Rabbi Akiva said: "The world was never so worthy as on the day on which the Song of Songs was given to Israel , for all the Biblical writings are holy, but Song of Songs is Holy of Holies!" (Yadayim 3:5). The rabbis taught: "When a person reads a verse from Song of Songs and makes it into a kind of song lyric, he brings evil into the world, because the Torah swathes herself in sackcloth and says before the Holy One blessed be He, 'Master of the World, your children have turned me into a kind of guitar played by jokers'" (Sanhedrin 101a).

Taking the form of a dialogue between a youthful lover and his beloved, Song of Songs is particularly susceptible to gross misinterpretation by those who are so sunk in the material that they are unable to conceive of the love between male and female as anything but physically erotic. But Song of Songs is "holy of holies" precisely because the relationship is purely and completely spiritual. Thus the work can be understood on many different levels, in particular as a dialogue of spiritual love between God and the Soul or between God and His chosen people of Israel . Besides the simple meaning of the verses, every single word and letter is laden with a multiplicity of allusions on all the levels of PARDES, Pshat (the plain meaning), Remez (allusion), Drash (homiletic lessons) and Sod (the mystical, esoteric and kabbalistic "secret" level).

Rashi writes in the introduction to his commentary on Song of Songs: "'God spoke one thing; I heard two' (Psalms 62:12). A single verse may be susceptible of numerous explanations, but in the end no verse ever departs from its plain meaning. And even though the prophets spoke all their words metaphorically, it is necessary to explain the metaphor according to its own internal logic as it develops verse by verse. I have seen many aggadic midrashim on this book, but they do not always fit with the language and order of the verses. I say that Solomon saw with holy spirit that Israel were destined to go into exile after exile and suffer destruction after destruction, and that in exile they would grieve over their first glory and remember God's first love when they were His treasure above all the nations. They would say, Let me go and return to my first Husband, for it was better for me then than now (Hosea 2:9) and they would remember His kindnesses and their wrongdoing and all the goodness He promised to do to them at the end of days. Solomon therefore wrote this work with holy spirit, using the metaphor of a woman bound up as a widow while her husband is still alive. She longs for him and remembers her youthful love for him, acknowledging her wrongdoings. Likewise her lover is pained over her pain and remembers the kindnesses of her youth and her beauty and good deeds, in virtue of which he is bound with her with strong love, in order to let her know that he is not tormenting her intentionally and that her divorce is no divorce, for she is still his wife and he is still her husband and he is destined to return to her."

These study notes will be mainly based on the explanations contained in the TARGUM (ancient Aramaic interpretation attributed to R. Yonasan ben Uzziel) and the commentary of Rashi.

V 1: "Song of songs." This is the ninth of ten great songs. (1) The song of Adam when he was forgiven his sin and sang the song of the Shabbos day (Psalm 92). (2) The song of Moses and Israel after crossing the Red Sea . (3) Israel 's song over the well given in the wilderness, Numbers 21:17ff. (4) Moses' song before leaving the world Deut. 32; (5) Joshua's song after the battle at Giv'on Josh. 10:12. (6) The song of Deborah, Judges ch 5. (7) Hannah's song on the birth of Samuel, I Sam. 2. (8) David's song, Psalms 18, II Sam. 22; (9) SONG OF SONGS. (10) Israel 's future song on going out of exile, Isaiah 30:29.

"Song of songs of SOLOMON (SHLOMO)." - "Every time the name SHLOMO appears in Song of Songs, it is a holy name of God, who is the King of Peace" (Talmud Shevuos 35b).

V 2: The "kisses of His mouth" are the teachings of His Torah, which are better than "wine" = YaYiN = 70, the seventy nations.

V 3: "Therefore the maidens love You" - these are the righteous proselytes.

V 4: "The King has brought me to His chambers" - "even today I still have joy and delight because I have attached myself to You" (Rashi).

V 5: ".daughters of Jerusalem ." The nations of the world are called "daughters of Jerusalem " because Jerusalem is destined to become the capital city of all of them, as prophesied by Ezekiel 16:61, "And I shall give them to you as daughters".

