How you can take part in the Shir Hashirim Project!

At the moment (before dealing with the text) we have four “background articles.” As people contribute more information and ideas, there may be more articles, including breaking up these four into separate pieces. This is the first phase of the project.

  1. Read the four background articles, then read the text of Shir Hashirim (or the other way around) to see what thoughts come to mind.
  2. Use the search terms (below) and your imagination to find relevant ideas.
  3. If something connects to anything you have read, or videos you’ve seen, send us the link with what to look for. Please state where the specific reference is in the article/video as time does not permit long reads/views.
  4. If what you are thinking of is an original concept or theme, write to us here or visit our Facebook group to post, and explain what you are pondering and we will go from there!

KEY SEARCH TERMS FOR THIS ARTICLE: Sun, Moon, Malkhut, Malchut, Shekinah, Tiferet, Luminaries, Garden of Eden, Gan Edan, serpent, nachash, tree of knowledge, Sefirot, Adam, Eve, Chava, Keter, Crown, Light, Darkness, sefirot, binary, existence, bride, groom, Ze’ir Anpin, feminine, masculine, Zohar, mother, father, divine, nukveh, Rachel, Jacob, Binah, Chokhmah

גַּל־עֵינַ֥י וְאַבִּ֑יטָה נִ֜פְלָא֗וֹת מִתּֽוֹרָתֶֽךָ

Uncover my eyes and I shall look at hidden things from Your Torah.

Prior to examining the text, we’re going to look at some key themes and concepts and where they originated from. This is the first of several background articles. Be sure to check the footnotes at the bottom of each for explanations, links, and resources.

The text of Song of Songs centers around ‘relationship,’ including aspects of:

  • Differentiation: The masculine-feminine dynamic
  • Imbalance: Why the feminine is in a diminished role
  • Separation: The cause of this and its multiple effects
  • Return: The promise, desire, healing, actions required, and barriers faced

The first two points are the main focus of this article. The last two, separation and healing/return, are ultimately the point and purpose of the book, as well as this project we’ve undertaken.

There are several concepts, from ancient and primordial times, found in Torah literature that relate to the masculine-feminine character’s dynamic in Shir Hashirim.

We’re looking at three examples:

  1. The G-dly emanations within existence called sefirot (1) 
  2. The spiritual allegory surrounding the formation and function of the moon & sun
  3. The relationship of Chava (‘Eve’) and Adam

1. Sefirot

The scope of this study does not include detailed exploration of all the “primordial elements.” We will refer to them briefly here. See the footnote section for resources.

The book of Genesis starts with a mysterious concept called “tohu and bohu” in the second verse – a type of emptiness or desolation. It is taught that several things occurred beforehand to bring us to that point, beginning with a ‘constriction’ (tsimtsum) whereby the complete ‘infinite’ singularity of G-d (transcendent to us) “made space” for a separated ‘finite’ existence/consciousness to come into being.

This is not ‘space’ in any physical sense as no such thing existed yet. The space or ‘place’ is the desire of the Creator. A term for this is ‘makom’ which is a “space with no name” in the sense of nothing coming before it.

This act of constriction continued through this new ‘existence’ in multiple phases – a lessening of the ‘light’ of G-d each time. This resulted in a set of ten emanations called ‘sefirot.’ Simply stated, these can be viewed as attributes of G-d, the “building blocks” of creation, as well as the “channels of spiritual energies” between the pre-existent aspect of G-d and the various levels of existence that would come into being (2). 

The sefirot extend from “above to below” in order. The first one is called Keter/Crown. It ‘represents’
the pure, undifferentiated singularity, “before existence.” It is thus unique and separate from the rest of the Sefirot. (Just as a ‘crown’ represents something and is above the body and not part of it.)

Chokhmah/Widsom proceeds from Keter. As the latter relates to the transcendent (‘unknowable’) aspect of the Creator, it is thus called ‘nothing,’ thus:

Wisdom comes into being from ayin, nothing. (Job 28:12)

Chokhmah represents the immanent aspect of the Creator. (G-d that we pray to, read about, discuss, etc.) As ‘nothing’ came before Chokhmah, there is ‘nothing’ to compare it to at this stage.

From Chokhmah emanates the sefirah of Binah/Understanding. Binah is in a ‘lesser’ capacity as it came into existence from the continued ‘diminishment’ of the Light, coming through Chokhmah. One way that this is expressed, is Binah being passively created in the ‘shadow’ of Chokhmah.

