Shvii Shel Pessach 5768 – Gilayon #546
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Seventh day of Pessah
MIRIAM, THE PROPHETESS, AARON'S
SISTER, TOOK A TIMBREL IN HER HAND, AND ALL THE WOMEN CAME OUT AFTER HER WITH
SING TO THE LORD, FOR VERY EXALTED IS HE; A HORSE AND ITS RIDER HE CAST INTO
Miriam, the prophetess…
took When did she prophesy? When she
was [known only as] "Aaron's sister," before Moses was born, she
said, "My mother is destined to bear a son" [who will save Israel], (as is found in Sotah 12b, 13a). Another
explanation: [It is written] Aaron's sister since he [Aaron] risked his life
for her when she was afflicted with zara'at; [thus] she is called by his name.
Shemot 15:20, Judaica Press translation)
And Miriam the prophetess, the
sister of Aaron, took etc. The
sister of Aaron and not the sister of Moses! – R. Amram said in the name
of Rav, and according to others it was R. Nahman who said in the name of Rav:
It teaches that she prophesied while she yet was the sister of Aaron only and
said: "My mother will bear a son who will be the savior of Israel." When
Moses was born, the whole house was filled with light; and her father arose and
kissed her upon her head, saying "My daughter, your prophecy has been
fulfilled"; but when they cast him into the river, her father arose and
smacked her upon her head, saying: "Where, now, is your prophecy!"
That is what is written: And his sister stood afar off to know what would be
done to him (Shemot
2) – what would be the fate of
13a, Soncino translation)
Miriam, the prophetess…
took – The Sages
already said that Israel left Egypt thanks to the merit of pious women, for the
women of that generation were more meritorious than the men, as it is written, My
sister, my bride, is a locked garden. You must conclude that there were
also women prophets at that time…
And Miriam called out to
them – They said that
it all happened thanks to their merit, and so they especially sang, because
they had a part in the miracle.
The Song of Songs – Concerning Shlomo
Song of Songs, read this day in many congregations, is arguably the greatest
love poem ever written. We here address only one element thereof, and certainly
not the most important.
way of introduction, however, we must clarify basic understandings. While the
Song may be profitably applied to love between man and God, it must first be
appreciated on the level of direct meaning, the love of a man and a maid. In
this essay, we shall concentrate on that level. The poem, written about
Solomon (not by him), evidently derives from early second Temple times. It
reflects the story of a young couple who constantly struggle against
environment, including family, to be together.
concern here is a type of love which the lovers reject. Our understanding of
their commitments has much to do with our understanding of that which they do
the Song, there is great concentration on what Buber called the leitwort
– a term which guides the text. To quote Buber – "…a word or a root
which is repeated within a text in a meaningful pattern… The variations… often
intensify the dynamic effect of the repetition… The variation patterns
interrelate to create a growing movement as it were. One viewing the text as a
whole can sense waves moving to and fro between them." In describing the
rejected view of love, the poet repeats a three-letter combination found in a
number of terms: sh-l-m, as found in Solomon (Shlomoh), Jerusalem
(Yerushalayim), Shulammite (see 7:1) and shalom (peace). Together, the terms appear eighteen times (equal to
the uses of '-h-v "love"), and "Solomon" and
the "Girls of Jerusalem," are each repeated seven times (a
particularly meaningful number of repetitions in Biblical literature).
tension is clearest in the final chapter: Solomon had a vineyard in Ba'al Hamon…
My very own vineyard is before me (8:11) one of the lovers declares, the thousand is yours, O Solomon.. This
implies competition, and rejection. Many have noted the less-than-subtle
reference here to Solomon's one thousand wives (700 chief wives, 300 concubines – I Kings
11:3). Indeed by chapter eight "vineyard"
represents the love relationship itself. The poem seems to reject Solomon's
multiplicity of relationships, preferring the one.
model of rejection also befits the "Girls of Jerusalem,"
occasionally partners in dialogue with the woman, sometimes a standard of
beauty, and often a potential bother. Three times the woman adjures them to
non-intervention (2:7; 3:5; 8:4).
