The Ancient Translation That Paired the Song of Songs with the Exodus

In many Ashkenazi congregations, the Song of Songs is read publicly on the Sabbath that falls during Passover. This custom stems from the traditional rabbinic understanding that this book’s portrayal of romantic love is an allegory for the love between God and the people of Israel. But how did this allegorical reading establish a connection to Passover, first mentioned in the 13th century? Sheila Tuller Keiter points to a targum, or rabbinically approved translation:

Enter the Targum Song of Songs, the Aramaic “translation” of the Song. Some targumim, like the relatively well-known Targum Onkelos, offer fairly straightforward Aramaic translations of the underlying biblical text. However, some targumim, especially later ones, are not so much translations as interpretations, often digressing into creative and expansive exegesis.

Targum Song of Songs does exactly that. It seems to have originated in the 8th or 9th century, and adopts the same allegorical approach of [an earlier, but less widely read, midrashic work], interpreting sections of the Song as references to the exodus from Egypt. Yet the Targum takes the conceit one step further, being the first source to reimagine the entire Song of Songs (not merely isolated verses) as a history of the relationship between God and Israel as it progresses through distinct eras; from the exodus to the building of Solomon’s Temple; from the Babylonian exile until the building of the Second Temple; and from the Roman destruction of that Temple until the eventual messianic rebuilding of the Third Temple. The biblical Song’s cycles of the lovers’ separation, longing, and reunification become the Targum’s cycles of exile and redemption that permeate Jewish history. The Targum explicitly connects the Song to the national redemption that began with the exodus of the Jewish people from slavery, into the welcoming embrace of God.

Thanks to the Targum, Ashkenazim didn’t just read the Song of Songs as a generalized love allegory, but as the story of Israel’s repeated exile and redemption, starting with the redemption from exile and bondage in Egypt. The Targum’s elaborate historical allegory made Song of Songs the perfect Passover reading for Ashkenazim. And as they sat in shul all those centuries ago, they could hear the Song of Songs, and feel hope for the final redemption.

Read more at Jewish Review of Books

More about: Ashkenazi, Exodus, Midrash, Passover, Song of Songs


Hamas’s Hostage Diplomacy

Ron Ben-Yishai explains Hamas’s current calculations:

Strategically speaking, Hamas is hoping to add more and more days to the pause currently in effect, setting a new reality in stone, one which will convince the United States to get Israel to end the war. At the same time, they still have most of the hostages hidden in every underground crevice they could find, and hope to exchange those with as many Hamas and Islamic Jihad prisoners currently in Israeli prisons, planning on “revitalizing” their terrorist inclinations to even the odds against the seemingly unstoppable Israeli war machine.

Chances are that if pressured to do so by Qatar and Egypt, they will release men over 60 with the same “three-for-one” deal they’ve had in place so far, but when Israeli soldiers are all they have left to exchange, they are unlikely to extend the arrangement, instead insisting that for every IDF soldier released, thousands of their people would be set free.

In one of his last speeches prior to October 7, the Gaza-based Hamas chief Yahya Sinwar said, “remember the number one, one, one, one.” While he did not elaborate, it is believed he meant he wants 1,111 Hamas terrorists held in Israel released for every Israeli soldier, and those words came out of his mouth before he could even believe he would be able to abduct Israelis in the hundreds. This added leverage is likely to get him to aim for the release for all prisoners from Israeli facilities, not just some or even most.

Read more at Ynet

More about: Gaza War 2023, Hamas, Israeli Security