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Shabbat Chol Hamoed Pesach (The Intermediate Shabbat of Passover)(Exodus 33:12-34:26)

Let him kiss me with the kisses of his mouth–for thy love is better than wine. (Song of Songs 1:2)

Because this Shabbat falls during Pesach, the normal cycle of weekly parashot (portions) is interrupted by a special reading from the Torah.  In addition, we read Shir Hashirim, the Song of Songs, just prior to the Torah service.  The custom of reading Shir Hashirim on Pesach dates back to at least the 8th Century.

According to Rashi, (an acronym for Rabbi Shlomo Yitzchaki, the pre-eminent 11th century Jewish commentator) Shir Hashirim is an allegory about the love between God and the Children of Israel told as a story about a young and beautiful woman who becomes engaged to and then marries a king.   The engagement is the Exodus from Egypt and the marriage is the giving of the Torah at Mt. Sinai.   Shir Hashirim also makes a direct reference to Pesach, stating,” I compare you, O my love, to a mare of the chariots of Pharaoh.” (1:9).

Shir Hashirim was considered a rather “earthy” book in its time and it wasn’t a “lock” for inclusion in the Bible.  Rabbi Akiva (one of the greatest most central contributors to the Mishnah in the 1st and 2nd centuries and an early founder of rabbinic Judaism) argues that since Judaism considers the relationship between a man and woman potentially sacred, Shir Hashirim should be included since both the allegorical story (the young lovers) and its real meaning (the love between God and Israel) are sacred (Mishnah Yadayim 3:5).

Spring serves as a backdrop to the love story in Shir Hashirim.  Spring, of course, is the time of year of the Exodus. In fact, another name for Pesach is Chag Ha-aviv, the Spring Festival. That is why kibbutz haggadot in Israel include verses from Shir Hashirim, emphasizing the spring season and the rebirth of the land.

Good Shabbos/Shabbat Shalom,

David

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