Av 5759 – Ani L’dodi V’dodi Li

15 Menachem Av 5759

From the Desk of: Rabbi Avishai David

The days after Tisha B’Av already presage the onset of Chodesh Ellul. Chazal note that Ellul is an acronym for “Ani L’Dodi v’Dodi Li.” The relationship between the Almighty and the Jewish people is one of a dual nature. There are periods when the Almighty initiates the encounter with Klall Yisrael and, hopefully, we respond. This is reflected in the expression “Dodi li v’ani lo.” At other times we are enjoined to seek out the Almighty who responds to our initiative with love an compassion. That phenomenon is embedded in the expression that highlights Chodesh Ellul – “Ani l’Dodi v’Dodi li.”

My revered Rebbe, HaRav Tzvi Dov Kanatopsky zt”l, often noted that it’s most striking that in the context of Shir HaShirim, where these two expressions occur, they are utilized very precisely. In the second chapter, where the Shulamit hears the approaching of their beloved:

“Kol Dodi hinei zeh ba m’daleg al heharim m’kapeitz al hageva’ot… anah Dodi v’amar li kumi lach ra’ayati yafati u’l’chi lach.” The Dod or the Almighty is beckoning to the Klall Yisrael to repond to His overtures. The fitting conclusion to this Divine initiative is “Dodi li v’ani lo haro’eh bashoshanim.”

In Chapter 5 of Shir HaShirim, the voice of the Dod is heard knocking on the door: “Kol Dodi dofek, pitchi li achoti ra’ayati…”

Unfortunately, our response is often one of indifference or apathy. We are presently preoccupied and involved in other pressing matters.

“Pashat’ti et kutonti, aichacha elbashenah. Rachatzti et raglain aichacha atanfeim.” Only after I have tended to my own selfish egotistical needs do I respond.

Unfortunately, I missed the golden opportunity to rendezvous with my beloved. “V’Dodi chamak avar.”

At that juncture, the Klall Yisrael is tragically destined to search for the Almighty, a search that is saturate with sadness and pathos, reflecting golden opportunities that were foregone. That yearning and searching for my Beloved reaches its acme with the words “Ani l’Dodi v’Dodi li” that reflect the pain and disappointment of a lost opportunity.

The Netziv, in his commentary to Shir HaShirim, notes the dialectical nature of these two expressions. There are historical periods, e.g. Yetziat Mitzrayim, that epitomize “Doi li v’ani lo.” In Egypt it was the Almighty who initiated, cajoled, concretized, and executed the redemption: “Ani v’lo malach, Ani v’lo saraf…ela HaKadosh Baruch Hu b’chvodo u’v’atzmo.”

The Yom Tov of Pesach is the quintessence of “V’hotzeiti, v’hitzalti, v’ga’alti, v’lakachti, v’heiveiti” – in short, “Dodi li v’ani lo.”

Conversely, when Avraham Avinu searched for the Almighty and discovered Him in the complexity of the cosmos, the heavenly constellations, and the nebulae that religions experience, relected “Ani l’Dodi v’Dodi li.”

HaRav Kanatopsky zt”l remarked that even a cursory examination of Sefer Devarim reveals this dialectic. The early parshiyot of Devarim, V’Etchanan, Eikev focus on the beneficience and bountiful chessed of the Almighty in our sojourn in the midbar. Subsequently, our entry to the Promised Land was exclusively the handiwork of the Almighty. The subsequent parshiyot obligate us to respond to the boundless chessed vouchsafed to us by the Almighty – “l’schino tidrishu u’vata shamah.”

This dialectic is embedded in the warp and woof of Jewish history and destiny. Chodesh Ellul lovingly beckons to us to initiate dialogue with the Almighty at a propitious moment when “Melech b’sadeh” – the King of kings is accessible and immanent. It behooves us not to lose the opportunity but to seize the moment to rendezvous with the Shechinah. We can accomplish this through a variety of modus operandi: daven and articulate the words carefully and methodically, recite brachot with precision and forethought, and perform mitzvot with painstaking care. By attempting to improve our avodat HaShem, we will be testifying to our commitment and love – “Dodi li” and, hopefully, the Almighty will respond to our overtures – “V’ani lo” – and embrace the Klall Yisrael with love and compassion.