Dodi Li Va'Ani LoBy Rabbi Jack Abramowitz
The woman says: I am a lily of Sharon, a rose of the valley.
The man replies: You ARE like a rose – and the rest of the girls are like thorns!
The woman responds: And you’re like an apple tree among all the other trees of the forest – your shade is delightful and your fruit is sweet. Take me to your banquet hall and demonstrate your love for me. Fill me with wine and cover my bed with your fragrant apples. Hold me in your embrace. The rest of you girls, do not come between me and my man! My beloved is coming, gracefully like a gazelle. He is peeking at me from behind the wall. My love calls me to come away with him because winter has passed and spring has arrived. The land is full of flowers, singing birds, fresh figs and aromatic grapes. My lover compares me to a dove in the cleft of a rock and he asks that I reveal myself so that he might see me and hear my voice. I ask that he seize people who, cunning as foxes, might try to come between us. I am my beloved’s and he is mine; he stays here, among the roses. When the sun was high, however, I caused him to depart like one to a distant mountain.
Verse 1 contains the famous phrases “rose of Sharon” and “lily of the valley,” although the opposite would perhaps be more accurate. Verse 16, “Dodi Li Va’Ani Lo,” “My beloved is mine and I am his,” is the same concept but the reverse order of the more famous “I am my beloved’s…,” which we’ll see in chapter 6.
Israel compares itself to a rose, with G-d adding that others nations are thorns by comparison. Israel replies by comparing G-d to a fruitful apple tree and idols to dead wood. G-d protects His people with His shade and His fruit, the Torah, is sweet.
G-d brought Israel to His “chamber,” the Tabernacle, and He sustains them with comfort in exile, because they are sick from missing Him; they recall how He “embraced” them in the wilderness after they left Egypt. Israel warns the other nations, compared here to rival women, that when they come to offer sacrifices in Jerusalem, not to disturb their relationship with G-d.
Israel was excited to hear the voice of G-d coming to redeem them in Egypt. The Jews thought they were abandoned, but G-d was with them the whole time, metaphorically watching them from behind the wall. G-d called to Israel, for the “winter” of Egyptian servitude has passed and it is time for the “spring” of redemption. (Please note that Passover, which commemorates the freedom from bondage, very literally occurs in the spring.)
As in the previous chapter, G-d again compares Israel to a dove. However, they are cornered by the Egyptians at the Red Sea, so He asks them to show Him the appropriateness of their deeds. They cried out to G-d (see Exodus 14:10) and He found their voice pleasing. (The Midrash applies this to the Shira, the “Song at the Sea.”) G-d had the sea grab the Egyptians, who were pursuing like foxes and who had tried to undermine the integrity of the nation while it was still in its formative stages.
The chapter concludes with Israel saying that G-d is their Beloved, Who fulfills all their needs. He causes them to graze peacefully, until their sins drive Him away, as if to distant mountains.
According to Rashi, the meaning of “Dodi Li Va’Ani Lo” (“my Beloved is mine and I am His”) is that G-d requires certain things of the Jewish people, but not from any other nation. Conversely, they turn to Him for all their needs and not to idols.