The Love of Their Youth

The Song of Songs and the old men, filled with longing, who sing it.
April 11, 2014 | Atar Hadari
About the author: Atar Hadari’s Songs from Bialik: Selected Poems of H. N. Bialik (Syracuse University Press) was a finalist for the American Literary Translators’ Association Award. His Lives of the Dead: Poems of Hanoch Levin earned a PEN Translates award and was released in 2019 by Arc Publications. He was ordained by Rabbi Daniel Landes and is completing a PhD on William Tyndale’s translation of Deuteronomy.
Song of Songs IV by Marc Chagall. Courtesy Wikipaintings.
It’s a curious thing, hearing men read the Song of Songs—and in Orthodox communities it is almost invariably men who read it. Even in the most egalitarian Orthodox synagogues, where women may read from the Torah, it is usually the Torah they read from; you seldom hear an old woman, let alone a young one, singing the Song of Songs on Friday nights or at the Sabbath during Passover—even though half of the poem is made up of a girl speaking to her beloved.

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