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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 5




I came to my garden, o my sister, o bride, I have gathered my myrrh with my spice, I have eaten my honey with my sweet,1 I drank my wine with my milk. Eat, o my friends, Drink and become inebriated, o beloved.2


I sleep, but my heart is awake, My companion’s voice tinkles: open to me, o my sister, My friend, my turtledove, my everything; My head is covered with dew, My curls with drops of the night.

[The expression]: I sleep, but my heart is awake (Song 5:2) [has the following meaning]: The assembly of Israel has said “we were heavily sleeping in the darkness of the exile. Yet our hearts continued to trust the Most High and always to think about him. While still in a kind of inattentiveness, we were surprised by the good news of deliverance coming from the direction of the beloved. The beloved woman cries out: Hasten to my encounter [with my lover] and announce my presence.” [The expressions]: ← 161 | 162 → My companion’s voice tinkles; my head is covered with dew (Song 5:2) [means that] “I was illumined by the lights of mercy and moved because of your distress and much weeping in the anguish of the night, in other words, the exile [represented by the expression]: … my curls with the drops of the night (Song 5:2).”



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