The term Chokhmah is made of two Hebrew root words, Koach and Mah. Koach means “potential.” Mah means “what is.”  Whereas the energy of Chokhmah is very singular and non-specific, Binah is the opposite. It reacts to what it receives and brings definition to all that is contained within Chokhmah. Binah releases the ‘potential’ hidden in Chokhmah, opening the door for analysis, details, etc. The two are considered the “father and mother” aspects of G-d within existence.

So, from the earliest moment of ‘existence,’ we have the idea of proactive (‘masculine’) force followed by a reactive (‘feminine’) form, which was ‘lessened’ to provide a dynamic – one that is fundamental to everything that would follow in existence and the creation of our own world.

Why This Is Important

The difference between the qualities of Chokhmah and Binah offers the possibility of ‘relationship.’ If they were the same, all we would have is a state of undifferentiated perfection.

This pair of ‘opposites’ establishes the ‘binary’ or ‘dualistic’ nature of existence. We need this to be able to function, as the original constant flow of Chokhmah, prevents any other state to take form. This first example of “diminishment of the feminine” (energy) is central to understanding Shir Hashirim, our world and our own lives.

The idea of ‘diminishment’ in no way makes the feminine Binah ‘inferior.’  Rather, Binah, deriving ‘from’ Chokhmah, contains both its own properties as well as those of the ‘singular’ masculine sefirah. One can even argue a ‘superiority’ of the feminine over the masculine — which as we will see has basis.

This section of the Zohar refers to Chokmah being ‘light,’ whereas Binah (having both elements) is called “darkness-light”:

Is there such a division between Father and Mother, that from the side of the Father, Man has been formed in the way of emanation, and from the side of the Mother in the way of creation?”… It is not so, since the Man of emanation was both male and female, from the side of both Father and Mother, and that is why it says, ‘And God said, Let there be light, and there was light’: let there be light from the side of the Father, and there was light from the side of the Mother; and this is the man of two faces. This ‘man’ has no ‘image and likeness’. Only the supernal Mother had a name combining light and darkness-light.
Zohar 1:22b

Importantly, the deliberate creation of ‘imperfection’ serves an even greater purpose. If there’s a flaw, the Creator has reason to intervene. This is the ‘interface’ between He and us.

Let The Young Ones Fix It

This part is the most directly connected to the text of Shir Hashirim. As Binah provides the possibility of relationship through the creation of unique elements, it also offers that of unifying those elements. It is only through relationship that we can understand something or ourselves:

The Rebbe Rashab explains that true unity is not a homogeneous mass of virtually identical elements, like a pile of sand. On the contrary, true unity occurs when there is a collection of potentially disharmonious elements, and these disharmonious elements are synthesized so that their real underlying compatibility is revealed. The task of revealing potential underlying unity may be applied directly to the development of an intellectual concept. Initially, the concept is in a state of chokhmah (wisdom), undeveloped, just a simple point of a concept.
Dr. Tsvi Victor Saks

The story doesn’t end there. The diminishment from one sefirah to the next, extends all the way down to the last, Malkhut, which relates to our world. Malkhut is also associated with the Shekinah (divine presence), which is the concept of the “lower feminine” or “divine bride.” These are all connected to the feminine figure in the text of Shir Hashirim. (3)

The Shekinah has been told at this hour, “Go and reduce yourself,” and is lowered to the worlds of Briyah, Yesirah and Asiyah (Creation, Formation and Action). These spheres are beneath her dignity; the honor due to the King’s daughter really belongs in the Sefirot of Atzilus.  (4)
Tikkun Shechinah, Reb Moshe Steinerman

As there is a lower feminine and bride, there is also a lower masculine and groom. The latter is represented by the six emanations between Binah and Malkhut. It is called “Ze’ir Anpin” which relates to the idea of “lower countenance.” This is the masculine figure in Shir Hashirim. (See chart at bottom of this article.)

We have the feminine Shekinah “among and within us” with Malkhut, as well as close access to the lower masculine world with Ze’ir Anpin. The idea of “among and within” is reflected by the female in the text of Shir Hashirim. In some cases, she accepts blame directly and in others mentions the error of the people she is with.

There is a dynamic between this bride and groom, as there is between the upper mother and father. As we are associated with the bride, and as G-d has us playing a role in things, it is by effecting repair between the lower feminine (us in this case) and lower masculine (representing G-d) that things are restored.

