Shir Hashirim and Pesach
"What is the connection between Shir Hashirim and Pesach?"
by Larry Denenberg of Newton, Massachussets, USA
|The immediate answer, which perhaps not everyone knows, is that Shir Hashirim is the book of the Tanach that we read on Pesach, specifically on the Shabbat that falls during Pesach (some complications omitted here).
So we go on to ask: Why is Shir Hashirim read on Pesach?
To understand the answer to this question we have to ask an even more fundamental question: Why is Shir Hashirim part of the Tanach at all?
The answer is that from earliest times the Song of Songs has been interpreted, not as an expression of human romance, but as an allegorical conversation between God and Israel.
|As an example, here is a literal translation of the first few verses (minus a few phrases):||And here is the allegorical translation of exactly the same passage, following Rashi's interpretation:|
|The Song of Songs, which is Solomon's.
Let him kiss me with the kisses of his mouth, for thy love is better than wine.
Thine oils have goodly fragrance, thy name is ointment poured forth, therefore do young maidens love thee.
Draw me, we will run after thee. . . .
I am black, but beautiful, O daughters of Jerusalem!
|The song that excels all songs dedicated to God, the King to Whom peace belongs.
[Israel addresses God, saying:]
Communicate your innermost wisdom to me in loving closeness, for your friendship is
dearer than all earthly delights.
Like the scent of goodly oils is the spreading fame of Your great deeds; Your very name is Flowing Oil, therefore have nations loved You.
Upon perceiving a mere hint that You wished to draw me, we rushed with perfect faith after You into the wilderness. . . .
Though I am black with sin, I am comely with virtue, O nations who are destined to ascend to Jerusalem!
Get the idea?
This understanding of the Song of Songs is very old. It goes back at least to the first century BCE.
Now we see the connection between Shir Hashirim and Pesach: Pesach is the holiday commemorating the awesome physical realization of the relationship between God and Israel: the creation of Israel as a people via the exodus from Egypt, an unprecedented event carried out by God personally. So of course the appropriate book to read is the poetic exposition of that same relationship.
Some disclaimers: I'm in no way a Torah scholar so you should take all of this with a grain of salt. Certainly there's lots I'm leaving out.
But I've got charoset to make. So you all have a chag kasher v'sameach.