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Shir ha-Shirim VIII: Part Three: Handles

Rabbi Yossi said: Imagine a big basket full of produce without any handle, oznaim, (‘ears’ in Hebrew) so heavy that it could not be lifted, until one clever man came in late handles for it, and then it began to be carried by its handles, so to, until Solomon came no one could properly understand the words of the Torah, but when Solomon arose, he provided handles, oznaim, and all began to comprehend the Torah. (Shir ha-Shirim Rabbah 1:1.8, part three)


“Until Solomon came no one could properly understand the words of the Torah!” Surely there were prophets, judges, and Sages who understood the Torah! However, the average person, although able to take some of the produce of the basket, could not lift the entire basket, because it was far too heavy and complex. It took the wisest of all men to provide us with the handles, the “ears,” so that all could lift the basket; begin to grasp Torah as a whole. He did this by way of parables.

Whereas Rabbi Nachman described Solomons parables as “the stream of connection,” or the, “scythe that cleared a path,” Rabbi Yossi approaches Solomon’s parables as a handle, a way to grasp the entirety of Torah. In the analogy of “the string of connection,” the person entering the palace must always hold on to the string. In the analogy of the “scythe,” an opening is cleared, but there are still parts of the path that remain impenetrable. Rabbi Nachman describes Solomon as providing us entry. Solomon will allow us to gain access, but we will have to continue to work hard in order to understand even more. He understands the Pesach story as an entrance to the Palace of Wisdom. It is the beginning of a process, a laborious process, that continues until Shavuot, the Revelation at Sinai.

Rabbi Yossi sees the Pesach story as a handle that allows us to grasp the entire story of the Jewish people as a whole. It gives us a broad picture of our entire story; an all-encompassing view of of Torah. The Pesach story is a parable that is a handle, a means to grasp an overview of everything.

Our Pesach night service is not just to delve into the story, to understand it, to gain insights, to ask questions, to find answers, to understand “more,” it is to understand that if we properly work on this night we will be able to grasp our entire story, all of Torah, as a whole; not just taking one fruit or two from the basket.

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