Shulamith's NoseBy Rabbi Jack Abramowitz
The man calls the woman, whom he calls “Shulamis,” from the word meaning complete or perfect. He praises her from head to toe. (Actually, he starts with her footsteps and works his way up.) Her thighs are like jewels, her navel is like a bowl of the finest wine, and her stomach is like a pile of wheat. As in chapter 4, he again compares the woman’s breasts to twin fawns. Her neck is like a tower of ivory and her eyes are like pools of water. Her face is like the royal palace that Solomon made lined with Lebanon cedar. Her head is like Mount Carmel and her hair is like precious braided purple wool – even kings are attracted by her hair! After praising her piece by piece, the man exclaims how beautiful the “total package” is.
The man continues to praise the woman: “Your posture is like a palm tree and your breasts are like the dates that grow there. Let me climb up your tree and grab onto your branches. You can be the fruit of the tree and your fragrance like apples. Your mouth is like the best wine, which will make even my ancestors rejoice with me.”
The woman replies: “I am my beloved’s and he truly desires me. Let us go to the fields and stay in the villages. We can get up early and go to the vineyards to see whether the grapes and pomegranates have blossomed; there, I will give you my love. The pots of figs are fragrant and all sorts of fruit can be found in our doorways – I have placed them there for you, my love!”
The nations try to entice Israel into turning away from G-d, but they won’t hear of it. The nations respond by recounting Israel’s praises: their footsteps are the three times each year that they travel to Jerusalem for the Festivals; the thighs are pipes that carried the libations on the altar and the navel is the Sanhedrin. The wine and wheat attributed to the woman’s stomach represent their teachings, which flow like wine and nourish the people like wheat. The breasts are the two Tablets, upon which the Ten Commandments were inscribed. The neck is the Temple, standing tall, while the eyes are the scholars of Jerusalem. The “face” of the city looks towards Damascus, its future border in Messianic times. The head refers to the tefillin which Jews place upon their heads and the hair is the long growth of the Nazirite, which attracts G-d through their dedication to His laws. They are upright like a palm tree and the teachers are their fruit.
G-d says that the deeds of the Jewish people cause Him to climb that palm tree and hold tight to the branches. He only asks that the teachers continue to be like fruit to the nation. Israel is overwhelmed by G-d’s display of affection for them and they tell the nations that there is no way they would stray. The Jews ask G-d to take them to the fields, away from worldly distractions, where they may serve Him. They hope to arise early to learn His Torah and do His will; they will go see the success of the students. They end by saying that all their deeds, both old and new, have been stored up before G-d.
The word “apeich” in verse 5 could mean “your nose” or “your face.” Rashi can’t see how comparing someone’s nose to a tower could be a compliment, so he renders it “face.” The Metzudas Dovid, however, renders it “nose,” explaining the praise to be that her nose is straight like a tower, not bent or crooked in any way.