Our parasha contains two terms that are found nowhere else in Tanach, namely, he’e’marta and he’e’mircha: “Today you have declared allegiance (he’e’marta) to Hashem, making Him your God, [pledging to] walk in His paths, keep His decrees, commandments, and laws, and to obey His voice. Hashem has similarly declared allegiance to you (he’e’mircha) today, making you His special nation as He promised you. If you keep all His commandments.”
Rashi notes the unique character of these two words, and then proceeds to suggest his own explication: “We do not find any equivalent expression in the Scriptures [which might give us a clue to the meaning of these words]. However, it appears to me that [the expression he’e’mir] denotes separation and distinction. [Thus, here, the meaning is as follows:] From all the pagan deities, you have set apart Hashem for yourself, to be your God, and He separated you to Him from all the peoples on earth to be His treasured people.”
Onkelos suggests a different understanding of he’e’marta and he’e’mircha. In his view, these terms connote the Almighty’s declaration of love for us, and our love for Him. As such, he translates he’e’marta as chatavta, and he’e’mircha as chatvach, both of which have their basis in the Aramaic word, chativah, which may be defined as an object of love.
Based on this interpretative translation, the relevant segments of our pasukim would read, “Today you have declared your singular love (he’e’marta) to Hashem … [and] Hashem has similarly declared His unique love (he’e’mircha) to you today.”
While our obligation to love Hashem is clearly found in the words, “v’ahavata ate Hashem Elokecha,” explicit statements of His love for us are far more elusive.
If we sensitize ourselves to the words of the tefilot, however, we can readily find His message of devotion to us. For example, the second bracha before the recitation of the morning Shema begins with the phrase, ahavah rabbah, and states: “With an abundant love have You loved us, Hashem, our God.” It concludes with: “Blessed are You Hashem, Who chooses His people Israel with love.”
Significantly, the text does not state “Who chose His people Israel with love,” which would reference an ancient act lost in the sands of time. Instead, our Sages formulated the prayer in the present tense, that is, Hashem continuously chooses us in love.
Additionally, two explicit statements of Hashem’s abiding love for us are found in the Shmoneh Esrei. In the first bracha, we encounter the phrase, l’ma’an sh’mo b’ahavah (for His Name’s sake, with love) and, in Birkat Re’tzeh, we find the phrase: u’tefilatom b’ahavah tikabale b’ratzon (and their prayer accept with love and favor).”
In sum, if we but listen to what we are saying in our daily tefilot, we will feel Hashem’s loving presence surrounding us. Little wonder, then, that Megillat Shir HaShirim is the ultimate metaphor for the relationship that obtains between Hashem and our people, for the Holy One blessed be He is our beloved soulmate who unceasingly searches for us in love and devotion. In a world that is so often frightening and alienating, this is a powerful message indeed.
With Hashem’s help, may we grow in our love and devotion to Him, and may we always be deserving of His everlasting love. V’chane yihi ratzon.