“O for your kiss! For your love / More enticing than wine, / For your scent and sweet name – / For all this they love you.
Take me away to your room, / Like a king to his rooms – / We’ll rejoice there with wine. / No wonder they love you!” (Song of Songs 1:2-4 – Translation by Marsha Falk)
So, tradition teaches, was the kiss experienced so sweetly on Mount Sinai between the finite bride Israel and the Infinite Bridegroom beneath a chupah attended by angels.
Only forty-nine days earlier God delivered the people through the birth waters of the sea into the midbar, an awe-inspiring expanse of earth and sky, where death stared them in the face, and where life teemed, and authenticity was possible, where a kol d’mamah dakah (a “soft murmuring sound”) was heard even from within the devastating silence, and where the “Word” was at last spoken.
There in the midbar God and Moses met “face to face” and Eternity uttered the Name.
A kiss more enticing than wine, the “I” of God forged a covenant of light with the people Israel.
The Holy One, having revealed Himself before the people b’li shum l’vush (Rabbi Levi Yitzhak of Berditchev, K’dushat Levi, Parashat Yitro), in raw naked power as a young warrior when He crashed the waves and drowned the Egyptians, now at Sinai (commemorated this past Tuesday evening on Shavuot), for our sake did God step back as a wise old sage without brandishing a sword and instead uttered words of Torah to teach she-ha-olamot y’hiyeh yachol l’kayeim (ibid.) “that the worlds could exist” without overpowering military might.
The Divine Lover and Groom did all this for our sake, so taught the Berditchever Rebbe, that we might walk through the “gates” to holiness and not get stuck in the “gates” of impurity.
On Shabbat Naso, this week, only three days after the Divine wedding on Shavuot, God is still in a most loving mood and blesses His Bride:
May God bless you and keep you; / May God’s face shine towards you and be gracious to you; / May God lift His face towards you and give you peace. Numbers 6:24-26
Among the most famous blessings in world literature, our sages teach that these three lines promise the fulfillment of every human need and want; wealth, justice, and strength; intelligence, skill, wisdom, intuition, and knowledge; health, compassion, forgiveness, integrity, safety, love, and peace.
This priestly blessing (Birkat Kohanim) represents the highest expression of God’s love. So much so, that the priest was not permitted to offer the blessing on God’s behalf if he hated his community or anyone of its members, or if he was hated by them.
Humbly, the Kohen would ascend the bimah and cover his head with a tallit, and spread his fingers to the shape of a shin, palms towards the earth bestowing blessing from above.
He was never to look the congregation in the eye, and the congregation was to look away as well, because it was then that the Shekhinah would enter the community of Israel.
She was too beautiful and magnificent and inspiring to look upon, for to see Her directly with the naked eye was to peer directly into the face of God, and no one can see God’s face and live.
The former Chief Justice of the Sephardic rabbinical court in Jerusalem, Rabbi Hezkiah Shabtai, originally of Salonika and Aleppo (1862-1950), cited Numbers 6:23: “Speak to Aaron and his sons and say to them, ‘Thus shall you bless the children of Israel.’”
“Amour lahem,” he repeated (“say to them!”). He explained, “Amour in French means love… therefore say, ‘Love them when you are about to bless them. You must love them first.’”
It’s all about love, after all – our covenant with God and each other.
The wedding of The Divine Infinite Bridegroom and Yisrael the Bride was a wondrous thing when it occurred at Sinai, and the blessing of the Kohanim continues that Divine love affair even now – even now.