By Dina Cohn
A man who had been brought to England on the Kindertransport, a rescue mission that saved Jewish children from Nazi Germany, once recounted a story that happened happened at the orphanage where he grew up on an Israeli radio station.
One day, a thrilling announcement was made – King George VI was coming to visit their orphanage! The excited children were instructed to put on their best clothes for the occasion. They lined up outside, eagerly waiting for the king’s arrival. However, they were let down when they realized that they were only there to greet the king as he drove by in his car. Disappointment filled their hearts as they stood there, watching the king’s car approach.
But then something unexpected happened. One of the boys broke ranks and started chasing after the car. He ran as fast as he could, knocking against the car until it finally stopped. The door opened and the boy found himself face to face with the king!
King George VI asked the boy what was wrong, and the boy explained that he had been hoping to meet the king to express his gratitude for bringing him to safety in England. “However”, continued the boy, “you see, I’m terribly lonely, as my parents are still over there.” The king listened patiently, asking for the boy’s name and where he was from. He thanked the boy for his kind words and bid him farewell.
Just a few weeks later, the headmaster of the orphanage called the boy into his office. The boy was nervous, not knowing what he could have possibly done wrong. To his amazement, the headmaster revealed that the king had been deeply moved by their encounter. He opened a side door and there stood the boy’s parents.
The man who recounted this story couldn’t help but feel a deep sense of remorse. He ended the story by saying that he had spent the last 60 years asking himself why he had not done the same and chased after the king.
This is a very stirring and poignant story. We feel for the man who spent his life wondering why he hadn’t taken the chance to approach the king like that brave little boy did. Maybe his story could have had a different ending. But the truth is, we all have a chance to chase after the King. Do we take the opportunity when it is presented, or do we live our lives regretting the missed opportunities?
One of the most emotionally stirring portions of Song of Songs is found in Chapter 5. Song of Songs was written by King Solomon about the love between a man and a woman, and is an allegory for the love between God and the Children of Israel. In chapter 5, the narrator is found in her bed, her heart alive with emotion, when she hears her beloved knocking at the door. He pleads that she let him in – at long last, her beloved has come to her! But she hesitates:
“I had taken off my robe— Was I to don it again? I had bathed my feet— Was I to soil them again?” (Song of Songs 5:3)
After a moment, she returns to her senses and rushes to open the door, but it is too late. Her beloved is gone. She calls out to her beloved, but alas, there is no answer. Heartbroken, she runs out into the night, searching desperately for her lover.
How are we to understand this section? Why does the narrator hesitate? Her beloved was right at her door, was she too lazy to get up and let him in?
Mrs. Michal Horowitz, a contemporary Bible scholar, references the medieval commentator known as Rashi to help us understand these verses. According to Rashi, the entire book of the Song of Songs is a metaphor for the Jewish people in Exile. After being “betrothed” to God on Mount Sinai, the Jewish people “cheated” on Him with the Golden Calf and the Sin of the Spies, among other sins. God eventually sent the Jewish people into exile for their sins, just as a husband would send away a cheating wife. However, God loves the Jewish people so much that He still continues to check in on them, even in their exile. This is the deeper meaning of Song of Songs. The lover who waits behind the walls, watching for his beloved through the window and waiting for her to seek him out once again, is a really a metaphor for God who watch over his people in the Exile and longs for their return.
The narrator, a metaphor for the Children of Israel, however, is a bit too complacent in her Exile. She’s a bit drunk from the wine, myrrh, and honey (verse 1), and is enjoying herself too much. By the time her lover gets to her door, she has had a full day, has gotten ready for bed, and is about to go to sleep. She hears her lover knocking, but thinks to herself, “How can I put on my robe again? How can I come back to him when I feel so far away?” She realizes that she feels so entrenched in her life of exile that it is hard for her to think about getting out of it. In the next verse, though, following her hesitation, the lover peeks through the latch one last time to see if his beloved is still there. This simple action seems to create a shift in the narrator’s perspective. She seems to realize that she has made a mistake, and rushes out of bed to open the door before it is too late. But her beloved is gone.
The man who was saved on the Kindertransport never got a second chance to meet the king, but the narrator of the Song of Songs does. Even before this chapter she has had many chances—her beloved is always waiting for her to come back. The bond between God and His children is never broken, and He is always ready and willing to take us back.
As children of God we always have the opportunity to come back to Him. He is always waiting for us to return and repent. It is up to us whether we seize the opportunities that come our way or let them pass us by. Though we may sometimes feel too entrenched in our current situation, like the narrator of the Song of Songs, it is never too late to make a change. We can choose to chase after the King and ensure that we get the most out of our time in this world.