Parashat Shofetim: The Knock on the Door
King Shelomo, in Shir Hashirim, describes a man knocking on the door of his beloved as she sleeps in her bed, begging her to open the door for him because his head “is filled with dew” (5:2). This description symbolizes the relationship between Hashem and the Jewish people. God seeks to have a close relationship with us like a young man courting a young woman. And He goes so far as to “knock on our door,” waking us up and inspiring us to return to Him.
But why does Shir Hashirim describe God as “filled with dew”? What is the significance of dew in the context of Hashem coming to inspire us and bring us back?
An important difference exists between rain and dew. Rain is formed by the evaporation of water on the earth. The vapor rises to the heavens and then returns to the earth in the form of rain; in other words, rain actually originates from the earth. As such, rain is symbolic of the phenomenon described in the Zohar as “Hit’oreruta De’le’tata” – the awakening from down below. When we take the initiative of performing Misvot, we “awaken” blessing from the heavens. Our initiative is like the water’s evaporation, as our good deeds ascend to the heavens and then return to us in the form of divine blessing. Dew, by contrast, originates from the heavens, not from the earth. And thus dew symbolizes “Hit’oreruta De’le’ela,” the inspiration initiated from above. Sometimes, when we “sleep,” when we feel uninspired and are lax in our Torah observance, when we become too preoccupied with the daily rigors of life to give time and attention to God, He comes and knocks on our door. He comes to wake us up from our lethargy and draw us closer to Him. This could be in the form of a Torah class that we are invited to attend, an insight that we happen to hear, or some event, conversation or thought that opens our minds and reminds us of our religious duties. This is “dew,” the inspiration that originates from the heavens, from God, and not from us.
And this is the phenomenon described in Shir Hashirim. While we are “sleeping,” when we are uninterested in or distracted from Torah, God comes to knock on our door. “My head is filled with dew” – He comes out of His own initiative, without our being deserving of it. In Shir Hashirim, God comes to us, while we sleep, and tries to wake us up.
The numerical value of the Hebrew word “Tal” (dew) is 39, which corresponds to the thirty-nine days from Rosh Hodesh Elul through Yom Kippur (29 days of Elul, and the first ten days of Tishri). This is the period of “dew,” when God comes to “wake us up” from our spiritual slumber.
How fortunate we are that God comes to bring us back. A king or government gives its citizens one chance, maybe two chances, but not much more than that. God, however, gives us as many chances as we need. Just as dew descends from the heavens each and every night, without exception, similarly, God is willing to come and inspire us regardless of our past, regardless of how many times we have sinned and how many mistakes we have made.
Imagine the Chief Rabbi of the State of Israel calls us on the phone to ask if he could stay with us for Shabbat. Would we refuse the invitation? Would we tell him, “Sorry, I’m busy that weekend” or “I don’t have time for guests”? Of course not; we would never refuse such a great honor. During Elul, God Himself is making this phone call. He wants to enter our lives and our souls. How can we turn Him away? Even if now we are “asleep,” shouldn’t we “wake up” and let Him in?
May we all hear the Elul “knock,” and may we all answer the door. This is a precious opportunity that none of us can afford to forfeit. Let us let God into our lives, and we will then enjoy His unlimited blessings and be granted a year of health, happiness and success, Amen.