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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 8




Would that you were my brother, Nursing at my mother’s breasts, For then if I find you in the marketplace I would kiss you, Without anyone scorning me.

[The expression]: Would that you were my brother, nursing at my mother breasts (Song 8:1) [means]… in order that you may nurse at my mother breasts.1 Similar to [the expression]: Pharaoh dreamed (Gn 41:1) [the meaning] is that he dreamed2 because it is [to communicate] an information.3 The meaning is “how I wish that my perception and yours and our delight in that perception, would have been from the beginning of my condition.” [The expression]: if I find you in the marketplace I would kiss you (Song 8:1) signifies that “I would have been with you, outside bodily matters, united to you, enchanted while kissing your mouth,”4 similar to what she had already said: May he kiss me from his mouth kisses, your love is sweeter than wine (Song 1:2). So she concluded by saying at the end that she obtained what she had desired and attained what she had hoped for. Then she started to regret and was pained for the period she spent without him. ← 291 | 292 → [The expression]: … without anyone scorning me (Song 8:1). In other words: “I rid myself of my imperfection and the reason for being despised which happened to me and marked me because of distance from you and being enslaved...

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