BY EDEN FARBER / AJT //
Hashmini et kolech ki koleich arev … Let me hear your voice, for your voice is sweet.
This verse from the “Song of Songs” seemed to follow me around this year. Where I found the most hope or the deepest spiritual fulfillment, there it was: Waiting for me; calling me.
When I notice patterns like this – or coincidences happen in my life – I’m left wondering why.
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The first time I read this verse was this past summer. I was writing a d’var Torah comparing the “Song of Songs” to William Shakespeare’s “Romeo & Juliet.” My essential point was that both stories depict a tragic or lost love but also have drastically different endings.
“Romeo & Juliet “ends with death: There is no future for the lovers. Their paths have come to an end.
The “Song of Songs,” however, ends in hope; the last chapter muses about the narrator’s younger sister, not yet fully matured, and what her future will be like. In essence, the book is one of hope and optimism for a bright future, even if the content is pathetic and lonely.
Later, I bumped into the verse again, this time while working on an art project at my dining room table. It was the day before the holiday of Simchat Torah began.
It’s worth nothing that the holiday this past year was one of the most memorable days in my life. For the first time ever, my shul was having a women’s Torah reading, and it was both a personal triumph for me as someone who loves to read Torah and a communal triumph for women’s participation in services.
As we gathered to prepare and set up on the day before the service, my mom made a banner for the occasion. There it was: My mother had decided that the aforementioned verse was perfect for what she was trying to express.
It was all about “our voices…our sweet voices!”
Then, just last week, it jumped out at me again, and it struck me that perhaps the line of poetry has more meaning than I had thought.
I was sitting at home, in front of my computer, eyes glued to the screen, watching history happen. Three women in New York were being ordained into the Orthodox clergy. And I – though a thousand or so miles away in Atlanta – was witnessing the historic event.
A rabbi taking part in the ceremony was speaking but then suddenly broke out into song with words taken from a verse he thought to be appropriate for the occasion. As he began to sing hashmini, hashmini et kolech…, the only thing I could think and say was:
I felt chills run up and down my legs, and suddenly everything clicked.
Happenstance was certainly at play, considering how far removed the words I explored in the d’var Torah I was writing were from my mom’s banner, and how far removed that was from the rabbi’s joyous singing.
But everything seemed to be about the Song of Songs and the “sweet voices” of a new age. Perhaps not everyone sees it that way; at the very least, I know the new service at my shul and the inclusion of women as part of the Orthodox clergy are frowned upon by some Jews.
A few think they are wrong and go against traditional Judaism. Many are of the mind that women shouldn’t make trouble where trouble doesn’t need to be made.
And yet, the wondrous and beautiful line from the Song of Songs – “let us listen to your sweet voices” – shows to me the absolute necessity for new and creative innovations in Judaism.
They are wanted, they are needed, and – indeed – they are sweet and beautiful.
Atlanta’s Eden Farber, 16, was recognized in the Jewish Heritage National Poetry Contest of 2010 and has published op-eds and poetry in Modern Hippie Magazine and the NY Jewish Week’s Fresh Ink for Teens section.