Song of Songs – Chapter 5

Knock, Knock

By Rabbi Jack Abramowitz

Mashal:

At the end of the previous chapter, the man compared the woman to a garden and she invited him in to partake of her fruits. Now, the man says he has come to the garden, where he ate sugar cane and drank wine and milk. He encourages his friends to join him in rejoicing and to drink deeply.

The woman now says that she is sleeping when she hears her lover knocking. He calls for her to let him in, but she refuses, having already turned in for the night. She doesn’t want to put her robe on or dirty her feet, which she has already washed. The man reaches his hand in through the hole beside the door, which stirs the woman’s passions and makes her long for him. She gets up to open the door for him but she’s too late: he has already disappeared. She calls him, but there is no reply.

The woman ventures out to look for her lover. She encounters the city watchmen, but unlike the encounter in chapter 3, this time they abuse her. They beat her up and steal her jewelry. She then asks the girls of Jerusalem, if they see her lover, to let him know how madly in love with him she is. The girls ask the woman what makes her man so superior to other men. The woman replies by praising the man’s complexion, his hair, his eyes, his face, and his body. After enumerating his praises, she says, ” And THAT’s why I love him so much!”

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Nimshal:

The previous chapter ends with Israel’s plea that G-d join them and rejoice in them. Here, G-d replies that He has already done so, when He caused His presence to rest on the Tabernacle and the Nesiim (“princes”) of the Tribes offered incense before Him. G-d accepted all types of sacrifices offered Him, as well as wine libations on the altar. (Milk – “chalav” in Hebrew – may be a reference to “cheilev,” the fats that were burned on the altar.) The Kohanim (“priests”) are encouraged to eat the portions assigned to them and become lightheaded from their spiritual experiences. (The Kohanim could not literally become drunk, as they were obligated to abstain from wine while “on duty.”)

The nation replies that they permitted themselves to slack off; they may have been asleep, but G-d was awake and He “knocked” by sending prophets to rouse the people. He asked the people to let Him in, but they turned Him away. They have already strayed, they say, so how can they ever hope to return?

In response to this refusal, G-d sent enemy nations to strike them. The people then returned to Him, but it was too late; G-d had already “gone away.” The people prayed, but G-d did not revoke the decree of exile. The enemy soldiers came and encountered the Jews, whom they struck fiercely. Then invaders then destroyed Jerusalem and the Temple.

Israel asks the nations that are destined to invade Jerusalem that they testify to G-d about how the Jews endured the punishments of their exile. In response, the nations ask what it is about the Jews’ relationship with G-d that makes such trials worth experiencing. Israel replies that G-d is pure; He forgives the sins of those who return to Him and punishes those who don’t. The subsequent verses extol G-d through a variety of metaphors, comparing Torah to spices and the Tabernacle (or possibly the prophets) to G-d’s “lips.” “Arms” refers to the Tablets, upon which G-d inscribed the Ten Commandments and the bowels represent the Book of Vayikra (Leviticus), which is at the center of the Torah and contains the “guts” of the laws.

After listing these praises of G-d, among others, the Jews tell the nations, “That’s why G-d is my Beloved and my Friend.”

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