Song of Songs: A virtual tour of Israel

Pesach is a big travel time. A lot of Jews from abroad fly to Israel to celebrate in Jerusalem and a lot of Israelis take the opportunity to travel the country.

This year is different. There will be no tourists and those who live in Israel are required to remain at home. However, we can virtually tour Israel when we read Shir HaShirim, Songs of Songs, the megillah which is traditionally chanted on Shabbat Chol HaMoed.

Song of Songs at face value is the story of a young couple’s love but it is midrashically interpreted as the love story between God and the Jewish people.

Whichever way you interpret it, you can’t escape the references to the places in Israel and the fruits of Israel.

In chapter 1, we see the daughters of Jerusalem (B’not Yerushalayim), the shepherds and the vineyards of Ein Gedi.

In chapter 2, we see images of nature in the Land of Israel.  The woman compares herself to chavatzelet hasharon (Pancratium maritimum), the white flower that grows by the sea and shoshanat ha’amakim (Narcissus tzetta) which grows in the valleys. Her boyfriend compares her to shoshana ben hachochim (Lilium candidum) a flower which grows in the thorny area of Mt. Carmel and in the northern region of Israel.

The woman compares her boyfriend to an apple tree in the forest who gives off shade and sweet fruit.

Just as she is the flower among the thorns, he is the fruit tree among the other trees which do not produce fruit.

The voice of her beloved is leaping on the mountains, shipping upon the hills. He is like a gazelle or young hart.

Both of these animals live in the wild and are good looking.

The spring season in Israel is described as a great opportunity to go out on a date (2:11) “For the winter is past, the rain is over and gone; the flowers appear on the earth; the time of the singing bird has come, and the voice of the turtle is heard in our land; the fig tree puts forth green figs and the vines of the blossom give their scent.”

In chapter 4, the boyfriend compares his girlfriend’s eyes to a dove and her hair to a flock of goats that cascade from Mt. Gilad. Her cheek is like a pomegranate. Her neck is like the Tower of David.

In describing her beauty, he is using imagery from the Land of Israel.

In 4:6, the beloved invites his bride to go with him on a trip in the north of Israel: “Come with me from Levanon, my bride, with me from Levanon; look from the top of Amana, from the top of Senir and Hermon.”

Lebanon was originally within the Biblical borders of Israel.

In 6:11, we see a beautiful description of a visit to a valley: “I went down to ginat haegoz (the garden of nuts) to see the fruits of the nachal, valley, and to see whether the vine has blossomed; whether the pomegranates were in flower.”

This can be a description of the area where palm trees and dates grow, it can be referring to a wadi or it can be referring to an orchard with different fruits growing together near the water.

There is an area in Abu Ghosh where all of these species grow together next to a spring of water.

Many of the images of fruits, flowers, animals, nature and different locations in Israel are repeated over and over again throughout Song of Songs. This helps us connect with the beauty of the Land of Israel.

No matter where in the world you will be spending Pesach, you can connect your seder to the Land of Israel by including the fruits and nuts mentioned in Shir HaShirim in your charoset and hopefully next year we will have the opportunity to once again travel the land.

About the Author
Sharona holds a BA in Judaic Studies from Stern College and an MS in Jewish Education from Azrieli Graduate School, Yeshiva University. Sharona was the first Congregational Intern and Madricha Ruchanit at the Hebrew Institute of Riverdale, NY. After making aliya in 2004, Sharona founded Torat Reva Yerushalayim, a non profit organization based in Jerusalem which provides Torah study groups for students of all ages and backgrounds.
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