Passover’s More Passionate Way Rabbi Dr. Moshe P. Weisblum Special to the Jewish Times April 25, 2008
Song of Songs or Shir HaShirim is, bar none, the most romantic and beautiful love song ever written. It’s very title, Song of Songs, claims itself to be the ultimate, unparalleled praise.
This magnificent piece of literary genius, filled with sensual overtones and passion, is King Solomon’s gift to the world. Shir HaShirim is one of five megillot we read during the year. At face value, it is a fiery story of two lovers. However, Rabbi Akiva asserts that the song is the “holy of holies” symbolizing the deep love between G-d and the Jewish people. Scrutinized, studied and adored for thousands of years, Shir HaShirim is considered a classic by scholars of both the Bible and literature.
Why has this book, which we read each year during Passover, withstood the test of time?
What secrets are revealed in King Solomon’s writings? Composed approximately 3,000 years ago, it was written 480 years after the Exodus from Egypt, inspired by the completion of the First Temple.
Its author, King Solomon, great-grandson of the biblical Ruth, whose own book we read on Shavuot, and son of King David and Bathsheba, was born around 1000 BCE. In Sefer Olam Rabbah 14, we learn that he became king at the age of 12 and died at the age of 52 years.
He accomplished a great deal during his short life. Many will be impressed by the fact that he maintained one thousand wives, the most famous being the daughter of Pharaoh. (The irony is not lost as we read Shir HaShirim on the very holiday that celebrates our escape from her tyrannical lineage.)
The First Temple in Jerusalem is known as Solomon’s Temple, its construction having begun in the fourth year of his reign and reaching completion seven years later. We read in Zohar 2:143a, “and all the upper and lower worlds were complete.”
It was the completion of the First Temple that became the inspiration for writing Shir HaShirim. Solomon’s impressive resume includes prophet, architect, author and judge, in addition to ruler. His wealth and power were enormous. He is credited with writing two additional books, Proverbs and Ecclesiastes (Kohelet). Solomon is also credited with composing several verses in the Book of Psalms (Tehillim).
What is the connection between Passover and Shir HaShirim?
The Song of Songs is symbolic of the love affair between G-d and the Jewish people. It expresses the powerful yearning of the Jewish people and God for a close relationship with each other.
The Jews became “married” to G-d during the Exodus, forming a union, a bond, a partnership with the Holy One. Shir HaShirim is a passionate story, a true love story, at times erotic and suggestive of physical bonding and contentment. As the woman in the story goes in search of her lost beloved, he is never out of sight of her, just like G-d never loses sight of the Jewish people.
When the Jewish nation rejected G-d’s majesty by idolizing the golden calf at Mt. Sinai, G-d forgave them and never quit his relationship with them.
Similarly, when a partner in a marriage may disappoint the other, the marriage itself does not have to fail. Marriage is a holy union, a three-way bond between a woman, a man and G-d.
These writings teach us about the potential of love that exists between us and G-d. The words resonate in our hearts and offer clarity, insight and guidance.
By reading this masterpiece, may we be blessed to view life in a happier, healthier and more passionate way.