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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 6




Where did your lover go, o most beautiful among women, Which way did he take, That we may look after him with you?

[The expression]: Where did your lover go, which way did he take? (Song 6:1) means that the nations who understand the truth behind these meanings address us: ‘If you say that he has no [recognizable] aspect, then it is impossible to know where he went and where to look after him. If not, tell us where did he go, where is his place, and how did he leave you to go away in spite of your pretention that you are his nation, his people and his chosen ones!’ They answer them saying that he is at the highest degree of perfection, of noblest rank and dwelling. However, the greatness of his noble rank opposes residing in one place.


My lover went down to his garden, to the beds of spices To feed in the gardens and to collect lilies.

[The expression]: My lover went down to his garden (Song 6:2) is similar to let me go up the mountains (Jgs 11:37) and to David went down to the stronghold (2Sm 5:17). The meaning could also be the descent of his light over the lower world. [The expression]:… to his garden (Song 6:2) [means that the garden] belongs to him and to no one else...

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