are these Girls of Jerusalem? Their history is reflected only in 3:10,
which indicates that Solomon's litter was inlaid with love by them. The
words contain multiple levels of meaning, including the feelings of those doing
the work ("lovingly wrought by…"), pictures of love-making engraved
in the litter (So
Jezebel decorated Ahab's chariot – Sanhedrin 39b), and possibly acts of love performed therein. The Girls, then, seem to
be "experts" in matters of love, even on a "mass" basis. Such
an understanding befits the Girls' presumed expertise in beauty (1:5f.) and helps explain the woman's fear of
having them too near her lover. These are city girls, girls of a thousand
loves, women of the court, possibly the same "maids" (6:8) grouped with the queens and concubines. Their
efforts at intervention are constantly rejected. Verses 8:4,5 focus on the
contrast. The Girls are adjured for a final time not to intervene, while in the
very next verse the woman exults that she has successfully done what she told
them not to do – she has roused her lover.
dance of the Shulammite (6:11-7:9) further
elucidates the implication of sh-l-m. Many commentaries have mistakenly
equated the Shulammite with the beloved. The poet makes no such contention, and
in fact indicates the opposite. In a vision, while semi-conscious, the male
lover sees a dancing woman, a twirling figure. The body description is the reverse
of all previous ones: beginning from the feet up, the description begins by
using totally new terms, departing from previous style. Even the locale is
totally different – all takes place amid the chariots of the nobility (6:12).
the Shulammite dances, an onlooking crowd expresses its appreciation, its words
eventually blending into those of the lover. Slowly, he begins to recall and
use terms associated in the past with his beloved's body. Eventually, the
identification with his beloved takes over, as all new terms are abandoned, and
he finally recites a staccato list of descriptions used before. When he recalls
her palate, symbol of the central kiss (see 1:2), she interrupts him, declaring their joint loyalty with a cry of joy (7:11) as she realizes that her lover's desires
are specifically directed at her.
then, is a sexual fantasy, and certainly there is no better title for this
vision than Shulammite, girl of the root sh-l-m. Once again we have a
potentially competitive model, one based heavily on raw sex appeal, and a model
that is, in the final analysis, rejected.
is the model rejected? It is patently absurd to claim that the Song of Songs is
either puritanical or prudish. Few works of literature have so successfully
celebrated the rapture of physical love. Even the Shulammite is incorporated
into the beloved!
the world of sh-l-m is rejected in the Song of Songs. To
understand, one must differentiate, as the Song does, between the type of
relationship represented by sh-l-m on the one hand, and by the two
lovers, on the other. The world of sh-l-m is a world of multiplicity of
sexual relationships, of sex divorced from emotional love, devotion and/or
commitment. It is a world of sex dances and a thousand "loves." The
love ethos of the two lovers is other. They clearly prefer their own single
relationship. All multiple numbers, from the doubling dance of the
Shulammite to 60 to 80 to 1,000 to 10,000 are rejected in the Song. "One"
is emphasized and praised.
Song, then, while celebrating a sexual relationship, grants it full
worth only in context, one which clearly is exclusive: My very own vineyard
is before me. The thousand is yours, O Solomon.
the previously cited allusion to Solomon's thousand wives in all probability
inspired the poet in the choice of this symbol. There, in I Kings 11, it is
stated that Solomon's wives led his heart astray (toward idolatry) in
Jerusalem, and that Solomon's heart was not "completely" (shalem
– fully devoted) with God. The author of Kings offers a daring pun –
Solomon, Shlomoh, in Jerusalem, Yerushalayim, was not shalem,
not complete. This is an example of antiphrasis, a rhetorical device using a
word in a sense opposite to its proper meaning. (For a similar pun on Moses' name, see
Numbers 14:44.) The poet of
Song of Songs adopted that pun as an underlying theme.
the internal repetition and the final rejection of Solomon not suffice to
clarify matters for the reader, the poet took the precaution of articulating
the guide-word for all to see. This, the poet declared, is the Song of Songs asher
lishlomo, concerning Solomon (1:1), or, if one would prefer, concerning the
world of sh-l-m. The poet's message is that this world is incomplete.
