Jewish Journal

The Song of Songs - An Allegory of the Love Between God and Israel

by Rabbi John Rosove

April 12, 2012 | 3:41 pm

“The world is not as worthy as the day on which the Song of Songs was given to Israel, for all the writings are holy, but the Song of Songs is the Holy of Holies.”

So said Rabbi Akiva, who regarded The Song as an allegory of the love between God and Israel.

On first reading The Song is a secular poem celebrating young, sensuous, erotic love, a “love stronger than death.” Read more deeply, it holds the Presence of an Ineffable Other.

Rabbi Abraham Isaac Cook expressed the mystic’s longing with these words:

“Expanses divine my soul craves. / Confine me not in cages, / of substance or of spirit. / I am love-sick—/ I thirst, I thirst for God, as a deer for water brooks. / Alas, who can describe my pain? / Who will be a violin to express the songs of my grief? / I am bound to the world, all creatures, all people are my friends, / Many parts of my soul / are intertwined with them, / But how can I share with them my light?” (Translated by Ben Zion Bokser)

The Biblical Song of Songs is read on the Shabbat during the festival of Pesach.

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Rabbi John L. Rosove assumed his duties as Senior Rabbi of Temple Israel of Hollywood in November 1988. A native of Los Angeles, he earned a BA in Art History from UC Berkeley...

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