Song of Songs Supplemental Material
Supplemental Information from Midrash Rabbah
I. Song of Songs Chapter 1
A. R’ Eivu divides Song of Songs into 3, each allegorizes a different era of Israel’s history
1. The first goes through 5:1 and alludes to Israelites’ servitude in Egypt, redemption, wandering in the wilderness, entry into the land, and their initial success.
2. The second, from 5:1 until 7:11, covers the period leading up to and including the destruction of the First Temple and Israel’s exile to and return from Babylonia.
3. The third, from 7:12 to the end, alludes to our current exile and to our redemption that will occur on the coming of the Messiah.
There are different views.
B. Song of Songs is a holy song. This song arouses a love of God like no other. It makes a connection between the Jewish exile and the Inner Sanctum of the Temple.
This song helps us see that even at the low point when and where we have no access to the prescribed means of being present with God the relationship can be revealed in all its depth.
Even in the period of tough love discipline, the bond is preserved, and the way is prepared for eventual reunion.
This is love in its purest form.
C. This is about the victory of the holy over the profane. All is brought under the control of God’s will and dedicated to promoting a sacred cause.
D. Some say 1:2 is about God’s salvation of the people from Pharaoh at the Sea.
1. Some say at Sinai, where the Divine kiss (perhaps delivered by an angel) accompanies our (each of our) acceptance of the commandments or is related to the giving through direct communication of each commandment.
Some say it’s at the dedication of the Tent.
Perhaps the Song is sung wherever any and every part of creation performs its assigned task, when we’re at one with the harmony in creation.
It could be the growing love that God showered on His people from the earliest time.
It begins with a Divine kiss!
2. Kissing may mean arming, purifying, attach me, and He shall extract for me the sound of kisses from within His mouth.
E.” For fragrance your oils are good, Your Name is oil poured forth, therefore do maidens love you.” (1:3)
1. Midrash interprets this to mean that the praises the Patriarchs gave God (proclaiming God’s unity, etc.) were good as are fragrances in a bottle, but the songs of praise from Israel for God (such as the ones evoked here) (including the Song of the Sea, this song, the doing of mitzvot) are as if oils poured forth (much richer).
2. Your oils might be written and oral Torah or the priesthood and the kingship (fine on their own), but the pouring forth is better (might be in the exalting of God’s Name through the pouring forth of the oils).
3. This suggests a process by which the “maidens” (the people, converts, young people, penitents, et. al.) come to love you.
4. It could be Abraham, had he stayed, but his pouring forth into Canaan and the world, spreading God’s Name, is as the oils pouring forth.
5. It could be what’s good and Godly on its own, but it is far stronger when it comes out when people who are in exile find it, and the maidens come to love it there.
F. Draw me; we will run after You. The King has brought me into His chamber. We will rejoice and be glad in You…(1:4)
1. This could be while waiting to receive the Torah.
2. We will run after you in sacred space after You gave us the promised land and the Temple, eagerly following Your way.
OR we will run after you after we strayed with the golden calf (rather than being grief-stricken or going elsewhere, after apostasy).
There is a real desire, an urgency to seek to be drawn, and to run. It’s both out of fear AND, largely, love.
It leads to rejoicing in God’s presence. It’s a bit like Shemini Atzeret.
G. ”I am swarthy yet comely.” (1:5)
It’s as if one is lacking in merit, inadequate, ordinary, of the type that moaned at Moses, straying, defiant, rebellious, flawed but still meritorious, advantaged by our forefathers, seen as deserving of love by God and the prophets, blessed with grace by God, capable of repentance and return.
H. ”Don’t look on me as swarthy because the sun cast its glance on me. My mother’s sons kindled in me; they made me the keeper of the vineyards, my own vineyard I did not guard.” (1:6)
1. Don’t assume I’m naturally or inherently a sinner. That would be a slander. Just as I turned to sin, I can and will turn back through repentance and good deeds.
2. I kept the vineyards of others, but not my own (Torah, the Kohanim and Levites in the Temple).
I. ”Tell me, O You Whom my soul loves: how will You graze Your flocks…” (1:7)
J. ”If you do not know, go out in the tracks of the sheep and graze your kids by the shepherds’ dwellings.” (1:8)
K. ”To a steed in Pharaoh’s chariot I have likened you, My beloved.”
Are these about God and Moses? Do we get a sense of how to guide the sheep, or how Moses should lead the people? Do we get a sense that we could easily stray from understanding and be like Pharaoh’s horse, and be pulled back in the sea? (There are several views of this verse.) OR is it: from whom you’ve been saved?
L. ”Your cheeks are comely with circlets, your neck with strings of jewels.” (1:10)
1. Cheeks are wherefrom speech (of Torah) comes from Moses. Circlets suggest many intricacies and elements – features, such as teachings, teachers, sages, and scribes.
