09 January 2007

Shir Hashirim - Canticle of Canticles

And since Judaism regards the relationship between a man and a woman as potentially holy, Rabbi Akiva argued (Mishnah Yadayim 3:5) for the inclusion of Shir HaShirim in the Sacred Canon when its inclusion was questioned because of the apparent earthiness of the "mashal." He said that if all the other Books of the Bible are considered "Kedoshim," Holy, then Shir HaShirim must be considered "Kodesh Kodoshim", the Holiest of the Holy, because both its "mashal" and its "nimshal" are holy.

The above is a quote from an OU website

Chazal maintain that Shir Hashirim is an allegory of God's love to the Jews.

Chazal apparently were debating whether to include the Song of Songs as part of the canon because - in the words of Wikipedia:

"The book consists of a cycle of poems about erotic love, largely in the form of a dialogue between a bridegroom and a bride"


"The text, read without allegory as a celebration of sexual love, appears to alternate between addressing a male object of affection and a female one."

Some might disagree with those descriptions; You can judge for yourself.

Artscroll limits it's translation to the allegorical nature and does not provide the plain English translation. Ultimately Shir Hashirim was included in the canon and is a member of Tanach in good standing; just like Megilas Esther and Sefer Melachim. In it's time, I imagine the Hebrew was understood by one and all, so why did Artscroll not translate it as such. But that's a concern of another blogger.

Fine, so it's really just an allegory. I have no problem with that.

But chareidim believe that society of old was just like today. And in some ways this is apparently supported in the Gemara.

The Gemarah states in Berachos concerning David Hamelech:

ואני ידי מלוכלכות בדם ובשפיר ובשליא כדי לטהר אשה לבעלה

meaning "my hands are soiled with Paskening Shailos of Dam Nidah". Imagine, the king himself!

Apparently, even back then women were bringing, er, never mind.

So here's my point.

If today's society, mores & practices were like in the days of King Solomon, can you just imagine a Rav writing anything like Shir Hashirim in this day and age? Even just as an allegory? Do you think he'd get away with it? Can you imagine a Rav Elyashav or the Satmar Rav doing that? What kind of message would it send to the kinderlach? What kind of message would it send to the adults?

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