Draw me / after you we shall run / the king has brought
me into his chambers
Song of Songs 1:4
“Draw me”—this is the Exodus from Egypt; “after you we
shall run”—this is the counting of the Omer; “the king has
brought me into his chambers”—this is the revelation at Mount
King Solomon’s “Song of Songs,” which our sages have called
the holiest book of the Scriptures, describes our relationship with the Almighty
via the story of the love between a maiden and her beloved,
employing the passions and imagery of physical love as a metaphor
for the unique bond between G-d and His people.
In every relationship, there are times when one partner takes
the initiative, and times when the other partner plays the
active role. In the above quoted verse we see the initiative
shift from one partner to the other and back again: the maiden
calls on her beloved to “draw me” (his initiative), promises
to run after him (hers), and concludes by speaking of how
he brings her into his chambers (his). This double shift of
initiative is reflected in our sages’ interpretation of this
verse as the voice of the maiden Israel recalling her “bridal
love” for G-d at the time of the Exodus: “Draw me”
refers to how G-d drew us to Him at a time when we, submerged
in the paganism of Egypt, were unwilling or unable to seek
Him ourselves; “after you we shall run,” speaks of a phase
in the relationship—the seven weeks of preparation and self-refinement
that followed the Exodus—in which we were the active suitors;
and finally, “the king has brought me into his chambers” again
refers to a time when we were the passive recipients of a
divine initiative—G-d’s revelation of His essence to man at
The kabbalists call these countercurrents in our relationship
with G-d “arousal from above” and “arousal from below,” and
explain how, as is the case in human relationships, both are
necessary to achieve an ideal union. It is important that
we “run after you”—that our lives be driven by the quest to
transcend the mundane and reach for the divine. But it is
also important that we recognize those times and areas in
the relationship in which our own abilities are grossly inadequate,
and we can only surrender to the supernal forces that call
to our soul.
Before and After
More specifically, there are two forms of “arousal from above”:
one that precedes our active quest, and one that follows it.
As in the above-quoted verse from Song of Songs, “draw me”
is followed by “after you we shall run,” which is followed,
in turn, by “the king has brought me into his chambers.”
The first initiative must come from Above. In the words of
the Talmud, “a prisoner cannot release himself from prison”: the soul of man, confined to a
material body and encumbered by material impulses, requires
an “arousal from above” to waken its desire to unite with
the Almighty. We experience such “arousals” all the time:
remember the last time you were struck with a sudden joy,
or fear, or regret, that had no identifiable source or cause?
When you were suddenly seized with a resolve to rectify a
deficient past and place a new emphasis on your spiritual
development? That was G-d drawing you to Him, stirring your
soul’s latent love for its Creator.
All too often, these awakenings resound briefly in our consciousness
and then dissipate without any real and lasting effect upon
our lives. In order for their momentum to carry over into
our internal and behavioral selves, they must be reciprocated
with “an arousal from below”—with an initiative, on our part,
to pursue G-d with every fiber of our being.
On the other hand, however, even the most ambitious of human
efforts remains a human effort, defined and confined
by the limitations of the human state. So it, too, falls short
of achieving the ultimate union between man and G-d. Thus,
the first two phases of our relationship with G-d are both
inadequate, and for opposite reasons: because the initial
“arousal from above” appears without any effort and involvement
on our part it is too removed from our reality to be meaningful
to us, while our “arousal from below” is too much a part of
our reality to truly touch the divine.
Hence the third phase—an “arousal from above” that follows
our own efforts to relate to G-d. Because it comes from G-d,
it is as potent, as infinite and as true as its source. And
because it has been preceded by our efforts, it falls on fertile
ground, touching us deeply and permeating our lives.
This also explains a curious discrepancy in the grammatical
structure of the verse from Song of Songs. Why does
the narrator begin in first person singular (“draw me”),
and change, in mid-sentence, to first person plural (“after
you we shall run”), only to conclude by reverting to
the singular (“the king has brought me into his chambers”)?
