Off the Pulpit: Only God, My Dear


“My beloved is radiant… the winter is passed.” So does the Song of Songs, Judaism’s preeminent poem of passion, speak about the warmth and glow of the one who is loved. Such similes endure throughout the ages. Shakespeare asks if he shall compare his love to a summer’s day. Leonard Cohen asks, “With Annie gone, whose eyes to compare with the morning sun?”

Pointing to the wonders of nature is for religion a sacred as well as a poetic duty. God has given us a treasure house of metaphor to explore our feelings, to understand how to love and to praise. The human spirit is always drawn to tangible things; that is why we use metaphors with God as well – a rock, a refuge, a parent.

Human love is enhanced by what we see, feel and imagine. God’s love transcends the material, a contrast most beautifully expressed by Yeats in his poem “For Anne Gregory:”

‘I heard an old religious man
But yesternight declare
That he had found a text to prove
That only God, my dear,
Could love you for yourself alone
And not your yellow hair.’

(Rabbi David Wolpe is the senior rabbi of Sinai Temple in Los Angeles.)

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