At the end of the Song, that final rejection is followed only by the lovers'
intention to be together in physical embrace.
understanding of both love relationships – human and divine – there are myriad
lines of contemplation left by the Song, among them the necessity to reject
societal approaches if one wishes to find true love, the failure of the
establishment to set the right standards, the struggle implied to achieve true
loyalty (whether monogamy or monotheism), and our own occasional backsliding
and confusion as to what we desire. Not the least of the lessons is that what
is labeled "complete" may be woefully not so.
leads to one further verse, one of the most complex in the Song: Then (i.e.,
once before) I appeared in his eyes as (if I were) one who leads to shalom (8:10). In the text, the levels are so many that
we cannot possibly cover them here. The Hebrew, a play on the well known phrase
"find favor in one's eyes," implies a false impression in the past,
while the use of "shalom" of the three letter negative root, is also
in itself the greatest of positive words. Co-existent meanings range from a
recollection of the Shulammite dance (its origin in her, his first reactions,
or his later identification of the vision with her), a recollection of their
first complete moments together which were not followed by a solution to all
their difficulties, the problematic order of appeal – first physical but
ultimately partial, et al. No prose can do justice to the multi-leveled,
us, then there is one further lesson. Shalom – peace – is not a prose term but
a poetic one (like many value concepts). Forever positive, it can briefly
mislead or be misrepresented. The use of the term does not guarantee the
essence of what is described. We search and seek that which is shalem,
complete, that which is shalom, peace. Certainly there is no greater paean
to insistent search than the Song of Songs, and no greater assurance of
ultimate success. Still we are cautioned that values, often best expressed in
poetry, are open to misrepresentation and false appearance. We must pursue, and
we must be cognizant of our failings. With the help of the One whose name is
Peace, we can pray for the day when peace will be achieved – a real peace,
Segal is director of the upcoming (Sukkot) learning festival "Gateways,"
in Jerusalem. His commentary on the Song of Songs will be published toward the
end of the secular year.
The Song of Songs – Holy of
R. Akiva said: The whole world
is not worth the day that the Song of Songs was given to Israel, for all the
Scriptures are holy, but the Song of Songs is the Holy of Holies.
R. Elazar ben Azariya said: To
what can it be compared? To a king who brought a se'a of wheat to the
baker and told him: "Make such and such a quantity of fine flour from it,
such and such of bran flour (second-rate flour), such and such of coarse bran,
and sift for me from it one measure of excellent, beautiful, flour. So too the Scriptures
are holy and the Song of Songs the Holy of Holies. Se how the Holy One blessed
be He praises Israel in it: You are beautiful my beloved, you are beautiful,
you are beautiful in your deeds, you are beautiful in your ancestors' deeds,
you are beautiful at home, you are beautiful in the field. "At home"
– with the mezuzah, and you shall write them on the door posts of your house
(Devarim 6). "In the field" – with the[agricultural gifts of] terumot and the tithes, the gleanings, forgotten
sheaves, and corner of the field. You are beautiful – at home, you
are beautiful – on the roof, for it says, When you build a new house
make a railing for your roof (Devarim 22). You are beautiful in this world and you are beautiful in the World to
come, You are beautiful my beloved
(Warsaw edition) Tetzaveh 5)
What is the love of God that is
befitting? It is love of the Eternal with a great and exceeding love, so strong
that one's soul shall be knit up with the love of God, and one should be
continually enraptured by it, like a love-sick individual, whose mind is at no
time free from his passion for a particular woman, the thought of her filling
his heart at all times, when sitting down or rising up, when he is eating or
drinking. Even more intense should be the love of God in the hearts of those
who love Him. And this love should continually possess them, even as He
commanded us in the phrase, with all your heart and with all your soul (Devarim 6:5). This, Solomon allegorically expressed in
the sentence, for I am sick with love (Song of Songs 2:5). The entire Song of Songs is indeed an
allegory descriptive of this love.
Hilkhot Teshuva 10:3, Hyamson translation)
He gives great salvation
to His king, and He performs kindness to His anointed; to David and to his
Samuel, 22 – from the haftara for the Seventh Day of Passover)
He gives great salvation
to His king. When the
holy One blessed be He performs kindness for David, heaven and earth
rejoice, for it says, He gives great salvation to His king, and what is
written afterwards? The heavens tell of God's glory. Similarly, when the
Holy One blessed be He prepares David's throne, all rejoice, for it is said, I
shall establish you seed forever, and what is written afterwards? And
the heavens shall make your wonders known, O Lord. One verse has magdil[He gives great] and the other says migdol [There are two
variants of the same verse in Scripture]. R. Yudan says: [What is magdil?]
That the salvation of this nation does not arrive all at once, but rather
increases and increases. What is migdol? That He makes King
Messiah like a great tower [migdal], for is says, The name of the
Lord is a tower of strength; the righteous runs to enter it and is raised up.
Shimoni II Samuel 164)
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