2. String of jewels – children, or strung together explanations of Scripture
M.” Circlets of gold we will make for you, and points of silver.” (1:11)
1. Out of Egyptian booty for the Tabernacle and its elements, etc.
2. Beautiful ideas made from Torah.
N. ”Behold, you are beautiful, my beloved; behold you are beautiful, your eyes are doves.”
1. Beautiful = doing mitzvoth, being kind, in the field, in distributing tithes and charity, in recitation of prayers, in this world, and in the world to come, in good deeds, in fulfilling God’s will.
2. Eyes – like the Sanhedrin.
3. Doves – wholesome, beautiful in gait, especially when ascending to Temple at sacred time, identifiable, loyal to mate, enters its nest loyal to those there and its ways, produces, travels for food and returns, brings light to the world (as at time of Noah), attracts others in its smell and ways (as Judaism should if suffused with lofty spirit, living models of wisdom, justice, and morality with joy and serenity, with shining example casting glow leading all to stream to join us. If this isn’t happening, we’re not enough like the dove, according to R’ Chaim Efraim Zeitchik.
II. Song of Songs Chapter 2
A. 2:1-2. I am the beloved one who is saturated with good deeds like a rose and utters a song of praise when You deepen Your gaze on me.
God’s close supervision of the people motivates them to improve their ways.
When I am who is placed in troubles, and God will draw me up, I will have repented and will be saturated with good deeds like a rose and utter a song of praise before Him.
The rose among thorns might be the people in the midst of Egypt, or in the torments of exile.
Yet, the rose is prominent for its fragrance, as the righteous ones are for the redemption of the people.
B. ”Sustain me with dainties…” (Song of Songs 2:5)
This could also be after liberation from Egypt, and at Mt. Sinai.
C. ”Left hand is under her head; right arm embraces her. (2:6)
(First tablets/Second Tablets. Shema/Prayer. Clouds of Glory/Cloud of Divine Presence in the Future World.)
D. ”Voice of my Beloved He comes, leaping upon mountains, skipping over hills.” (2:8)
Many say Moses.
Discussion in Midrash whether he’s coming at the designated time, with obvious concern back to 2:7, as to whether proper time has been spent before redemption can happen. The issue of readiness for return is raised.
E. 2:9-10 continues the narrative of redemption – timing, how it happens, etc. This continues in 11.
The winter is past: the time in Egypt OR the 40 years in the wilderness, OR the 70 years in exile in Babylonia.
The blossoms may also be Ezra and his group in the context of the return from Babylonia.
F. Song of Songs 2:16. God is my father, my shepherd, and my watchman (as to a vineyard). There are three kinds of love here – natural as with a father, symmetrical as with two parties with mutual interests, and unbalanced as with king/subject.
I am His, taking up His cause against those who anger Him; He is mine, my Champion against those who provoke me.
III. Song of Songs Chapter 3
A. 3:6 – Many things ascend in the wilderness – the Torah, the Tabernacle, the Sanhedrin, the priesthood, the Levite decisions, prophecy – all as if columns of smoke (reminding of the pillar of cloud > pillar of fire, such that smoke of burning fire on altar would rise up straight, unaffected by wind.
OR, it’s as if incense rising (atoning for sins) Israelites merited ascending from the wilderness with honor.
B. 7-8. Couch of Solomon, surrounded by 60 mighty men w/ sword, learned in warfare, because of the terror of the night (same amount as number of letters in priestly blessing, which would be said in the tabernacle/temple, which strengthen Israel) (which combats suffering in the world) (which guard the Temple and honor the king) (Torah scholars who guard with the Torah).
C. 9-10. Canopy for Solomon from wood of Lebanon. Pillars of silver, covering w/ gold, seat of purple wool, inner side decked with love of daughters of Jerusalem.
(See main study.)
God now dwells in the world, as manifested in the Temple.
The idea that golden trees can bear fruit suggests the vivifying power of the Divine spirit: one who immerses himself in holiness, Torah and good deeds can instantly awaken spiritual faculties and come to full flower.
On the other hand, if one brings idols into the Temple, that is, allow foreign desires to take root in his heart, his spiritual powers will wither and stop bearing sanctifying fruit.
D.11. Daughters should gaze on Solomon adorned with the crown his mother used to coronate him, on day of heart’s bliss.
Makes works peaceable. See what is best in another.
Envy is to be avoided.
Mother is likened to highest form of worship, grounded in love (not because required or out of fear). One wants love of God to spread and be taken on by others, as a mother plays a part in bringing forth children.
IV. Song of Songs Chapter 4
A. You are beautiful, My beloved. Your eyes are like doves…4:1
Israel is beautiful when it does mitzvoth, when it practices acts of loving-kindness, gives offerings, in prayer, in repentance, in this world, in the world to come.
Eyes= Sanhedrin, other leaders, who help lead the people to beauty.
Doves are wholesome, beautiful in gait (as in walking forward during pilgrimage), modest, faithful to mate, brought light to the world (in days of Noah).
B. Within kerchief, hair is like streaming goats; teeth, like a flock well counted (after washing, perfect); lips like thread of scarlet; speech is comely; cheek, like slice of pomegranate; neck, like tower of David, with 1000 shields hung on it, with quivers of mighty men; and breasts like 2 fawns, who shepherd among the roses. 4:2-5.
