I say to you, it was not Moshe who gave you the bread from heaven, but My Father gives you the true bread from heaven. For the bread of G-d is He who comes down from heaven and gives life to the world" (vv. 32-33, ESV). As G-d fed the Israelites in the wilderness, so He now offers to feed them again. Yeshua, who was sent by G-d, explains, "I am the bread of life; whoever comes to Me shall not hunger, and whoever believes in Me shall never thirst" (v. 35, ESV). Now both Jew and Gentile may have relationship through Yeshua.
Moving on to the second part of the verse, Pesikta Rabbati continues: According to Rabbi Jose ben Rabbi Hanina, "he is standing behind our wall" means the western wall of the Temple which will never be destroyed. The western wall of the Temple mount has never been destroyed and has long been attributed with a sense of holiness and the presence of G-d. The wall nearest to the Holy of Holies, it is said to weep with tears at the continued destruction of the Temple and the exile of the Jewish people from the Land. The windows through which he looks are the merits of the patriarchs, the lattices through which he peers are the merits of the matriarchs. G-d sees His people through the lens of His covenant. Just as in the Exodus story, He tells Moshe, "I have marked well the plight of My people in Egypt and have heeded their outcry because of their taskmasters; yes, I am mindful of their sufferings. I have come down to rescue them from the Egyptians" (Shemot 3:7-8, JPS), so Rav Sha'ul writes that G-d continues to remember Israel: "As regards the gospel, they are enemies of G-d for your sake. But as regards election, they are beloved for the sake of their forefathers" (Romans 11:28, ESV). For the sake of the patriarchs, G-d remembers and loves Israel.
Pesikta Rabbati asks, When "my beloved responded and said to me" (Song 2:10), what was it that he said? "This month shall mark for you the beginning of the months; it shall be the first of the months of the year for you" (Shemot 12:2, JPS). Here is the explicit connection between Pesach and the Messiah; just as HaShem remembered His people then at the season that was to become known as Pesach, so He will again remember His covenant and the sufferings of Israel as they groan in their bondage. Rav Sha'ul asks and then answers his own rhetorical question: "I ask, then, has G-d rejected his people? By no means! For I myself am an Israelite, a descendant of Abraham, a member of the tribe of Benjamin. G-d has not rejected His people whom He foreknew" (Romans 11:1-2, ESV). "I am living proof," Sha'ul says, "of G-d's continuing faithfulness." Rashi adds, "then, suddenly, He came to tell me that He is peering through the windows of the heavens taking notice of my plight, reassuring me that whatever my travail, He will never fail to keep the closest watch over me." Yeshua, who taught that "Not one sparrow - even if two are sold for one penny - will fall to the ground apart from your Father" (Matthew 10:29), affirms the promise for today and for every day until He returns: "Lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age" (28:20, NASB).
This section of Pesikta Rabbati concludes by telling us that The words 'for behold the winter is past' (Song 2:11) refer to the entire four hundred years decreed for our ancestors in Egypt. And the words 'the rain is over and gone' refer to their two hundred and ten years of servitude. When is the time of our redemption? Zacharias, the father of John the Baptiser prophesied "Blessed be the L-rd G-d of Israel, for He has visited us and accomplished redemption for His people, and has raised up a horn of salvation for us in the house of David His servant" (Luke 1:68-69, NASB). The life and ministry of Yeshua was the time at which we were redeemed. But there is more; although we were redeemed at the Cross, Yeshua tells us to "straighten up and lift up your heads because your redemption is drawing near" (Luke 21:28, NASB) when we see "signs in sun and moon and stars, and upon the earth dismay among nations, in perplexity at the roaring of the sea and the waves, men fainting from fear and the expectation of the things which are coming upon the world; for the powers of the heavens will be shaken" (vv. 25-26, NASB). There is still a redemption for us and for this world that is yet to come.
The Jewish world expects Messiah to come at Pesach. That is why the children go to the door to see if Elijah is there at the end of the Seder. Our people are looking for G-d to fulfill His word: "Lo, I will send the prophet Elijah to you before the coming of the awesome, fearful day of the L-RD" (Malachi 3:23, JPS). Malachi says, "Behold, I am sending My messenger to clear the way before Me, and the L-rd whom you seek shall come to His Temple suddenly" (3:1, JPS), echoing Isaiah's famous words: "A voice rings out: "Clear in the desert a road for the L-RD! Level in the wilderness a highway for our G-d!" (Isaiah 40:3, JPS. But pointing to John the Baptiser, Yeshua told the people that "This is the one about whom it is written, 'Behold, I send My messenger before Your face, Who will prepare Your way before You'" (Luke 7:27, NASB). We know that the Redeemer has come, now He is gone, but He will return.
We look around us and we see the things of which Yeshua spoke. The time of our redemption is at hand. We may expect Yeshua at a different time of year, during the Autumn feasts, but the time of year is not the question. The question is: are we ready to welcome Him?
Chag Pesach Sameach!
Further Study: Psalm 18:31-35; Joel 2:23-26; Acts 13:32-34
Application: Are you ready to greet Yeshua should He surprise you and show up at your seder this year? Are you expectant, knowing not only that He has promised to return, but that the time of your redemption is near? Make sure you have the evening free!
Comment - 16:02 17Apr16 Tom: Oddly enough,the quote from Song 2 is used by John Henry Newman in support of the reesatablishment of the Roman Catholic hierarchy in his "Apologia pro vita sua". I am ready for Jesus to turn up at any time, as the last days are upon us.
© Jonathan Allen, 2016
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