On the connection between Song of Songs and Pesach
By Rebecca Chess
Spring is here! And thus Passover is fast approaching. We prepare our homes and kitchens by clearing out chametz (leavened bread), we prepare the seder plate, we eat matzah, gather with our family and friends to remember the story of the Israelites enslavement and deliverance. It is also customary to read the Song of Songs on the Shabbat that falls during the 8 days of Passover.
Song of Songs or Shir HaShirim is one of the Megillot (scrolls) found in the section of Tanakh called Ketuvim or Writings. Ketuvim is where you will find the possibly more familiar Megillot: the Book of Esther, the Book of Ruth, Lamentations. The Psalms are also housed in Ketuvim. This Megillah is an epic poem which chronicles the relationship of two lovers, praising and pining after each other. It describes desire and the pastoral, and it is about connection, harmony, and enjoyment. So then, why do we read Song of Songs publicly during Pesach?
Pondering this question myself, when I am thinking about the themes of Passover, and the relationships that are built in this story, I think of God and the budding relationship between the Israelites and God. It is after experiencing the transition from slavery to freedom when the Israelites receive the Torah and commandments, it is at this point that the covenant between God and the Jewish people begins. A bond, a love, a connection is formed.
Famous Talmudic rabbi, Rabbi Akiva is attributed with the start of this custom. He revered the Song of Songs. It was his belief that love was the basis of the relationship between God and Israel, and the description of love between the lovers in the Song of Songs embodies this relationship. The Passover story in many ways is the manifestation of this deep love that God has for the Israelites, and it is that love which leads to our people’s redemption. Passover amplifies this relationship and reading the Song of Songs gives us the space to reflect on it. The Song of Songs helps us give a voice and therefore understanding to what it means to love God and especially, what it means for God to love us. I wish that you all have a moment to reflect on the important loving relationships you have in your life as we enter this next season.
If you are interested in learning more about Song of Songs, Rebecca is teaching a class in the Spring Quarter on Song of Songs and Ecclessiates Thursdays 5:00pm-6:30pm PT/8:00pm-9:30pm ET. Join any week you want and can!