(Out from Temple) (As streaming down and out like testimony, like light, bright flames out of fire, people out of Sea of Reeds, people as they proceeded from Sinai; those who streamed out to follow Moses and Pinchas against Midian; those who crossed the Jordan with Joshua; those coming out of the Holy Temple; the watches at the Temple; the sacrificial offerings; actions emanating from the Sanhedrin)
(Cleaned from (taking booty from Egypt?) when coming out of Sea?) (None harmed, even being in midst of holiness, both in Sea and later at Sinai) (Teeth, like fixed mitzvoth) (Cleaning, after sin-offering) (Soldiers who went out to fight Midian) (Garments of the High Priest)
(Lips, after singing Song of Sea, praising God, declaring they will follow God and build Him a sanctuary and do mitzvoth; also, saying at Sinai they’ll do what God spoke)
(Glory is as David recites in Psalms, with all those who helped him compose it.)
(Quivers of Mighty men = Those who rise above evil inclination and prevails over it.)
(Two breasts might be Moses and Aaron, who nourished the people; or Moses and Pinchas; or Joshua and Elazar, the Kohen Gadol then) And the 1000 might be the generations that follow for whom Moses came.)
(Shepherds among the roses might be Yocheved and Miriam who sustained the babies in Egypt and led the women in song at the Sea. Or it could be Moses, Aaron, and Miriam.)
C. 4:6. Until the day breathes and shadows flee, I’ll get me to the mountain of myrrh, and to hill of frankincense.
The people seek to make offerings to God; whether fragrant to humans or not, they’re pleasing to God, as representative of our turning to God and doing Divine will.
D. 4:8. We get the coming sense of the marriage of God with Israel, which is the core of the beauty of the book. There is the idea that it is somewhat premature for many reasons, but God seeks it in kindness irrespective of our spiritual un-readiness.
(Come with Me from Lebanon, O bride!)
Now every Jew has the duty to cultivate a personal relationship with God.
God goes out with us when we go into exile; God will be with us when we return.
We will come, indeed be brought back by others, from other places.
E. 4:9. You have given me your heart, O bride…with one of your eyes, with one bead of your necklace.
(Upon leaving Egypt, with blood of Passover offering, with Moses) (At the Sea) (At Sinai) (In the wilderness) [All these suggest two hearts, with the second given upon repentance.] [Or avoiding evil and doing good] [Joshua and Caleb]
The one eye generally is seen as Moses, but some add Pinchas.
F. 4:10. How beautiful was your love, O bride, better than wine, and fragrances of oils than all spices.
Israel is called a bride 10 times, suggesting 10 obligations of God to her (Sustenance, clothing, marital relations, medical care, ransom, burial, support from his estate after death, residence in his home, her daughters have rights in house and from estate, her sons inherit). 28 (1)
V. Song of Songs Chapter 5
A. 5:1. I have come into My garden, O bride, gathering myrrh and spice, eating My honeycomb with My honey; drunk My wine with My milk; eat, friends, drink and become intoxicated.
(Garden = wedding canopy, Garden of Eden, Tabernacle)
(Notion of withdrawal upon sin, coming down on righteousness and love)
(Consuming incense, offerings)
(Friends could be Aaron and Moses, tribal leaders,)
B. 5:2. I am asleep but my heart is awake. Sound of my Beloved, knocking: “Open up for Me…My sister, dove, love, and perfect one”
(Be open to return and repentance)
(Perfect one = perfect in devotion at Sinai)
C. 5:3-5. She took off robe; how can she don it? She washed feet; how will she soil them? Beloved sends forth hand; my innards stirred. I arose to open up for Beloved, hands with myrrh, upon handles of lock.
(How can they re-claim garments of royalty and priesthood after losing them? How could they ever soil with idolatry again after having done it before?
This could be in Babylonia when the people have made some progress by eschewing idolatry and are hopeful for return and early redemption.
Or it’s in Holy Land when there was in inclination to idolatry.
(Openness suggests end of exile, when stirred for God, Torah, repent, doing good deeds, being right, to build/re-build Temple.)
VI. Song of Songs Chapter 6
A. 6:5. Turn your eyes away from Me, for they overwhelm Me.
(Perhaps He can’t bear their pain, even if it’s in the past. Perhaps a few who shouldn’t suffer do so, though the community has brought on itself suffering.)
B. 6:9. One is Abraham; the second one is Isaac; she is Jacob; maidens are the 12 progenitors of the tribes; queens and concubines are Joseph.
VII. Song of Songs Chapter 7
A. 7:1. Israel returns from all kingdoms that subjugate it in peace, and it will be one day a place of continuous peace and the force that completes the establishment and settlement of the world.
The other nations question her/marvel at her undergoing such misfortune.
B. 7:5. Your face is like the tower of Lebanon …facing toward Damascus.
The Temple is positioned at the highest part of the world. Its reach in spreading holiness will be all the way to Damascus, where even the most unworthy will be transformed.