Song of Songs, Holy of Holies

“Song of Songs,” by Marc Chagall

A teaching on the Song of Songs from Uziel Meizlish, Tiferet Uziel.

שיר השירים אשר לשלמה   The Song of Songs, which is leShlomo. Song of Songs 1:1

The title is difficult: is it one song, or many songs? Our sages explain it with the end of the verse, “which is leShlomo“: Shlomo means “The King of Peace,” and also “The King Who is Whole” (1). It is like the verse in The Hymn of Glory: “To countless visions did their pictures run; Behold, through all the visions Thou art one” (2). For when we sing to G!d, we compare G!d to other beautiful and praiseworthy things and call G!d “great” and “awesome” and so on, and in this way we divide our praise into so many phrases and words — but, truly, G!d is one single Whole, and while we call G!d “great,” G!d is greater than any praise that anyone, even a prophet, can speak or imagine. Thus King David said, “To You, praise is fitting,” which can also mean “To You, silence is praise” (3)… Indeed, every word of praise we offer to G!d should include all praises, as befits G!d, but it is impossible to say everything at once. So, even as we say so many words of praise, we must always be aware that G!d contains all of them. This is the meaning of “Song of Songs”: the song we say contains all songs that are due to be sung to “The King Who is Whole,” and all the songs and praises — everything — is indeed one.

Now we might ask, why is “leShlomo” written, instead of “for the King of Peace,” if that is what it really means? The answer is this: the song that is “the Holy of Holies” (4) needs to be only and all leShlomo, for G!d. We should merit that our songs be like the songs of the angels — with no hope for reward in this world or even the next, for the honor of singing these words to G!d is greater than anything in all the world, and it is a shame to want something for ourselves more than this. This is our wholeness — to want nothing more than to sing to G!d — and this is why “leShlomo” is written, for it can also mean “for his wholeness,” that is, our own.

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1) המלך אשר השלום לו; It’s also Solomon’s name, and leShlomo in the plain sense means to be “to/for/of Solomon.” But since the Song of Songs is understood as a love song between us and G!d, the “lover” and/or the addressee of the song is understood to be G!d.   2) a.k.a. Shir haKavod and Anim Zemirot: a mystical hymn to G!d written by Yehuda haHasid of Regensburg and sung at the end of the Shabbat and Yom Tov services. This translation is by Israel Zangwill; a much less poetic but more literal one comes from ArtScroll: “They symbolized You in many varied visions; yet You are a Unity containing all the allegories.”   3) Psalms 65:2   4) In Mishnah Yadayim 3:5 someone suggests that the Song of Songs doesn’t belong in the Bible, and Rabbi Akiva bursts out “G!d forbid! All of Scripture is holy, but the Song of Songs is the Holy of Holies!”

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This entry was posted in Concepts, God, Hasidic Masters, Nach/ Prophets and Writings, Prayer, Shir HaShirim/ Song of Songs, Uziel Meizlish/ Tiferes Uziel. Bookmark the permalink.

One Response to Song of Songs, Holy of Holies

  1. Pingback: The Biblical Role of Women Part III | GRACE in TORAH

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