Rabbi Lev Herrnson
Ani l'Dodi v'Dodi Li--What's In It For Me?
Updated: Apr 12, 2020
Source and Meaning of the Verse
Ani l’dodi v’dodi li—“I am my beloved’s and my beloved is mine,” is excerpted from “The Song of Songs” (Chapter 6, Verse 3a). This verse, commonly associated with Jewish weddings and Ketubot (plural of Ketubah—the Jewish wedding contract), represents half of one verse among the eight chapters of The Song of Songs, a short book of poetry in the Bible attributed to King Solomon. But why is ani l’dodi v’dodi li associated with Jewish weddings?
Why Include Ani l’dodi in My Wedding?
The Songs of Songs is comprised of love poetry, and like a Georgia O’Keeffe painting, these eight short chapters are open to interpretation, including suggestive understandings. Union of partners in the most intimate and tender fashion is captured in the images and metaphors fashioned by the poet, King Solomon. Still, a parallel story of love exists as a subtext in this brief collection: The Song of Songs reports love between God and God’s children, humankind being the fruit of God’s creative process.
And like any relationship, love must involve mutuality. Lovers take turns in initiating intimate knowledge. Similarly, there are periods when God initiates the encounter with the Jewish people, and, hopefully, we respond. At other times we seek out God, who responds to our openness with love and compassion. The verse ani l’dodi v’dodi li raises the notions of love, intimacy and mutuality between two lovers, and between God and God’s children.
Ani l’dodi and Ketubot
Why adorn Ketubot, wedding invitations, rings, etc. with this verse? Marriage between two lovers—who are friends, companions, who support each other, and encourage each other, is a miraculous event in itself. Add to this the notion that God is a partner in the lovers’ relationship and the marriage is brought to a higher, more sublime level of sanctity and reverence. Ani l’dodi v’dodi li captures, in four words, all of our aspirations for love and marriage: love, romance, intimacy, reverence, and mutuality.
Ani l’dodi Under the Chuppah
In the case of a double ring ceremony, some celebrants will choose to recite the words ani l’dodi v’dodi li to their spouse-to-be during the exchange of rings under the chuppah. Recitation of ani l’dodi serves as a corollary to the phrase, Harei aht m’kudeshet li b'taba'at zo kedat Moshe v'Yisrael, “By this ring, you are consecrated to me in accordance with the laws of Moses and the people of Israel." Use of the ani l’dodi verse at this moment in the ceremony tempers—with the subtly of poetry and the depth of affection, what would otherwise be a purely legalistic declaration. Ani l’dodi brings the spirit of love and tenderness to a legal change of status.
Ani l’Dodi and Your Wedding Date
According to Jewish custom, is it especially opportune to get married during the month of Elul. Why Elul, which is marked on the civil calendar in the late summer— typically August or September? It relates to our verse, Ani l’dodi v’dodi li, which when written in Hebrew in acrostic form, reveals a unique pattern:
When taken together, the first letter of each of the four words in the verse spell out the name of the month of Elul. Hence, encoded in the name of the month of Elul is your wish for mutuality and affection.
Whichever month you choose to get married in, yours will be a wedding filled with joy and mazal—good fortune!
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