NOW "Ani L'dodi V'Dodi Li"By Rabbi Jack Abramowitz
Picking up from where we left off, the girls ask the woman where her lover has gone; if she tells them, then they’ll know where to look. The woman replies that the man has gone to his garden to enjoy the spices and roses there. “I am my beloved’s and my beloved is mine, the one who pastures his flocks among the roses.”
When the man hears these praises, he replies that the woman is as beautiful as the cities of Tirtza and Jerusalem and as awe-inspiring as legions carrying flags. (This may possibly refer to the legions of G-d’s angels.) The man advises the woman to look away, because her gaze is making him feel arrogant and proud. As before, he praises her hair, teeth and face. The man goes on to say that there are 60 queens, the king has 80 concubines and there countless other women, but his beloved is one of a kind. The other women – including the queens and the king’s concubines – praise her as bright as the dawn, fair as the moon, clear as the sun and as awe-inspiring as those legions we mentioned earlier.
The man concludes that when he was turned away, he went to the garden to enjoy the plants and to see what had bloomed. The woman says that she didn’t know enough to open the door for him, which has caused her to bear the weight of the world.
The nations of the world ask Israel where G-d has gone. In the future (our past), the nations will offer their assistance in rebuilding the Temple, albeit for ulterior motives. Israel replies to the nations that even though the nation may be in exile, G-d will again be found in His Temple, where fragrant incense is offered to Him. Israel is their Beloved’s and He is theirs, causing them to graze tranquilly among the roses.
G-d tells the Jewish people that they are beautiful to Him when they act in a manner that is befitting of their relationship with Him. When they do, they are as precious to G-d as Jerusalem was at the height of its righteousness and even the legions of angels cannot compare to them. G-d advises the Jews to turn away, lest He be inspired to redeem them from exile prematurely. Despite their sins, even the least among them is praiseworthy; their leaders are righteous and even the common people have merits as numerous as a pomegranate’s seeds. Abraham had sixty descendants (counting the children of Keturah, and the children of Isaac and Ishmael through the heads of their Tribes and families). The descendants of Noah until Abraham are 80. The former are like queens, while the latter are like concubines. Israel, however, is unique. The other “queens and concubines” praise Israel and the Temple.
G-d says He will go down to the second Temple to see if the Torah and merits of the nation have blossomed. Israel replies that they didn’t know how to guard themselves from temptation. They became slaves to their passions, which drove G-d away and allowed nations to conquer them.
Verse 3 contains the famous phrase “Ani L’dodi V’dodi Li” (“I am my Beloved’s and my Beloved is mine”), whose Hebrew initials spell the name of the month of Elul. This is symbolic of the relationship between G-d and Israel, especially at that time of year, leading up to the “High Holy Days.”