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Song of Songs

שיר השירים - Shir Hashirim

“How Lovely Are Your Tents, O Jacob” – Balaam’s Fertility Blessing

Using imagery of tents, gardens, and flowing water—themes associated with love and sexuality in the Bible and the ancient Near East—Balaam’s praise of Israelite women, מַה טֹּבוּ אֹהָלֶיךָ יַעֲקֹב (Numbers 24:5), also serves as a warning. The Priestly authors, however, invert this blessing to present Balaam as the instigator of the Baal Peor incident.

Dr.

Erica Lee Martin

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What Is Better than Wine?

Song of Songs opens with: “Let him kiss me with the kisses of his mouth, for דֹּדֶיךָ (MT “your loving”) or mastoi sou (LXX “your breasts”) are better than wine.” Why does the LXX translate this way and which version is correct?

Dr. Rabbi

Zev Farber

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Is Love an Answer to the Meaninglessness of Life?

Ecclesiastes versus Song of Songs

Prof.

​Francis Landy

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A Nitpicking Lover in Song of Songs 1:7

The woman in Song of Songs wishes to know where her lover will be, asking: “Why should I be like an ʿōṭǝyâ (כְּעֹטְיָה).” Translators struggle with this phrase, and suggest meanings as disparate as “be veiled like a prostitute,” “be as a wanderer,” or even “pick at my nits.” How do scholars use ancient translation, cognate words, and content to translate a word in the Bible whose meaning is so obscure?

Prof.

Marc Zvi Brettler

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The Kiss - From Metaphor to Mysticism

“Oh, let him kiss me with the kisses of his mouth…” Song of Songs 1:2. Allegorical interpretation in midrash and the Zohar understand the male lover being beckoned as God, but whom is God kissing and why? And does kabbalistic interpretation leave any room for human love?

Prof.

Joel Hecker

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The Poetry of Beauty: What Does it Mean to See the Beloved?

Three descriptive poems in the Song of Songs wrestle with the experience of being in the beloved’s presence. In each case, the woman’s body is described using layered landscape imagery and complex, overlapping angles of vision. These poems ask us to consider what it means to see.

Dr.

Elaine T. James

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A Feminist Literalist Allegorical Reading of Shir Hashirim

Finding gender equality in the Song of Songs without compromising God and meaning.

Prof. Rabbi

Wendy Zierler

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Enallage in the Bible

“Let him kiss me with the kisses of his mouth, for your love is better than wine” (Song 1:2). The Song of Songs opens with this sudden shift in person, an ungrammatical syntactic substitution called enallage. How common is this literary device, and why is it used?

Prof.

Marc Zvi Brettler

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A Moral Value in the Song of Songs

Reading Shir HaShirim in Its Original Sense

Prof. Rabbi

Michael V. Fox

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The Shema and the Commandment to Love God in Its Ancient Contexts

Reading Deuteronomy in light of ancient Near Eastern treaties, we learn that the commandment to love God entails both action and affection. We further learn about the nature of God’s love for Israel, described also in the prophets and in the rabbinic reading of Song of Songs.

Prof.

Jon D. Levenson

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Song of Songs: The Emergence of Peshat Interpretation

The Song of Songs is a collection of love poetry. The Rabbis read it as an allegory of the relationship between God and the Jewish people. Only in the Middle Ages, in Spain and Northern France, did scholars begin to pay attention to the plain (Peshat) meaning of the text. Some went as far as dropping the allegory altogether and treating it as love poetry, as it was originally intended.

Dr.

Barry Dov Walfish

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