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The Month of the Bride

The Month of the Bride

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I am to my beloved, and my beloved is to me

Song of Songs 6:3

In every relationship, there are times when the “male” or giving partner takes the initiative, and times when the “female” or receiving partner is the first to express her feelings and thereby stimulate the feelings of her partner.

The question of who takes the initiative has a profound effect on the nature of the relationship. For though the end result is that both of them express their love for each other, the initiating partner determines the nature of the other’s response. When initiated by the giving partner, the response stimulated in the recipient will likewise be a “masculine” response; when initiated by the recipient, the giver’s response will also be of a “feminine” nature, for it will be influenced and shaped by the source of its arousal.

In Song of Songs, which explores the relationship between G‑d and Israel through the metaphor of the love between a bride and her groom, we find expressions of both male-initiated and female-initiated love. In one verse the narratrix proclaims, “My beloved is to me, and I am to him” (Song of Songs 2:16). In another she says, “I am to my beloved, and my beloved is to me” (ibid. 6:3).

There are times when the Almighty showers us with love and kindness, arousing in us a response in kind (“My beloved is to me, and I am to him”). But there are also times in which we take the initiative, expressing our love and devotion to Him despite His apparent distance from us, thereby awakening in Him His love for us (“I am to my beloved, and my beloved is to me”).

It may be argued that the divinely initiated love produces a higher and loftier love than the love which is initiated by ourselves. When the initial arousal comes from G‑d, it is a show of love that is as infinite and sublime as its source, arousing in us feelings that we could never have produced ourselves. Nevertheless, such a love cannot be said to be truly our own. We have been overwhelmed by something that is infinitely greater than ourselves, and our own response is likewise “larger than life,” bearing little relation to who and what we are in our natural state.

On the other hand, the love we generate ourselves may be less magnificent and glorious, but it is a deeper and truer love. It is an integral love—a love that comes from within and expresses our deepest yearnings. And when we awaken such a love in ourselves, G‑d responds in kind, showing us an integral, intimate love—a love that embraces us as we are, rather than transporting us to sublime yet alien peaks of spirituality and transcendence.

The Acronym

The month of Elul is a time of special closeness between the divine Groom and His bride Israel. This is alluded to by the fact that in Hebrew, the first letters of the phrase “I am to my beloved and my beloved is to me” (ani ledodi vedodi li) spell the word Elul.

It is significant that the acronym for Elul comes from the verse that describes a love that is initiated by the bride, rather than the verse in which the initial show of love comes from the groom. For despite its designation as a time for special closeness between G‑d and man, Elul is a most “ordinary” month, conspicuously devoid of festivals and holy days. In other words, Elul is not a time in which we are “lifted up” from our daily routine to the more spiritual state of a festival day; rather, it is a time in which we remain in our natural environment as material beings inhabiting a material life.

For the month of Elul, whose astral sign is the sign of betulah (“virgin”), is the month of the bride. Elul is a time when the initiative comes from our side of the relationship, and the divine response to our love is one that relates to us as finite, material beings and embraces our natural self and personality.

Based on the teachings of the Lubavitcher Rebbe, Rabbi Menachem Mendel Schneerson; adapted by Yanki Tauber.
Originally published in Week in Review.
Republished with the permission of MeaningfulLife.com. If you wish to republish this article in a periodical, book, or website, please email permissions@meaningfullife.com.
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Anonymous Lagos, Nigeria August 11, 2013

It is G-d first - most of the time "I am to my beloved" is really and truly a City of Refuge in time (Elul)when the response to the ever present Love of G-d should be reciprocated by Man taking the initiative to lead in the expression of love towards Him who is the giver of all things - Indeed the ability to love in itself and the willingness to take the initiative! May we be inscribed and sealed 'to express our Love for Him in our individual and unique ways that only Him can understand! Amen Reply

KEITH HIGGINS BRISBANE, AUSTRALIA August 19, 2011

ELUL,THE MONTH OF THE BRIDE As a christian, with Jewish roots, I have been so blessed reading the wonderful teaching on this website,it gives me a greater understanding of the legacy that my forefathers have left me. Reply

Amy Watts Fayetteville, NC August 8, 2011

Nehemiah's wall Was completed in the month of the Bride. Fabulous posting. Thank you. My musings on this? I was trying to figure out the significance of the month of Elul and found your explanation. I was reading Nehemiah 6:15: "So the wall was completed on the twenty-fifth of Elul, in fifty-two days." "Let the joy of the Lord be your strength" meaning--let your repsonse to God's love be the continuing of your destiny in Him. "Should a man like me run away?" Read: a man that knows that God has called him to put his hands to the good work. Do not be afraid or intimidated (N6:15). Let your response to Him be the "joy" of joining His plan for your life. Reply

Gayle columbus, oh September 11, 2008

beautiful and thanks This was wonderful! Reply

Danielle Picard Alfred Ontario, Canada September 8, 2008

The Month of the Bride WOW! Thank you. This was very helpful.I often wondered the meaning of Song of Songs.... Each time I read it, I am puzzled by its 'explicit' language and love expression. I never realized how beautiful and profond the exchange between the lovers was. And your comments have truly awakened my soul to reading it more often as an uplifting love letter. Plus the signification of Elul in relation to it is sinking in too.
I am discovering the jewish truths and definitions, expressions and customs. I am very fascinated because so many of my questions are being answered just by learning the jewish ways. WOW WOW WOW. thank you very much. Reply

Larson amber via jewishdiscoverycenter.org August 19, 2007

Interesting Interesting article. Just had some mixed feeliings about the introduction regarding how nesessary or how appropirate it is to mention (even in riddles) the whole business of male and female. Could have just said that in a relationship there's a giver and a receiver and either one may initiate the relationship. To on the surface touch such a delicate issue and then casualy go to the lesson of Chassidus, seems to me to be a small lack of refinement... Reply

Ginger Eugene , OR August 10, 2007

Rebbe's teaching Wonderful, wonderful, wonderful! I am so inspired by these words. Oh how I love the Hebraic root. Reply

Anonymous Jerusalem, Israel March 25, 2007

Rebbe's teaching I read the article based on the Rebbe;s teaching on "I am my beloved'".

I thought it was very well explained, touching and spiritual. Reply