And the king will yearn…

“And G!d said to Avram: ‘Go, you, from your land…'” (Gen. 12:1)

R. Yitzhak opened with: Listen, princess, and look, incline your ear, and forget your people, and your father’s house. (Ps. 45:11)

R. Yitzhak said: This may be compared to one who was passing from place to place and saw a fortress doleket (“burning” or “illuminated”). He said, ‘Will you say this fortress has no governor?’ The master of the fortress peeped out at him. He said to him, ‘I am the master of the fortress.’ Thus, because our father Avraham would say, ‘Will you say this world has no governor?’ the Holy One, Blessed be He, peeped out at him and said to him, ‘I am the Master of the world.’

And let the king yearn for your beauty – to beautify you in the world – for he is your master, and bow down to him (Ps. 45:12), that is, ‘And G!d said to Avram…’

Midrash Rabbah – Genesis XXXIX:1

This is a very deep midrash, and I owe the best of these insights to my Rebbe, M’ Yitzhak Buxbaum, who inspired us in a class that delved deeply into this text. I must also recommend Simi Peters’ excellent text, Learning to Read Midrash, which was our source during these classes.

As usual, the first question to ask is, “What is the question?” In this case, the question is, “Why Avram? What did he do to merit this amazing blessing and progeny?” This midrash is one of several that attempt to provide an answer; amongst them, this is the most mystical.

The surface meaning is simple, and enticing. It suggests that Avram was able to look at the world around us and recognize that it must have a Creator; having such an insight (presumably at a time when others did not) was the basis for Avram’s being chosen. Oh, but let’s go deeper!

The mashal – the analogy used to teach the lesson in this parable – is that of a fortress doleket, a term normally understood to mean “burning.” So at this level, Avram perceives not only the world and knows it must have a Creator, but also that the world is burning: i.e., in peril. What is that peril? Perhaps that the “fortress” appears to be unattended. “Never fear,” calls out the governor as the traveler’s worry mounts, “I am here.” So the Creator not only was known to Avram intellectually, but responded directly to Avram’s yearning for the repair of the world.

Now, deeper still.

The fortress may not be on fire – in danger – but may, on the contrary, be illuminated: engulfed in the bright light of the Divine! Now, the traveler’s recognition and searching is not out of fear, but out of recognition that the whole of Creation is suffused with the radiance of G!d! And of course, at that recognition, G!d doesn’t just appear to Avram, but “peeps out:” playfully, mischievously, lovingly!

And yet, deeper still.

The “sandwich” of verses from the Song of Songs (known as the petihta) invites us further in. Recall that the Song of Songs is understood to be a love song between G!d and Israel. In these verses, they highlight the yearning of the G!d for us, rather than the other way around. The “daughter” is being encouraged to leave her house, her people, and succumb to the king’s yearnings – just as Avram was asked to leave his home, his land, his people. In this setting, it is not that G!d chooses Avram in some form of contest or test, but because G!d loves him – and us! – so much that the Holy One, Blessed be He, is drawn out from behind the Curtain to peep out at us and say – here I am! Hineini! Come, and let Me love you!

May we all be blessed with knowing the Eternal’s yearning for us…

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