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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 7




Return, return, o Shulamite, return, Return that we may look at you! What will you see in the Shulamite? She is like a sick between two armies.

[The expression]: Return, return, o Shulamite (Song 7:1) [means]: “Come back to your perfection in order to recover your status and your place.” [The expression]: O Shulamit (Song 7:1) [is to be understood in reference to the expression] his abode1 was in Salem (Ps 76:3). That is why he said: Return, return (Song 7:1) before Shulamit then afterward he repeated return, return (Song 7:1). The first time pertains to her country, similar to Shunamite from Shaunem.2 The second time concerns perfection always ascribed to her. Furthermore, the repetition of return, return (Song 7:1) written four times [in the same verse] alludes to the servitude of the four kingdoms.3 He also brought good news of their progressive liberation from each one, including the two returns from the Babylonian exile. The situation we are in today resemble [a situation] where God saves us from the way he did in the past and deliverance from all the kingdoms. 4 [The expression]: She is like a sick between two armies (Song 7:1) [means] that she is like one between two armies or between two ranks. In becoming closer to one situation, she is happy, in becoming closer to the other she is miserable. [As if it is between ← 175 | 176 → the...

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