V 6: Do not look down upon me if I appear blackened with sin, because I was not so from birth but only because the mixed multitude that came up with me from Egypt (the "children of my mother") caused me to go after idols (Rashi).

V 7: Knesset Israel speaks to God like a flock asking how she can escape the seductions of the "wolves" = the nations.

V 8: The Shepherd answers, Go in the pathways of the righteous. teach your children to go to the synagogue and the study hall, and this is how you will survive the exile (Targum).

V 9: When God destroyed the Egyptians at the Red Sea, He almost destroyed Israel because of the scoffers among them (Targum).

V 10: The "circlets" and "beads" with which God adorned Israel are the teachings of Torah He gave them in the wilderness (Targum).

V 12: "While the king still sat at his table" - at Sinai - "my spikenard (which smells foul) gave forth its fragrance" - Israel sinned with the golden calf.

V 13: Even so, God forgave Israel , commanding them to build the Sanctuary in order to atone. The "bag of myrrh" alludes to Mount Moriah , the Temple Mount .

V 14: Henna, KOPHER, alludes to atonement, KAPARAH.

V 15: Despite Israel 's sin and shame, God encourages her with praise of her true, essential beauty.

V 16: Israel replies that the beauty is not hers for it all comes from God (Rashi).

V 17 speaks in praise of the wilderness Sanctuary and the Future Temple (Targum; Rashi).


V 1: "Knesset Israel says: When the Master of the Universe causes His presence to dwell with me, I am compared to a lily and a rose that are moist from the Garden of Eden" (Targum).

V 2: Even though the nations seek to entice Israel to whore after their idols, she remains faithful to God (Rashi).

V 3: Israel compares God to the TAPU'AH (=Ethrog, Targum), whose fruit is excellent in taste and fragrance.

V 4: "He brought me to the house of wine" - this refers to the giving of the Torah at Sinai (Targum). "And his banner (DIGLO) over me is love" - "When an ignoramus or a little child mispronounces words when trying to study Torah, God says, 'And his stammering (LIGLUGO) over Me is LOVE" (Midrash Shir HaShirim).

V 5: Even in exile, Israel is love-sick for God and craves His dainties.

V 7: "I adjure you, O nations, that you will be abandoned and consumed like the gazelles and hinds of the field if you try to spoil the love between me and God and try to entice me to go after you" (Rashi).

V 8: God "leaps over the mountains" and "skips over the hills" in redeeming Israel even before the appointed time (Targum).

V 9: When the Israelites sat in their houses in Egypt eating the Pesach sacrifice with Matzah and bitter herbs, God was looking in through the windows and protected them from the destroying angel that came to overthrow the Egyptians.

V 10: The following morning He told Israel to get up and leave Egypt .

V 11: For the time of exile had passed.

V 12: "The flowers appear on the earth" - these are Moses and Aaron, who appeared in Egypt and performed the miracles of the redemption.

V 14: "O My dove, you are in the clefts of the rock" - "This refers to when Pharaoh chased after them and caught up with them encamped at the Sea, and they had nowhere to turn. At that moment they were like a dove fleeing from a hawk. The dove tries to enter a cleft in the rocks only to find a serpent hissing there. How can she escape? But God said to them, Let Me hear your voice - 'And the Children of Israel cried out to God' (Ex. 14:10)" (Rashi).

V 15: The "foxes" allude to the Amalekites, who attacked Israel after the crossing of the Red Sea (Targum).

V 16: "My beloved is mine and I am His" - "Everything He requires He demands only from me: celebrate Pesach, sanctify the first-born, build a sanctuary, offer sacrifices. He did not demand this of any other nation" (Rashi).

V 17: Owing to the sin of the golden calf, the protective shadows fled, but God did not destroy Israel on account of His covenant with the patriarchs, who were swift as a gazelle and a young hart in serving Him (Targum).



By Rabbi Avraham Yehoshua Greenbaum
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