These Two Get Around

As we see in Shir Hashirim, these two personae (‘partzufim’), the male and female figures in Shir Hashirim, are longing to ‘connect’ and bring everything back together. This idea is found through Torah literature. (Thus, everything ‘connects’ to Shir Hashirim.)

In siddurim (prayer books) it is common to find reference to our actions being associated with this unification of the bride and groom, with words such as this:

I hereby do this mitzvah for the sake of the unification of The Holy One, Blessed is He, and His Divine Presence, in fear and in love, to unify the Name of yud-h’eh with vav h’eh in completion, in the name of the entire Jewish people.

Here, “The Holy One Blessed is He” (Hakadosh Baruch Hu) relates to Ze’ir Anpin, the groom. The first two letters of the 4-letter name (the Yud and the first H’eh) relate to the father and mother aspects mentioned earlier. The Vav and second H’eh in the name are the groom and bride.

  • Yud = Father
  • Hey = Mother
  • Vav = Son or Groom, Zeir Anpin
  • Hey = Daughter or Bride, Shekinah, Nukveh

NOTE: It is critical to understand that these are ONLY spiritual personae related to concepts, energies, etc., within the existence made by the Creator. There is but one G-d who is in essence a perfect singularity beyond description.

The concept of worship (‘avodah’) in Torah means the ‘work’ we do here to bring the groom and bride (also called ‘nukvah’) together, within ourselves and in the world. (Partzuf(im) = “spiritual personae” below):

The Purpose of Worshipping G-d is to Bring About the Coupling of Ze’ir Anpin and Nukvah. … All events in this world specifically rooted in Ze’ir Anpin and Nukvah. Therefore, in the patzufim Ze’ir Anpin and Nukvah lies the root of all the world’s creatures, and in them is the essence of the Guiding Power of the world in which we live. Everything that happens to the individual human is rooted in Ze’ir Anpin and therefore we must try to understand the different aspects of the partzuf, so that we can understand the ways of the Creator … The Ze’ir Anpin and the Nukvah are the root of the world we live in. Therefore, the behavior of mankind will find the same conditions as the Ze’ir Anpin and the Nukva.
Yedid Nefesh (Song of the Soul), Rabbi Yecheil Bar-Lev

Our world is ‘governed,’ and the third temple arrives, through the relationship of the groom and bride (another theme to Shir Hashirim, which has several veiled temple references):

The central focus in much of the Kabbalah is on the Patzufim of Zeir Anpin and Nukvah, and their interrelationship. This is because it is primarily between these two Partzufim that the world in which we live in is governed.
Secrets of the Future Temple, Rabbi Moshe Chaim Luzzato

As we will often mention, these are not just “lofty ideas.” They are deeply personal and relate to our ability to connect to G-d:

The flow of divine power stimulated by the uniting of Ze’ir Anpin and Nukvah in the course of contemplation constitutes the source of the inspiration that the successful adept attains …Uniting the partzufim of Ze’ir and Nukvah contemplatively infuses an individual with divine inspiration and enables him to speak with words of prophecy.
Physician of the Soul, Healer of the Cosmos, Isaac Luria and His Kabbalistic Fellowship, Lawrence Fine

Other examples show how important this idea is, which hints to the relevance of Shir Hashirim in every part of life. (5)

These includes things such as:

  • the Shema
  • Passover
  • tznius (modesty)
  • the active & passive commandments
  • a connection between keeping Shabbat and honoring of one’s parents!

What is also interesting (and will be discussed in another article) is that even the Creator’s “timing of things” is based around these concepts:

All reality during the six thousand years of the world’s existence is rooted in the partzuf Ze’ir Anpin.
Yedid Nefesh (Song of the Soul), Rabbi Yecheil Bar-Lev

2. The Moon and Sun

The second example is another one “behind the scenes” of the Genesis account.

And God made the two great luminaries: the great luminary to rule the day and the lesser luminary to rule the night, and the stars.
Genesis 1:16

In this allegory, the moon brings up the fact that it and the sun were both “great luminaries” as the Torah itself states in the first part of this verse. The moon correctly realized you can’t have “two bosses,” so it raised the issue with G-d, who tells the moon to go make itself ‘lesser’ than the sun, to which the moon starts to raise questions of fairness. G-d discusses these with the moon, and at the end acknowledging the validity of her arguments and considers making atonement for His own actions of diminishing its light!

