Longing for God

March 28, 2023

Song of Songs is a poetic masterpiece. It has captivated readers for centuries with its sensual and intense language. Written by King Solomon, the book uses the metaphor of an estranged lover yearning for a former intimacy to describe the longing of the Jewish people and God for each other. However, some readers may question why King Solomon chose such an intense and physical way of expressing this relationship.

Indeed, some people prefer not to engage in the literal understanding of the text, preferring instead to understand it only on a metaphorical level. But if the book was not meant to be understood literally, why would King Solomon write it using the language he did? What was his intention when he chose such intense, physical language?

The answer lies in the fact that by using physical metaphors, King Solomon is able to describe the intensity of the Jewish people’s longing for God in the most powerful way possible. Song of Songs is not just about an intellectual longing for God, but it is about a deep, visceral desire to be close to God. The use of physical language serves to convey this message in a clear and powerful way.

Many people suffer from an intellectual approach to God; a clinical, distant approach that blinds us to the reality of His presence. They dive straight into the details of the commandments, the questions, the intellectual back and forth in understanding the word of God. But they miss that which is beyond all questions: God Himself, and the love and attachment that He formed with His people when He took them out of Egypt. King Solomon teaches us that we must have an emotional attachment to God.

Even Maimonides, the ultimate rationalist Jew, describes the love of God as “lovesickness.” This intense feeling is something that cannot be explained through logic or reason, but only through emotion. It is this powerful emotion that King Solomon seeks to convey to his readers in Song of Songs, from his heart straight to ours.

There are, of course, many layers of understanding to the book. However, choosing to ignore the literal meaning and focusing only on the allegory behind it dampens the emotion meant to be conveyed. In doing so, one will have missed the entire point of the book! Removing the physical language also removes the intensity of the Jewish people’s longing for God conveyed in the story and, in turn, weakens its message.

The physical language used in Song of Songs serves to convey the intensity of the Jewish people’s longing for God. It is through the use of physical language that King Solomon is able to portray the deep, visceral desire that the Jewish people have for God, and it is through this desire that we are able to connect with God on a profound level. By understanding the message of Song of Songs in its literal sense, we can better connect with the profound emotions that King Solomon seeks to impart, and deepen our own relationship with God.

Shira Schechter

Shira Schechter is the content editor for TheIsraelBible.com and Israel365 Publications. She earned master’s degrees in both Jewish Education and Bible from Yeshiva University. She taught the Hebrew Bible at a high school in New Jersey for eight years before making Aliyah with her family in 2013. Shira joined the Israel365 staff shortly after moving to Israel and contributed significantly to the development and publication of The Israel Bible.

Shira Schechter

Shira Schechter is the content editor for TheIsraelBible.com and Israel365 Publications. She earned master’s degrees in both Jewish Education and Bible from Yeshiva University. She taught the Hebrew Bible at a high school in New Jersey for eight years before making Aliyah with her family in 2013. Shira joined the Israel365 staff shortly after moving to Israel and contributed significantly to the development and publication of The Israel Bible.

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