How the Land of Israel is like a gazelle
בְּרַח דּוֹדִי וּדְמֵה־לְךָ לִצְבִי אוֹ לְעֹפֶר הָאַיָּלִים עַל הָרֵי בְשָׂמִים׃ “Hurry, my beloved, Swift as a gazelle or a young stag, To the hills of spices!” b'-RAKH do-DEE ud-MAY l'-KHA litz-VEE O l'-O-fer ha-a-ya-LEEM AL ha-RAY v'-sa-MEEM
בְּרַח דּוֹדִי וּדְמֵה־לְךָ לִצְבִי אוֹ לְעֹפֶר הָאַיָּלִים עַל הָרֵי בְשָׂמִים׃
“Hurry, my beloved, Swift as a gazelle or a young stag, To the hills of spices!”
b'-RAKH do-DEE ud-MAY l'-KHA litz-VEE O l'-O-fer ha-a-ya-LEEM AL ha-RAY v'-sa-MEEM
The gazelle lives in mountain desert and semi-desert climates. The desert gazelle, today an endangered species found almost exclusively in the Land of Israel, spends most of its time on tops of mountains and can run as fast as 50 miles per hour. In this verse from Song of Songs, the woman (a metaphor for the Jewish people) calls out to her beloved (God), asking Him to move as swiftly as a gazelle. Earlier, she also compares Him to a gazelle when she says “my beloved is like a gazelle” (Song of Songs 2:9) who leaps over mountains and bounds over hills.
Not only is God compared to a gazelle in the Bible, but the Land of Israel itself is called “the land of the gazelle” (Daniel 11:41). The Talmud (Ketubot 112a) draws various parallels between the gazelle and the Land of Israel. For example, just as the gazelle is swift, Israel’s fruits ripen quickly. Just as the hide of the gazelle has the capacity to contain its body but shrinks when separated from it, so too the Land of Israel can expand to include its rightful inhabitants but shrinks when the Jews are exiled from it. Finally, just as a gazelle finds its way home from the ends of the world, so too will the dispersed Jews return. And when they do, the Land of Israel will contain them all.
Perhaps a deeper message can be applied to Israel’s inhabitants as well. In his book Eretz Hatzvi, Rabbi Zvi Teichman suggests that just as the land stretches to include its inhabitants, the inhabitants must also “stretch themselves” to appreciate the holiness and unique qualities of the “land of the gazelle.”
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