As the story goes:

Simeon b. Pazzi pointed out a contradiction [between verses]. One verse says: And God made the two great lights, and immediately the verse continues: The greater light . . . and the lesser light. The moon said unto the Holy One, blessed be He, “Sovereign of the Universe! Is it possible for two kings to wear one crown”? He answered: “Go then and make thyself smaller”. “Sovereign of the Universe”! cried the moon, “Because I have suggested that which is proper must I then make myself smaller”? He replied: “Go and thou wilt rule by day and by night”. “But what is the value of this”? cried the moon; “Of what use is a lamp in broad daylight”? He replied: “Go. Israel shall reckon by thee the days and the years”. “But it is impossible”, said the moon, “to do without the sun for the reckoning of the seasons, as it is written: And let them be for signs, and for seasons, and for days and years”. “Go. The righteous shall be named after thee as we find, Jacob the Small, Samuel the Small, David the Small”, On seeing that it would not be consoled the Holy One, blessed be He, said: “Bring an atonement for Me for making the moon smaller”. This is what was meant by R. Simeon b. Lakish when he declared: Why is it that the he-goat offered on the new moon is distinguished in that there is written concerning it unto the Lord? Because the Holy One, blessed be He, said: Let this he-goat be an atonement for Me for making the moon smaller.
Talmud Chulin 60b

Of course, the Creator isn’t actually ‘atoning’ for anything He did. This is simply the language of Jewish spiritual texts. (Plus, this was “all part of the plan.”) What this is really about is that each month, when the new moon arrives, Israel was to bring a sacrifice to G-d that reminded them that things in this world “are not as they are supposed to be.”

It also reflects that He participates in the sorrow of His people. The good news in this is that there will come a day when things will be restored to what they were before, and that promise is in writing. (6)

The moon’s light remains as powerful as that of the sun, however it is ‘veiled’ for the time being:

And the light of the moon shall be like the light of the sun, and the light of the sun shall be sevenfold as the light of the seven days, on the day the Lord shall bind the fracture of His people, and the stroke of their wound He shall heal.
Isaiah 30:26

The diminishment goes back to the previous idea of Binah being ‘lesser’ than Chokmah in order for there to be relationship and the presence of G-d to manifest. The dynamic between the male and female characters in Shir Hashirim centers around this.

The following mystical text compares the face of the moon to our own faces — establishing the connection between the Shekinah (divine presence) and the people of G-d:

According to the way of secret the rabbis, blessed be their memory, said, “If Israel merited to receive the face of the Shekhinah only one time every month, it would have been enough for them.”… You already know that the physical moon and sun, which are visible, are in the pattern of the spiritual sun and moon. Just as the physical moon receives from the light of the sun, and sometimes it is revealed and sometimes hidden, sometimes it is full and sometimes wanting, and it is small in size in relation to the sun… so are the moon and sun in actuality above in the supernal world. Therefore, the ritual of sanctification of the month was given to Israel, [for it is] like the betrothal of the bridegroom and the bride…. Know that by means of sanctifying the moon and the intercalation of the year below the bride who is comprised of [of all] above is sanctified and she is joined to her husband, and from this union the new, pure souls of the righteous and pious burst forth into this world as well as the groups of angels of lovingkindness and mercy…. That the physical moon is in the pattern of the spiritual moon is attested by the fact that if you contemplate the face of the moon when it is full you will see in it something like the form of a human. I asked the sages who gaze upon the stars [concerning this phenomenon] and not one of them knows the reason or explanation. In my opinion it is an allusion to what the rabbis, blessed be their memory, said, “the form of Jacob, our father, is engraved on the throne of glory.” The throne is the name of the last attribute, the Matrona, and the form of Jacob is Jacob the elder, the secret of the king who sits on the throne. He dwells in her midst and is united with her, betroths her and illuminates her face. As an allusion to this the form of a human face is inscribed on the physical moon.
David ben Solomon ibn Abi Zimra, Mesudat David, 24b-d

3. Chavah/Eve and Adam

In our third example, the midrash uses highly metaphorical language regarding the original adam in Genesis 1 (called ‘ha-adam’, meaning “the adam”). This adam is depicted as a singular entity that had a male and female side, which would result in separate male and female entities.

