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Shir ha-Shirim X: Part Three: Three Declines

Solomon suffered three declines. The first decline was that after he had been a great king ruling from one end of the world to the other, his power was curtailed and he ruled only over Israel, for so it is written, “The Proverbs of Solomon son of David king of Israel (Proverbs 1:1).” The second decline was that after he had been King of Israel his power was reduced and he was left King only over Jerusalem, as it is written, “I Kohelet have been king over Israel in Jerusalem (Ecclesiastes 1:12).” The third decline was that after he had been King over Jerusalem his power was reduced and he was left King only over his own household, as it says, “Behold it is the bed of Solomon, sixty mighty men are surrounding it, of the mighty men of Israel, they all handle the sword (Song of Songs 3:7–8),” and even over his own couch he was not king, for he feared the spirits. (Shir haShirim Rabbah 1.1:10, part three)


I look at this midrash describing Solomon’s three declines and am astounded that he continued to sing at the highest level even when he felt that he was no longer master even over his own bed! It is this ability that allowed Jews throughout history, no matter where they were in the diaspora, whether in ghettoes or concentration camps, whether they were running away from hostile attackers or whether they were sitting comfortably in their homes, to sing the Haggadah with great joy and inspiration. They continued to sing the most powerful songs no matter how much their status had declined.

We even mention in the Haggadah how Israel continues to suffer in every generation, “in every generation they rise against us to destroy us.” Yet, we continue to tell the story of the Exodus from Egypt, to sing our joyous song with increasing inspiration and faith.

Part of the gift of Pesach is this ability to continue to sing with joy no matter what happens; the joy of that first redemption resonates so powerfully with in our soul that it empowers us to continue to sing. Therefore, we must not only acknowledge this aspect of the gift of the redemption from Egypt, we must sing the Haggadah with such power that it will help us continue to sing no matter what the future may bring.

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