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The Systems of the Jewish Year

A Rose by another Name

By Rabbi Sender Haber

Throughout the Song of Songs, King Solomon compares the Jewish people to a rose. We are the Chavatzeles of the Sharon and the Shoshanah of the Valleys. A Chavatzeles is an underdeveloped bulb while a Shoshana is a fully developed rose, vibrant in all of its glory.

According to the American Rose Society, the rose market as we know it underwent a significant change in 1867. The French developed a rose which they named “La France” and from that time on genetically altered roses became very popular. The roses that are mass produced and sold in grocery stores are generally modern roses.

The main difference between a modern rose and an Old Garden Rose (which you can still get) is that the modern roses are weak and highly dependent on Sunlight. They also die quickly. Old World Roses need far less sunlight. As a result they have a richer color and they fade far slower than modern roses. Old World Roses are tough.

The Vilna Gaon explains that the Jewish people are Old World Roses. We thrive in the shade. Our natural colors emerge and our scent is more pungent than that of any other rose. We are the Shoshana of the Valleys.

When we were slaves in Egypt we were so choked and burdened and malnourished that even we couldn’t sprout at all.

Even before we were fully freed, we celebrated the first Pesach in the Egyptian city of Ramses. We didn’t need to go to Eretz Yisroel or even to leave Egypt. All we needed was a little bit of sunlight and we were able to shine right there in the darkness of Egypt.

After we left Egypt we often found ourselves over exposed to the elements. Too much sunlight for an Old World Rose. Our unique qualities began to fade and we weren’t quite as fragrant.

In Shir Hashirim we remind Hashem that we are the most beautiful, strong, vibrant roses that exist. We may look awful, faded and windblown, but our DNA has not changed.

Just as we recovered quickly from the darkness of Egypt and immediately sprouted into a beautiful rose, we remind Hashem that we will do the same if he will take us now, in our faded glory and replant us in our perfect valley.

The Beis Halevi points out that so many habits need to be broken over time. Nations take centuries to change. Somehow, the Jewish people have historically been able to attain immediate holiness. This is because holiness has been a part of us all along.

So many of us aren’t perfect. Deep inside we want to improve but we are so entrenched in our surroundings, our habits and our relationships that we can’t just change.

Sometimes we are starved for sunlight; sometimes we have too much. Still, our basic DNA will never change. Put us in the perfect environment and we will immediately blossom into the beautiful Shoshana that we have always been.

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