Sheep Shot: Shir HaShirim 2022

by Adam J. Rosenbaum

Pre-Game Chatter: Are you usually able to tell the difference between something that’s meant to be taken literally and something that’s supposed to be metaphorical? When is it difficult to tell?

On Passover, many synagogues have the custom to read all or parts of the Song of Songs, a romantic poem believed by some rabbis to be an allegory of the relationship between God and Israel:

The Pitch: “Tell me, you whom I love so well: Where do you pasture your sheep? Where do you rest them at noon? Let me not be as one who strays beside the flocks of your fellows.” – Song of Songs 1:7

Swing #1: “Shepherding in the Bible is not infrequently associated with getting lost or losing one’s way … conversely, notions of straying from the right path or being led astray are often couched in images of shepherding.” – Ariel Bloch & Chana Bloch, The Song of Songs: A New Translation

Swing #2: “That is, why should I be as one who busies herself with the activities related to those faculties which are not properly mine and impede those activities which are properly mine, they being the true perfection?” – Gersonides

Swing #3: “The maiden pleads with her lover to tell her where he is guarding his flocks. She gives him a gentle warning that if she must seek him herself, his fellow-shepherds are likely to make overtures for her affection.” – Robert Gordis, The Song of Songs and Lamentations: A Study, Modern Translation and Commentary

Late-Inning Questions: To what extent do our commentators see this verse as a discussion between human lovers? To what extent do they think that it’s part of a religious teaching? Are the lines between human interactions and Divine interactions blurry enough to be one and the same? Do you read the Hebrew Bible more for its literal meaning or for its symbolism?

On-Deck at TBT: I hope that you’ll be able to participate in the community Yom HaShoah observance on May 1st, as well as our Brotherhood and Sisterhood Yom Ha’atzmaut program on May 4th. Information can be found here and here.

The Big Inning at the End: Speaking of the difference between literal and metaphorical, the young season has already seen controversy about whether baseball’s “unwritten rules” – such as not celebrating a home run too extravagantly, or not bunting or stealing bases during a lopsided game – still apply today. While I don’t have a blanket rule on the topic, my feeling is that if a rule is so important to someone, get it in writing or don’t get mad when you feel victimized by one.

Chag Kasher v’Sameach and, soon, Shabbat Shalom!