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Shir Ha Shirim And Sleepless In Seattle

29 Apr 2024 9:00 AM | Solomon Moon (Administrator)

Shir Ha Shirim, or Song of Songs, is considered to be the “holy of holies” by some rabbis. Its explicit themes of love and longing have been posited to be a metaphor of the love betwixt Israel and the Divine. What’s most endearing is the longing, one lover in search of the other, to be reunited with their partner. Within this liminal space of love is a lesson on loss that is shared in the romantic comedy, Sleepless In Seattle.

It is tradition to read Song of Songs during Pesach.  The reunion between the Divine and Israel is ripe with compassion leading to the liberation of the Hebrews from Mitzraim. As we retell the story of Exodus, we ponder the freedom from our own mitzraim, or narrow places. After losing his wife, single-father, Sam, moves to Seattle with his son as he navigates his mitzraim—the trials and triumphs of grief.

Sam’s longing to once again feel the fireworks of love he experienced with his wife seemed both impossibly laughable and hopelessly romantic. His love and grief defined his emotional reality. Sam was a widow, one who would never again experience the deepest passions of romantic love, he believed. And to even try, let alone succeed, to love someone again would imply that his feelings for his wife were not quite the affair to remember.

Understandably, it can be difficult to see the light in the darkness, difficult to forgive, or overcome grief and trauma. It can be difficult to acknowledge that there is divinity in the darkness, that it serves a meaningful purpose too. The only difference between feeling as though Life has buried you or planted you is whether you decide to grow. Growth in experience, perspective, emotional maturity, and more compassion are often fruits of loss that bring us closer together. These bittersweet triumphs are the sparks of divinity concealed in darkness, if only we have the courage to be vulnerable with one another about our struggles. To kindly wrestle with tragedy is to wildly search for every reason to love.

More than a movie about love at first sight, or, from the Jewish lens, the reunion of soulmates, Sleepless In Seattle illustrates the importance of shared vulnerability and having difficult conversations compassionately. (A hopeful wish for all Pesach seder discussions.) The liminal space of love that Sam was experiencing due to grief was an opportunity to bond closer with his son, experience a new city, and become brave enough to find hope for new love.

During Pesach, a common theme at some seders is “What mitzraim do you need liberation from?” However, like Sam, the lovers in Song of Songs, in their fervent search, leave us with another question: “How can your mitzraim be the fertile bed for love?”

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