“Let him kiss me with the kisses of his mouth, for your love is better than wine. Because of the fragrance of your goodly oils, your name is ‘oil poured forth.’ Therefore, the maidens loved you. Draw me, we will run after you…” (Song of Songs 1:2-4).
And people say the Bible is boring…
Shir Hashirim, (The Song Of Songs), the Biblical love song attributed to King Solomon, is understood by the rabbis to be a prophetic allegory about the relationship of God and the Jewish people.
The poetic work describes a beautiful maiden who loves, and is loved by, a handsome youth. When he pursues her, however, she sends him away with various excuses, only to realize too late that he was her true love. Devastated at the thought that she has alienated and probably lost him, she wanders through the city streets looking for her lost lover and, in the process, suffers shame and embarrassment. Finally, the lovers are reunited and are joined by their sincere love.
Shir Hashirim is one of the five megillot (scrolls of canonical works) from the Ketuvim (Writings) section of the Bible. On the Shabbat of Chol HaMoed* Passover, it is customary for Shir Hashirim to be read in the synagogue.
Shir Hashirim was chosen as the Passover reading because the story of the Exodus demonstrates God’s patience with His beloved–the Jewish people, as represented by the maiden. Despite having witnessed the many miracles that God performed in Egypt and in the wilderness, the Jews strayed from their commitment to God. Eventually, God withdrew His favor from the Jews (Hester Panim), and they have since wandered the world trying to make amends for the damage caused to the relationship. The reunion of the lovers is a prophecy for the Messianic era, yet to be fulfilled.
*Passover is an 8 day holiday. The first two days and last two days are Yamim Tovim – days that are observed like Sabbath (except that one may cook on an existing flame, and carry in public areas). In Israel, Passover is only 7 days, and only the 1st and 7th day are Yamim Tovim. The in-between days are known as Chol HaMoed – weekdays of the festival.
This Treat was originally posted on April 7, 2009.
Copyright © 2011 National Jewish Outreach Program. All rights reserved.
Hannah Senesh (Szenes) was born in Budapest, Hungary, to an assimilated, middle-class family. An avid diarist from the age of 13 until her death, Hannah maintained a personal journal that reflected the literary talent she had inherited from her father, Bela, a playwright who died when she was six.
The Ten Commandments is “one of the most significant epic films ever made,” in part because it tapped into America’s Cold War self-perceptions, according to Loren P.Q. Baybrook, editor-in-chief of Film & History. The movie was “a declaration from Hollywood that American values, as opposed to Soviet values, were part of the longest history of moral principle,” says Baybrook, noting that its success was due, in no small part, to the way it artfully Christianized the film’s religious content. DeMille, whose German-Jewish mother converted before marrying his Episcopalian father, cleverly used the term “Hebrews” instead of “Jews” in order to appeal to his largely Christian audience.
There is a Biblical commandment (Leviticus 23:15) to count the 49 days that immediately follow the first night of Passover and, on the 50th night, to celebrate the holiday of Shavuot. This period of time is called Sefirat Ha’omer, the Counting of the Omer, because the counting begins on the night before the barley offering (omer) was brought to the Temple, which was on the second day of Passover.
There has always been a lot of pressure on firstborn children, as they were often expected to care for the family property or business in order to ensure stability within the community. Even in modern society, the firstborn usually receives the most attention, the most responsibility and the most mistakes.
Passover is known as the festival of freedom. And who is more free than royalty? At the Seder, all Jews are supposed to consider themselves royalty. Some of the ways we demonstrate this are:
The Four Questions (Mah Nishtana – What makes it different?) is one of the most famous features of the Passover Seder. In Ashkenazi homes, these four lines are recited by the youngest person present, or, quite often, by all the children at the Seder.
Like almost all festival meals, the Passover Seder begins with Kiddush, the sanctification of the day. On Passover, however, the first cup of wine is followed by three more mandatory cups. The requirement of four cups of wine at the Seder is derived from the four stages through which God promised to redeem the Jews from the Egyptian slavery (Exodus 6:6-7): “Therefore say to the Children of Israel: ‘I am God and 1) I will take you out (v’ho’tzay’tee) from beneath the burdens of Egypt, and 2) I will save you (v’hee’tzal’tee) from their servitude, and 3) I will redeem you (v’ga’ahl’tee) with an outstretched arm and great judgments, and 4) I will take you (v’la’kach’tee) for Me for a people…’”
Those who have attended a Passover Seder, know that one of the most beloved Seder traditions is the hiding* of the afikomen, a specially designated half-piece of matzah. But what exactly is the afikomen?
On Passover, we commemorate the Exodus from Egyptian slavery. The following is a brief summary: