Megillas Shir HaShirim (The Scroll of Song of Songs) was written around the Jewish year 2934 (826 BCE) by King Solomon and set by the Anshei Knesses Hagedolah (The Men of the Great Assembly) as one of the written works of the Torah. This is one of the most emotive works in all scripture.
This work has been the most mistranslated of all scripture. Simple reading of this megillah (scroll) will not grant any understanding of this work at all! It is fair to say that this work is the most difficult to translate and most likely to be misinterpreted and misunderstood of any work in the Jewish lexicon. Only with authoritative classical commentaries can one grasp even the bear meaning and reference of each verse. Warning: Nothing about this work can be understood if one reads it superficially without a commentary explaining the meaning of each verse. Indeed, our sages explain you’re guaranteed to get the wrong meaning of every verse unless you do so.
Rabbi Akiva (50-135 CE), one of the greatest Tannoyim (sages of the Mishna), said “All the songs in the Torah are holy and Shir HaShirim is holy of holies! …The Torah dons sackcloth when people revile Shir HaShirim as a mere song”. Countless generations have approached this work in completely the wrong way, seeing in its words the total opposite of its lofty meaning and overall thematic content. Our sages repeatedly teach us that the only ‘literal’ translation of Shir HaShirim is allegorical.
As such, the translation and discussion of each verse will be primarily based on the commentaries of Rashi (Rabbi Shlomo Yitzchaki 1040-1105 CE), the Midrash Rabbah (Midrash Chazisa) with its commentary the Eitz Yosef, the Talmud and the commentary of the Alshich HaKodosh (Rabbi Moshe Alshich 1508-1593) called Shoshanas Ha’amukim. This shows how much background knowledge is expected before one approaches even the translation of Shir HaShirim, let alone understanding its underlying themes.
This Megillah discusses many themes. Some topics discussed are: The purpose of Creation, the boundaries of love, longing to approach The Creator, the development of humanity, understanding the path of human history, interactions between nations, the role the people of Israel have in the plan of the World, why Israel suffers in exile, what being made in “G-d’s image” means, whether G-d’s love for Israel changes over time or is everlasting.
In this course, Rabbi Mordechai Goodman, of Jewish Education in Manchester (JEM), provides background and cultural placement of related ideas, chapter overviews and deep verse-by-verse analysis. This course also explores some of the essential themes running through Megillas Shir HaShirim. We hope this will provide you deep insight into, and appreciation of, the messages of this most profound and deeply stimulating Megillah.