Three Masters on Song of Songs

“Song of Songs,” by Marc Chagall

In celebration of Pesach: three teachings on the opening verse of Song of Songs, each a little more challenging than the last.

The Song of Songs, which is le’Shlomo.             שיר השירים אשר לשלמה

From Levi Yitzhak of Berditchev, Kedushas Levi:

For service to be whole, you must long for G!d always, delighting in serving your Creator and being one of His servants who does His will; for G!d has all kinds of holy angels who serve Him on high, yet He chose us mortal creatures. There is no greater joy than this. Now, the truly righteous serve their Creator even in eating, drinking, and sleeping, but such service is not complete. We still must join our souls — nefesh, ruach, and neshamah (1) — to our Creator in prayer, song, and praise (for it is known that tefillah truly means cleaving). This, then, is the meaning of “The Song of Songs” — we must sing for the very fact that we have merited to say songs and praises before G!d; “which is for Shlomo” — that is, “its completeness” — for then our service of eating, drinking, and sleeping is made shalem, complete.

1) Three levels of soul, corresponding roughly to our animal urges, our mind and emotions, and our spirit.

From Uziel Meizlish, Tiferet Uziel:

It is known that the Shekhinah spoke from Moses’ throat, and even though there never arose another like Moses, there are still many on this level who merit that the Shekhinah of God’s glory offers praises from their throats…He who merits this level is the one who is nothing but a channel into which the words are drawn from above, who does nothing but open his lips…Thus the essential thing in offering praise is to be clean of all dross so that one does not impose his own corporeality on the heavenly voice with his own voice — for everyone can achieve this level, and must cease his voice and his deeds only because of the coarseness of the idolaters…This is the meaning of “the Song of Songs which is of Shlomo”: this song is the Holy of Holies, which is of Shlomo — of the Holy Blessed One Himself (1), for the Shekhinah of His glory gives voice and sings in the throat of a righteous person. Thus the verse continues, “Let him kiss with the kisses of his mouth,” for the Holy Blessed One joins Himself to the lower mouth through the higher mouth…So we find in Torah and the Gemara that the pious sing and dance in great fervor…It is like one who stands in the palace of the king, who hears the musicians play and sing and dance, and he dances along; but if one were to stand from afar and not hear the music and see the dancing and the rejoicing, then that person would seem like a madman in his eyes. But in truth the opposite is true — that man is the mad one — for if he heard the voices of the instruments then he too would dance and sing. For this reason we find that the prophet is called mad, for the spirit of God is clamoring inside him like a bell, and he dances and sings for God is inside him. Thus the verse concludes, “your oils smell so fine, all the young women love you”: because you take your fill of me, they love you; because of this, comes love.

1) Shlomo, the Hebrew name for Solomon, has long been understood to refer to G!d, “the One to Whom All Peace Belongs.”

From Zeev Wolf of Zhitomir, Or HaMeir:

Rabbi Akiva said, “The whole world is not worthy of the day the Song of Songs was given to Israel, for all of Scripture is holy, but the Song of Songs is the Holy of Holies, for it is all awe of heaven and acceptance of the divine yoke” (1). To understand this, we should look at what is written in the Zohar on the verse, “And David made a name,” that all his days King David was always engaged in making a name for the Shekhinah through his deeds (2)…So when Solomon came and found the Shekhinah adorned in this way…the essence of his work was then to bring unity…and then great goodness was brought on Israel from the bounteous blessing of heaven…For every limb in a man’s body there is a parallel limb in the Shekhinah, and what he does with his own limbs he does to the Shekhinah…And this task of adorning the Shekhinah is the whole Torah that a man must do in this world, and if he has not done so he has not yet tasted of divine service and he still stands outside…and this is the essence and the goal of Torah study and prayer and performance of the commandments — to perform unifications and rectifications in the upper worlds; and he should feel nothing of his own needs, for his purpose is only to perform unifications and couplings with our glorious Shekhinah…It is only reasonable and proper that these two aspects of King David and Solomon his son should be in every single Jew who dedicates his heart to God and to approaching service of the Creator in truth and sincerity, with no haughtiness of spirit. He should engage first in building a form for the Shekhinah and adorning her through his righteous acts and purification of his seven divine attributes as did King David, and then he will understand how to do as King Solomon did, performing unifications with every action and Torah study, prayer, and performance of the commandments — all of it only for the higher need…Truly, the words of all the early and later Prophets and the Writings only prepare a person to come to the words of Song of Songs, the Holy of Holies, which are themselves nothing but unifications and couplings.

1)  Mishnah Yadayim 3:5, brought by Rashi on Shir haShirim 1:1.   2) Zohar III:113a on 2 Samuel 8:13.

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This entry was posted in Concepts, Divine Service, Hasidic Masters, Holidays/Days of Remembrance, Levi Yitzhak of Berditchev/Kedushas Levi, Nach/ Prophets and Writings, Pesach, Prayer, Revelation, Shir HaShirim/ Song of Songs, Uziel Meizlish/ Tiferes Uziel, Zeev Wolf of Zhitomir/Or HaMeir. Bookmark the permalink.

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