Because the divinely initiated awakenings touch the “one”
in us—the singular essence of our souls—while our own quest
for G-d embraces the plurality of feelings, characteristics,
traits and faculties that make up the “miniature universe”
that is man. In our relationship with G-d, it is important
that both these elements be present; that the most basic core
of self be touched, but that also the surface of our lives,
with its great diversity of drives, wants and levels of consciousness,
be permeated with an awareness of G-d and the striving to
connect with Him. Only when both the “me” and the “we” of
the self are involved can the relationship be both true and
real, both absolute and relevant.
“So said G-d: I remember the kindness of your youth, your
bridal love, following me in the wilderness, in an unsown
prophet is speaking of the time that the people of Israel
followed G-d out of Egypt into the desert, where they were
betrothed to G-d at Mount Sinai.
As we said, the original union between G-d and Israel also
included the three phases recounted above: an initiative by
the divine groom, the response of the earthly bride, culminating
with another “arousal from above,” this second one stimulated
by the “arousal from below” that preceded it.
First there was the Exodus, when “the King of all Kings revealed
Himself to them and redeemed them.” At that time, the people of Israel
were steeped in the idolatry of their Egyptian masters and
naked of all meritorious deeds;
indeed, the Midrash relates that when G-d split the sea for
the people of Israel and drowned the pursuing Egyptians in
it, the guardian angel of Egypt complained: “How are they
any different from them? These are idol-worshippers, and these
are idol-worshippers!” Nevertheless, G-d chose to draw His people to
Him in a unilateral act of love.
There then followed seven weeks of intense preparation on
the part of Israel to make themselves worthy of G-d’s choice:
forty-nine days devoted to the refinement of the forty-nine
traits of the human character.
This is the phase of the relationship to which the maiden
Israel refers when she sings “after you we shall run”—"we,”
the plural world of my mortal heart, runs after you, seeks
you in every avenue of its diverse and fragmented self. We
lag far behind you, perceiving only your shadowy back as we
run after you; but we are running, impelling ourselves beyond
the corporeal life into which we were born, beyond the conventions
of our own nature.
The forty-nine-day run brought us to the foot of Mount Sinai.
There “the king brought me into his chambers,” raising our
relationship to a height of intimacy and union no humanly-generated
love could ever have achieved. But because this divine initiative
was preceded by our “arousal from below” it penetrated our
wakened souls and permeated every nook and nuance of our ready
“These days are commemorated and reenacted.”
The festivals commanded by the Torah do not merely commemorate
the fundamental events of our history, but constitute their
annual re-experience. Every Passover, we are again showered
with a unilateral outpouring of divine love, as G-d again
draws us to Him. This is followed by the forty-nine day sefirah
(“count”), in which we again climb the forty-nine rungs of
our psyche, refining and elevating our multi-faceted selves
in the quest to run after G-d and make ourselves worthy of
His embrace. Thus aroused, we are in a position to truly experience
the divine revelation of Shavuot, the day on which the King
brings us into His innermost chambers and enables us to relate
to His most intimate self.
Based on the Rebbe’s talks of Lag B’omer 5711 (1951),
Shavuot 5713 (1953), and on other occasions
Adapted from the teachings of the Rebbe by Yanki Tauber
. Talmud, Yadayim 3:5.
. Talmud, Berachot 5b, et al.
. Midrash Tanchuma, Pekudei 3.
. Ezekiel 16:7; Rashi, ibid.
. Midrash Tehillim, 15:5.
. There are seven basic attributes of the human heart—chessed,
gevurah, tiferet, netzach, hod, yesod and malchut
(attraction, rejection, synthesis, competitivity, devotion,
communicativity and receptiveness)—each of which contains
elements of all others; this makes for a total of forty-nine
emotions and drives in the character of man.
. Likkutei Sichot, vol. I, pp. 266-269, et al.