When the Holy One, blessed be He, created Adam, He created him a hermaphrodite, for it is said, Male and female created He them and called their name Adam (Gen. 5:2). R. Samuel b. Nahman said: When the Lord created Adam, He created him double-faced, then He split him and made him of two backs, one back on this side and one back on the other side. To this it is objected: But it is written, And He took one of his ribs, etc. (Gen. 2:21)? [Mi-zalothaw means] one of his sides, replied he, as you read, And for the second side (zela’) of the tabernacle (Ex. 26:20). 
Midrash Rabbah Bereshith 8:1

Adam and Chavah first co-existed within ‘ha-adam’ (‘the adam’) reflecting the proactive and reactive aspects of Chokhmah and Binah mentioned earlier.

When Eve is formed separately, she is called “ezer kenegdo” (often translated ‘helpmate’) which is best interpreted as something “in opposition to, but for the benefit of,” her male counterpart. They existed as co-equal opposites.

Their picking of the ‘fruit’ of the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Bad, is the first mention of the separation of the Shekinah (the female in Shir Hashirim):

Then came primordial man and sinned, ruining the system, plundering the channels, causing the water from the pools, (the BReiCHot) to cease, and the Shekinah fled. Thus the package became unravelled. 
Sha’are Orah (gate 1) Rabbi Yosef Gikatilla

As the Gan Edan story goes, the woman pays the price for listening to the serpent by having her status diminished (Gen. 3:16). This is the first account in the Bible that reflects the previous ideas surrounding the sefirot and the two luminaries. The “lowered status” of the feminine is a temporary construct that will begin to change back to its original one as we approach the messianic age – The “elevation of the feminine.” This will bring us to a point when all is restored.

It is taught that from the time of the expulsion to the messianic age is 6,000 years. (7) These six millennia refer to the six sefirot of the masculine/groom. These are the primary sefirot that we “work on,” reflecting Adam’s own ‘toil’ he is relegated to (Gen 3:17).

The ability to reunite these separated opposites lies within each person:

But our unity, and all the blessings that flows from it, can only begin when we recognize that we are not just opposites, but complimentary opposites. As you are also me, I need your perception to know the full depth of my own. That other perspective we wrestle with, that other voice, that seemingly diametrically-opposed sensitivity, must also be witnessed, embraced, and integrated, so we can once again expand and return into our full self, and step into our destiny. To experience the depth of all we have carried and have collectively experienced through this long dark exile, I must see you to see myself. I must feel you to feel myself. To feel the fullness of all there is, and of who we are, together.
Rabbi Doniel Katz


Comparisons between spiritual elements and the two characters in Shir Hashirim. The first three rows are the main interpretations of the allegory:

Bestowal  Reception
Man Woman
Hashem Shekinah/Israel
Hashem The Soul
Masculine Feminine
Groom Bride
Ze’ir Anpin Nukveh
Son Daughter
World of Yetzirah World of Asiyah
Soul Level of Ruach Soul Level of Nefesh
Sun Moon
Hashem Elohim
Written Torah Oral Torah
Proactive Reactive
Light Vessel
The 6 Weekdays Shabbat
Jacob Rachel
Spiritual Realms World of Human Action

Notes and Links

(1) Regarding the original vessels and emanations of the sefirot, see the free course at and also

(2) There are two main ‘templates’ relating to the process of the Creation.

A.) There are four “Worlds of Existence” One emanating from the next, each with its own particular properties. The first, called Atzilut (nearness) is that of the sefirot. The next, Beriah (creation) is that of the heavenly temple and divine forces/powers governing the rest of creation. After this is Yetzirah (formation) which is the angelic realm and the ladder in Jacob’s dream. The last is Asiyah (making) which is that of our present ‘physical’ existence.
B.) Within each of these four worlds are a set of ten emanations of G-d called sefirot. They function in different capacities within each of these worlds, but hold a common root, which began in the higher world of Atzilut.

(3) Shekinah relates to both, shachen, which is a ‘neighbor,’ and to shochen, meaning “to dwell within.” The word and concept are ‘feminine.’ Shekinah can present itself as bride, mother, daughter or sister, depending on context. Further, the term is synonymous with another feminine one, “Ruach HaKodesh” (Holy or Separated Spirit)

(4) For more on the four worlds of Existence see:

(5) The idea of connection between the “divine bride and groom” and multiple elements in Torah (and in our world), is foundational to the aspect healing:

(6) See the end of the lyrics to Yaala on our meditation page.

(7) According to the sage Shlomo Elyashiv (the Leshem), the messianic age will begin 210 years prior to the 6.000 year mark.

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Matrix Shir Hashirim Song of SongsThe Shekinah and the Sefirot