Sing Song of Songs at your Seder

Since the Song of Songs is traditionally read or chanted on the Shabbat during Passover; we 21st century Jews could also sing some of its songs about the loving, partnership, relationship between modern human lovers; as well as the traditional, holy love relationship between the traditional covenanted partners; God and Israel.

Solomon’s Song of Songs begins with: “Let him kiss me with the kisses of his mouth; for your love is more delightful than wine.” (1:1-2) How and why is this book of love song poems, so unlike the songbook of Psalms, in our Sacred Scriptures?

Song of Songs is among the most difficult and mysterious books in the Bible for four reasons.

First, on the Pshat (literal) level, it is very difficult to understand and translate the Hebrew text, because although it has only 117 verses, and 470 Hebrew words; 47 (10%) of these words appear only once in the whole Bible, and only in this collection of love-songs, that were sung or recited during wedding ceremonies in ancient Israel for centuries after the age of King Solomon.

Second, on the the Drash (moral) level, the title is both a superlative; the best of songs as well as a collective anthology of songs, many of them containing strange and even weird metaphors.

Thus, no one type of interpretation can be uniformly applied to the whole book. In some metaphors the male symbol represents God, and in other metaphors the female embodies the Shekinah Holy One.

Failure to see the Shekinah in the Song of Songs; and the attempt to ignore the great variety of different songs; and see only the same message everywhere, has plagued most translations and commentaries.

Third, on the Sod (mystical) level, the exaggerated use of dramatic earthly metaphors in the Song of Songs was meant to disguise the deeper mystical and much more spiritual meanings of physical lovemaking.

Both Jewish and Christian mystics have traditionally seen the interactive behavior between the two lovers as symbolizing the covenantal love between God and the People of Israel (Jewish) or between Jesus and the Church (Christian).(Pope pp. 89-132, 158-179)

Fourth, although according to the Remez (allegorical) interpretation, one of the two lovers is God, none of the names for God, nor any of the usual appellations for God, ever appear explicitly in Song of Songs.

Nevertheless, this symbolic understanding of the Song of Songs’ couple lovers relationship, probably originated from the disciples of the famous early second century legal scholar, Rabbi Akiba ben Joseph the convert, who proclaimed the Song of Songs to be the holiest book in the third section of the Bible: “all the Writings are holy, but the Song of Songs is the Holy of Holies.” (Mishnah Yadaim 3.5).

So, I offer a half dozen lyrics; and invite the musically gifted within the Jewish People to write and sing on U tube some loving songs for your Seder.

The most popular lyrics today are Dodee Lee v’anee Loh: “My beloved is mine, and I am his; he grazes among the lilies”. (2:16)

Other lyrics are: Kol Dodee: “The voice of my beloved Behold, he comes, leaping over the mountains, bounding over the hills. (2:8)

Mah Yafoo: “How beautiful is your love, my sister, my bride; how much better is your love than wine, and the fragrance of your oils over any spice” (4:10)

Eechlu ray’im: Eat, friends, drink and become drunk with love! (5:1)

Ahnah Halachdohdach: Where has your beloved gone, O most beautiful among women? Where has your beloved turned, that we may seek him with you? (6:1)

Ahnee leh dodee: “I am my beloved’s and my beloved is mine; he grazes among the lilies. (6:3)

While the Rabbis understood the moniker, Hamelekh Shelomo as hamelekh shehashalom lo, “the king who has peace.” a Shekinah version of the allegory, grounded in Song of Songs 9:10, the Shulamite, likewise, is kemotzeit shalom, one who sees herself, reflected in her lover’s eyes, as having peace.

The Shulamite is Shelomo’s equal counterpart, “Hara’ayah she-hashalom la,” one who has found her other side and is complete. So the Shulamite of Song of Songs stands for the People of Israel in a love story of our love of God and God’s love of us.

As Maimonides said: What is the proper form of the love of God? It is that he should love [God] with a great, overpowering, fierce love as if he were love-sick for a woman and dwells on this constantly… As Solomon says allegorically: ‘For I am love-sick’ (Song of Songs 2:5) for the whole of Song of Songs is a parable on this theme.” (Hilchot Teshuvah, 10:3)

About the Author
Rabbi Allen S. Maller has published over 250 articles on Jewish values in over a dozen Christian, Jewish, and Muslim magazines and web sites. Rabbi Maller is the author of "Tikunay Nefashot," a spiritually meaningful High Holy Day Machzor, two books of children's short stories, and a popular account of Jewish Mysticism entitled, "God, Sex and Kabbalah." His most recent books are "Judaism and Islam as Synergistic Monotheisms' and "Which Religion Is Right For You?: A 21st Century Kuzari" both available on Amazon.
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