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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, return, return that we may look at you! (Song 7:1) means “don’t hasten to leave; on the contrary, stay and don’t be disturbed that I may enjoy fully your appearance, because I don’t know when I will see you again, for you are not in my dominion so that I may find you whenever I look for you. It is because you are between two dominions, like a sick between two armies (Song 7:1). Then if I ask for you and want to meet you, you may well be under the domination of somebody who forbids you from reaching me. Let me therefore fully enjoy your presence.” This is [similar to] the soul and its existence between intellectual and bodily realities. It is like a wall between two seas or forefront observers between two armies.

It was also said that [the expression]: Before I know יתעדי אל (Song 6:12) has the meaning of ול “if” similar to [its meaning in the expression]: If there is a referee between us (Jb 9:33)1 which has an analogous meaning to [the expression]: If my people hear me (Ps 81:14). The meaning is that she told him that “nothing other ← 271 | 272 → than my ignorance of who...

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