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Old Jewish Commentaries on «The Song of Songs» II

The Two Commentaries of Tanchum Yerushalmi- Text and translation


Joseph Alobaidi

This book contains two commentaries on The Song of Songs by Tanchum Yerushalmi (c. 1220-1291), one of the best representatives of rational exegesis in the Middle Eastern rabbinical school of thought. His in depth knowledge of the Bible as well as his acquaintance with Greek philosophy, added to familiarity with his own Jewish tradition allowed him to write rich biblical commentaries. In so doing he showed himself as a worthy disciple of Saadia Gaon, Hai and Ibn Janah whom he mentions in his commentary on The Song of Songs. The extent of his knowledge can easily be seen in both his philological and philosophical commentaries on one of the most intriguing books of the Bible.
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Chapter 2




I am the rose of the plain1 The lily of the prairies.

ןורשה תלצבח [means] the rose of the plain (Song 2:1). םיקמעה תנשוש [means] the lily of the prairies (Song 2:1). They both need a comparative כ: תלצבחכ like the rose, תנשושכ like the lily. Indeed, the soul says: “In spite of ascribing to me beauty, elegance2 and perfection the fact remains that the beauty is not whole and the perfection is not complete, since I still reside in the lower universe represented by valleys and depraved regions in comparison to your elitist and high universe that can be represented by mountains, high and towering if weighed against valleys and plains.” His answer to her was like this: “In spite of living in a gloomy world, in the midst of your evil peers, your rank3 is similar to a rose in the midst of thorns that will not be ashamed by [her condition] once she is picked up from among them. On the contrary, she is precious, beloved and beautiful both in her smell and her spot; truly of great value.”


Like lily in the midst of thorns Such is my girlfriend4 among the girls.

Know that [the word] הנשוש means lily, in certain cases, like in [the expression]: The lily of the prairies (Song 2:1). It was said that it ← 131 | 132 → was so called because it has six petals.5 In other cases it means rose...

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