Shir Ha'Shirim: Erotic Love Poetry AND Allegory

Shabbat Pesach is in a few days and we all know what that means…yeah okay yizkor, hallel, dry food at kiddush…but also public chanting of Shir Ha’shirim! (also knows as Song of Songs/Song of Solomon). But why do we read it on Passover?
I’ve been reading Song of Songs for my Five Megillot class at JTS. We do a very close textual reading–not much searching for spiritual essence–with a lot of emphasis on poetic structure. He pretty much dismisses the view of Rashi and other rabbinic writers and commentators who say that the WHOLE BOOK is an allegory of the love between God and Israel. For example, when it says that “Your breasts are like two fawns” this refers to the fact that Moses and Aaron are equals. Or that the first five and second five of the ten commandments parallel one other. Oh yeah that’s just what I was thinking…seriously if you can get your hands on Rashi’s commentary to this book it is great fun.
This is all facinating, though it did not draw me into the text as much as my friend Shosh’s showing me this essay by Rabbi Sheva GoldInitiation onto the Path of Love. Though it is hard to fully grasp her point, since she relies so heavily on the love of her husband, (and I’m, well, you know, single and not in love…yet), I do identify with her conclusion:

The truth of my spiritual life is that I encounter God the most clearly in these three ways: through my body and its expanding senses, through Nature and its dramatic and miraculous beauty, and through intimacy with another.

I really can’t do it justice here, so all I can do is refer you to her own words. But most of all, take ten mintues and read over her translation. This is some seriously hot stuff. I also dare you to read a line to it to one of your friends and get them to bet you that you won’t find that in the Bible. Haha! You win! Really fun game.
Okay but seriously; this is some really beautiful stuff. We are in Hesed–lovingkindness–the first week of the Omer, counting the days until Shavuot. I want to give everyone a blessing that they will give and recieve love in a healthy meaningful way. Moadim l’simcha!

11 thoughts on “Shir Ha'Shirim: Erotic Love Poetry AND Allegory

  1. Hey thanks for the link! I gonna print it out and enjoy over the chag. I’ve been eyeing Chana Bloch’s translation of Shir haShirim, have you seen that one? She translated much of Yehudah Amichai, so god knows, she’s learned all about that dubious erotica-theology lingo. Robert Alter wrote a foreword to the edition, and was all into her translation choices (and if Robert Alter sez so, it must be emes).

  2. Yes, I have seen it; it’s quite beautiful and it has a commentary in the back as well. Don’t worry; it’s quite erotic.

  3. Indeed, the translation link isn’t working.
    I would suspect it’s because the site got a little overloaded and it’s not meant for such things…but someone post another link anyway, if you would.

  4. You write: “Your breasts are like two fawns” this refers to the fact that Moses and Aaron are equals.
    Oh yeah, says I; and “your hair is like a flock of goats” and “also, your couch is green” are references to the superiority of monotheism over idol worship.

  5. Actually Isaac, Rashi wrote that about the fawns.
    And the goats are black, not green…
    But yeah, if the goats were green, I think you’d be right on.
    Ah, the joys about joking about and mocking biblical erotic love poetry.

  6. The translation doesn’t do it justice.
    Oh, and it’s not “I am dark and beatuiful”, but “I am black and beautiful” – that’s where the famous slogan originated from.

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