“All you need is love
All you need is love
All you need is love, love
Love is all you need…
” (John Lennon – 1967)

Surveys indicate that we gravitate throughout our lives to the music and musical groups we loved when we were teens. For me, it’s the Beatles, Dylan and much of the classic folk music of the 60s, as well as Israeli music of the classic pioneer era. The Song of Songs was a popular source for much of that music, and perhaps, this is why my wife and I engraved on the inside of our wedding rings “Ani l’dodi v’dodi li – I am my beloved’s and my beloved is mine.” (Song of Songs 6:3)

Attributed to King Solomon as a young man, the eight-chapter  poem expresses the passionate romantic yearning and love between two lovers. Tradition recognizes, however, that the Song is far more than a secular love poem. It is understood as an allegory of the eternal love between the people of Israel and God. Rabbi Akiva said of the Song when debating whether the poem would be included in the Biblical canon at the end of the first century CE: “For all the ages are not worth the day on which the Song of Songs was given to Israel; for all the Writings are holy, but the Song of Songs is the Holy of Holies.”

I recall the Song and particularly this verse because today is the first day of the Hebrew month of Elul in which the Jewish people begins a 30-day period of introspection and self-criticism leading to Rosh Hashanah. Today also commences a 40-day period that crescendos on Yom Kippur, the same period of time that Moses communed with God and received Torah (Exodus 34:28).

The verse – Ani l’dodi v’dodi li – evokes both this Hebrew month and the goal of our 30- and 40-day periods. The verse is an acrostic – the first letter of each word – Aleph – lamed – vav – lamed – spells Elul, suggesting that it is love that can lead us back to ourselves, to everything we cherish, to our families, friends, community, people, Torah, and God – “All you need is love!”

May this season be a time of turning, renewal and love for you, the people of Israel, and all children of the earth.