Rabbi Yossi opened his discourse with the verse: "Like the rose among thorns, so is my beloved among the maidens" (Song of Songs 2:2). G‑d wanted to make the children of Israel as a reflection of the above, so that they would be one rose on the earth like the supernal rose [the Shechinah]. And the rose that exudes fragrance and is the choicest of all the other roses in the world is exactly the one that grows among thorns. Only this one gives off a fitting fragrance.[Likewise Israel had to grow among the Egyptians.]

Therefore, He [G‑d] sowed seventy seedlings, which were seventy souls [that went down to Egypt] and implanted them among the thorns [in Egypt]. Now, immediately as the seedlings came among them, these thorns grew branches and leaves and ruled over the world. Then the rose bloomed among them. As soon as the Holy One Blessed be He wanted to take the rose out and pick her out from among them, the thorns dried up and were cast aside, destroyed, and were regarded as worthless.

At the time that He went to pluck this rose [meaning to take His firstborn son out from Egypt], the King ventured out surrounded by His among many warriors, princes and ministers with banners spread. He brought out his firstborn with many mighty feats and brought him to this palace, where he sat for a long time in the King's house [the Land of Israel]. When he sinned against his Father [in the days of the Judges], He admonished him [through the prophets] and lashed him, as it is written: "And the anger of G‑d burned against Israel, and He delivered them into the hands of spoilers..." (Judges 2:14). When he sinned as before and rebelled against his Father [at the end of the days of the First Temple], He put him out of his house [and sent them into exile]. What did the children of Israel do? They saw that they were exiled in Babylon, they mixed with the nations, married foreign women, and begot children by them. Despite all this, their Holy Mother [the Shechinah] was their guardian. Because they did this [that they married gentile women in Babylon], G‑d said: 'Since this is an embarrassment for Me, let My son come by himself back to [the Land of Israel, without the aid of a redeemer]. Because he desecrated My honor, he is not worthy that I should go there to take him out and perform miracles and mighty deeds as before [when He took them out of Egypt – Ed.]." They returned [to Jerusalem, during the time of Ezra] without the help that they should have had, without wonders and miracles. Rather, they were dejected, weary in poverty, and returned to the King's palace in shame, and the Holy Mother [the Shechinah] was a guarantor for them.

[Afterwards, in the days of the Second Temple]they sinned as before. What did G‑d do? He took His son out of His palace again, and his Mother [the Shechinah] with him. He said: 'From now on, the mother and her son will suffer many misfortunes together.' This is the meaning of, "And for your transgressions was your mother put away" (Isaiah 50:1). Of this is it written, "When you are in distress, and all these things are come upon you, in the end of days" (Deut. 4:30). What is "the end of days?" This is the Holy Mother [the Shechinah], and together with Her they suffered whatever they suffered in exile.

But if they repent, then even one pain or one evil they underwent would be considered for them as though they suffered all the troubles of exile; but if not, the exile will be until the end with all its generations. As the Holy Lamp (Rabbi Shimon) said, the words, "for ever" (Lev. 25:23), refers to their Owner for generations. And with all this, everything still depends upon repentance.

BeRahamim LeHayyim: What an awesome parable! It requires close scrutiny with our inner vision. For we are in spiritual exile. We do not sense the Divine Presence amongst us. We have no physical Temple to connect us above. And we are woefully disunited. Still, She is here! In our very hearts. If we would only listen to Her voice. How do we retrieve our sacred connection? How we return to place of honor in G‑d's eyes? How do we make our day of Purim a day of true national honor? To us is promised Light, Joy, Gladness, and Honor. It all depends on Teshuvah, which is parsed as Tashuv Hei/ return the Hei to Yud and Hei and Vav, or the Shechinah to face-to-face unification with G‑d. We are comforted to know that She is with us here in a dark world. On the day of Purim, may the light of a face-to-face connection be felt by all, and may the inner Esther—the Shechinah incarnate—be revealed if for a fleeting moment to those who are desiring her company.

What does this mean for you, and why is it revealed to you now?

[Bracketed annotations from Metok Midevash and Sulam commentaries]