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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] is there a direction where is he heading or what is his intention toward what is known in the physical world? Indeed, whenever he wants to proceed or have the intention [to move] it must be toward a particular direction, in a particular place and particular time. Therefore, she expresses herself metaphorically: “In truth, he has no particular direction, that no place that can contain him and it remains impossible for someone beneath his dignity to attain his love. Yet, he has gardens that he governs by the generosity of his emanation and the perfection due to his rank; a perfection that he yields proportionately for those who are of a dignity lower than his, in a kind and gracious [gesture] that resembles his own beginning. Once he directs [his effort] to govern the gardens abundant emanation from him starts to reach the soul with uninterrupted happiness. This is expressed in his saying”


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

It was already said that the soul is described lily in the midst of thorns (Song 2:2) according to...

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