Last Updated 6.4.24

In verses 1 and 2 we discussed ideas including the hidden dimension of ‘peace’ and aspects of the ‘kiss.’

  1. The Song of Songs, which is Solomon’s.
  2. “Let him kiss me with the kisses of his mouth, for your love is better than wine.

The text now flows from the ‘kiss’ and ‘wine,’ into the next two verses, which feature a host of new elements:

  • concepts (fragrance, oil, chambers)
  • characters (maidens, the king)
  • actions (pouring, running, drawing, recalling)
  • themes (cause and effect, traversing time)

Each of these may carry multiple levels of meaning. They are all woven together toward, a common desire — the end of the exile.

Here we are, four verses in, and we can already feel how complex and comprehensive the text is. Out task is to figure out “what goes with what, and how?” and even, ‘why?’ For this we need to “go beyond the text.”

As mentioned in a previous post.

Kabbalah is the “science of correspondences.” This is its literal definition … Although the simplest usage of the root קָבַל (kuf, bet, lamed) is “to receive,” this form only appears in later prophets and biblical writings. It’s primary sense, as conveyed by the Torah itself, is “to parallel or correspond.” (i.e., Exodus 26:5, where the loops ‘correspond’ (קָבַל) to the other.) … Kabbalah is an old hand at “fuzzy logic.” It knows that the world is holographic. and that every piece contains aspects of the entire universe inside itself. … There is no statement in kabbalah that is absolutely, flatly, and simply true. There is always another context or angle of perspective where the relationship between elements shifts or even flips upside down. Every assertion has qualifications.
Sarah Yehudit Schneider

There are things we read about in Shir Hashirim, that are present in our physical world and are also hinting at some spiritual concept. As the spiritual root of all things precedes physical form, we can learn of the higher-level attributes of something by studying its physical properties.

For instance, there are two ‘substances’ in our current verses, said to be coming by way of the male figure — wine and oil. How are we to approach what these two things might represent at a deeper ‘spiritual’ level?’

Wine and oil … We need to present the basic law of spiritual gravity or kabbalistic gravity. … How does that work? What’s the law of regular gravity? What is up will come down or be drawn down. The same thing is true in kabbalah. Here’s how it works. Everything that’s down here, comes from up there. In other words, if it exists in this physical plane. If it exists here, on earth, you know one thing. It didn’t begin here. … It’s not that, “here it is and here it always was.” Rather we know that whatever is here, started in a spiritual place. Which is why when you study kabbalah, and study Chasidus, you encounter a lot of parallels. … You encounter a lot of teachings where it says, “This physical thing spiritually represents something else.” … It’s not that since it exists here, we’re trying to extrapolate it or apply it to something else. It works the other way around. … How does that work? Something here represents something else. If it’s here, it has to have a spiritual source. And that spiritual source is where it’s coming from. It’s like, if there is water at the bottom of the mountain in a lake, you know there’s water at the top of the mountain. It came from the top of the mountain. It’s not projection. We’re not going to project it on the spiritual realms. We are the projection. … We can look at ourselves and understand G-d. How? … How do we know that’s true? … Can we project ourselves onto G-d? … It doesn’t work that way. It works the other way around. G-d projects Himself upon us. We are the end of this gravitation, or this evolutionary process, where things begin on high and then come down below. Which means, that when you have something called wine, or when you have something called oil, each of them has a spiritual source. In other words, there is something called wine spiritually and something called oil spiritually. And the properties of spiritual wine and spiritual oil, not just reflect the physical properties of wine and oil. They are more than a reflection; they are the source of those very physical properties. Physical wine exists because there is a spiritual concept that parallels it, that is its source. It’s deriving from the spiritual place. If you want to know what wine is spiritually, we need to ask the question, “What is wine physically?” What are the properties of wine that we know, and then we can figure out what is wine spiritually?
On The Essence of Chasidus – 12 – The Secrets of Wine & Oil, Intown Jewish Academy

This lesson of the above text, along with our first four verses, present the ideas of:

  • Divine gravity/flow: The oil is ‘poured’ forth, and the ‘maidens’ are on a receiving end
  • Hierarchy: Oil is said to be ‘greater’ than wine
  • Timing: The sense of past, present and future, associated with these things

We will deep-dive into the above at the bottom of this post.

1:3 Because of the fragrance of your goodly oils, your name is ‘oil poured forth.’ Therefore, the maidens loved you.

Several new concepts present themselves, related to the male figure, and interconnected:

  • Fragrance
  • Goodly oils
  • His name is “poured forth”
  • Maidens

Those are the items that get your immediate attention. But as any good Torah student knows, sometimes there are other, and possibly bigger things, ‘hidden’ right before of our eyes.

Amidst the above elements, is a mysterious “cause and effect,” expressed as,

“Because of … therefore …”

As mentioned in our Intro article: Some verses have simultaneous positive and negative connotations. For example, inasmuch as verse 3 relates to a ‘positive’ connection, it still reflects the current state of ‘disconnect.’

This not only impacts Israel, but also their present and future function toward the nations.

We ask God to transfer this lesser form of inspiration from us to the gentiles, just as a man who gets his son a new coat gives the old coat to one of his servants. This idea is reflected in the following verse (Deuteronomy 28:10): “And all the nations of the world shall see the Name of the Lord written upon you, and they shall be fearful on account of you.” The verse is saying that, in the future, we will be imbued with a new, higher level of God-fearingness — a fear of God so intense that its aura will radiate from us onto the gentiles. As Isaiah put it (Isaiah 60:3), the nations will be guided by our light.
Dubner Maggid Commentary on the Song of Songs, Rabbi David M. Zucker

What we can deduct from the verse, is that there is something originating from the male figure (in the past) that brings a (future) response from those called ‘maidens,’ that connects back to the desire for the union of the ‘kiss.’

A.) Fragrance

Shir Hashirim has many verses that relate to the physical senses of touch, sound, sight, taste, and smell. These form a bond between our “physical existence” and the spiritual worlds we connect to. The sense of smell is especially prevalent. We will encounter the odor of spikenard, myrrh, frankincense, flowers, orchards, cedars, cypresses, oils, spices, pomegranate, aromatic plants, apples and figs.

Tracking the aspect of ‘smell’ through the text is an adventure, with many avenues to explore.

“Your scented oils have a good fragrance, your name drips oils, and so the maidens love you.” (1:2) The megillah begins with the attractive scent of the Dod (male lover). We are then introduced to the smell of the Ra’ayah (female lover) in his absence: “While the king sat at his table my spikenard sent forth its scent.” (1:12) Later on we are told of the sweet smell of the Ra’ayah using the same language we originally used to describe the scent of the Dod: “How fair is your love, my sister, my bride; how much better is your love than wine, and the smell of your oils than all manner of spices.” Finally, we are told of the smells that envelop them as a couple: “The mandrakes give off a scent, and at our doors are all manner of precious fruit, new and old.” The fragrances develop and deepen along with the characters in the megillah.
Shir Hashirim: Your Scented Oils Have a Good Fragrance

With regard to our fragrance in verse 3, this relates to the future situation depicted in verse 4. There is something in the oil from ‘above’ that relates to a response from ‘below.’

This is associated with those who are far off from the Creator. (A “baal/baaley teshuvah” is one who ‘returns’ to G-d’s ways.).

“Your fragrant oils are pleasing to the smell … O draw me, and we will run after You!(Song of Songs 1:3-4). Rashi explains that this drawing close to God refers to converts and baaley teshuvah, those who are distant yet are somehow drawn to God. Reb Noson adds that the sweet smell of the spices alludes to God giving each person the chance to catch a whiff of the beauty of Judaism. Then, when they draw close, the converts and baaley teshuvah themselves give off a sweet smell.
HaRei’ach 5:2, cited in “The Friday Afternoon Prayer: Song of Songs,”

Related to any fragrance, is the sense of smell. Of the five senses, it is smell that is given an elevated status. The fragrance in our text emanates from the highest realm, permeating the four Worlds of Existence (see last section below) extending to the lowest level of the ‘maidens.’

This aspect of ‘connection’ is found throughout many Hebrew words.

Song of Songs Shir Hashirim Connection

We even find the concept of ‘connection’ in some of the least expected places (which is food for thought for later in this commentary):

The word לויתן,” Leviathan,” means “connection.” It is a combination of the two words חן לוית. The intellect is perceived as joining the soul.
The Meaning and Significance of the Leviathan, Rabbi Ken Stollon

As we see through the text of Shir Hashirim, certain fragrances come from above (related to the masculine), and others from below (related to the feminine).

In the Torah, we find the sense of smell/fragrance well established with regard to the offerings “from below,” and their “rising up” to make ‘connection’ to Hashem.

Aside from all the details, there is a fairly common phrase in the Torah that expresses precisely what Hashem’s feelings are in regard to the offerings. The phrase, which interestingly is hardly ever found in the rest of the Tanakh, is re’ah niho’ah, or ‘a pleasant aroma’ to Hashem. This phrase comes up almost 40 times in the Torah, making it among the most common phrases in the text.
The Offerings: A Pleasant Aroma to Hashem, Four Questions of Judaism

Actions related to the sacrifices had a deeper, personal, meaning. This is a key point with regard to Shir Hashirim, as the relationship of Israel to the Torah impacts where they are with regard to exile.

The image of God accepting sacrifices with “a pleasing odor” was always meant to inspire a higher level of connection with the Divine. By exploring the meaning of this perplexing phrase, we not only gain insight into the minds of our ancestors, but also appreciate how Torah continually motivates us to look beyond ourselves to cultivate a spiritual life of purpose and connection within community.
The Pleasing Aroma of Sacrifice, Rabbi Charlie Savenor, Jewish Telegraph Agency

The Talmud gets into detail regarding these sacrifices, with the ‘smell’ impacting both Hashem and the soul. This is much like the “spirit to spirit” connection of the kiss discussed in verse 2.

The Talmud takes this terminology further, understanding “smell” in a less figurative way. The Mishnah (TB Zevahim 46b) explains that sacrifices must be brought to God for both their appeasing quality [le-shem ni-ho’ah] and their fragrance [le-shem re’ah]. Not only does the sacrifice appease God, because we are doing His will, but also because it literally emits a fragrance. R. Yehudah explains in the name of Rav that this is why the animal cannot be first roasted on a spit and then burned on the altar. The fragrance is emitted only during the roasting process, so it must be burned on the altar from the outset. It is crucial that the smell of the burning sacrifice be emitted when it is on the altar. Furthermore, the Talmud (TB Berakhot 43b) describes pleasant odors as a thing that the soul (neshamah) enjoys, but not the physical body. There is thus an implication that God derives some spiritual pleasure from the smell of the sacrifice.
A Soothing Savor, David J. Marwil

Mashiach and the Sense of Smell

Heaven wants the Messiah to judge not in the natural way by what he sees and hears, but in a miraculous way, through what he smells.
Days of Peace, Ben Ish Hai Anthology

The spiritual concept of ‘smell’ is directly related to the Mashiach. (1)

He will smell of fear of the Lord; and he will not judge by the sight of his eyes and he will not decide by the hearing of his ears. But with righteousness he will judge the poor and decide with equity for the humble of the land and strike the land with the rod of his mouth and by the breath of his lips he will slay the wicked.
Isaiah 11, 3-4

The translation of ‘smell’ (in Isaiah above) is from the root ‘reyach’ (רֵיחַ). This versatile term is applied in a variety of (metaphorical) ways, relating to both G-d and man. (2)

  • And the Lord smelled the pleasant aroma…
    Genesis 8:21
  • And there you will worship gods, man’s handiwork, wood and stone, which neither see, hear, eat, nor smell.
    Deuteronomy 4:28
  • To many shofaroth he says, ‘Hurrah!’ He smells battle from afar, the thunder of princes and shouting.
    Job 39:25
  • They have ears but they do not hear; they have a nose, but they do not smell.
    Psalm 115:6

The figure of the Messiah is associated with smell, in terms of discernment:

The Mashiach is unique in that he is able to pass judgment based on smell. In the story of the blessings Yitzchak gave to his sons we find that Yaakov was able to deceive Yitzchak’s sense of touch by covering his arms, but his sense of smell remained ‘on the nose’: “The scent of my son is like the scent of the field that the Lord blessed.” Man cannot control the smells that come from him, he can’t twist them, and he can’t change them.
Shir Hashirim: Your Scented Oils Have a Good Fragrance

Related to Mashiach’s sense of discernment is smell/breath of falsehood:

The breath of a liar gives rise to the evil inclination. When Mashiach comes, falsehood will no longer exist. There will therefore be no evil inclination in the world.
Sefer HaMidot, Rabbi Nachman of Breslov

The fragrance and oil in our verse(s) thus relates to the function of the messiah, which originates from before creation:

Surely it was taught: Seven things were created before the world was created, and these are they: The Torah, repentance, the Garden of Eden, Gehenna, the Throne of Glory, the Temple, and the name of the Messiah. The Torah, for it is written, The Lord made me [the Torah] as the beginning of his way. Repentance, for it is written, Before the mountains were brought forth, and it is written, Thou turnest man to contrition, and sayest, Repent, ye children of men. The Garden of Eden, as it is written, And the Lord planted a garden in Eden from aforetime. The Gehenna, for it is written, For Gehenna is ordered of old. The Throne of Glory and the Temple, for it is written, Thou throne of glory, on high from the beginning, Thou place of our sanctuary. The name of the Messiah, as it is written, His name shall endure forever, and has existed before the sun!
Talmud, Pesachim 54a

As mentioned, this permeates all four worlds of existence, and brings rectification to us (and all creation) via the Torah.

So, who is Mashiach? What kind of person would even think of undertaking the job of resolving all the differences within the Jewish People itself — let alone for all mankind? But Mashiach was created and prepared for his mission prior to the Creation of the world (Pesachim 54a) … Mashiach’s soul is rooted in the loftiest of levels, the level of Keter (Atik). This is absolutely necessary, for Mashiach must be able to transcend anything and everything in the world — even and especially all evil that was ever perpetrated — to rectify and perfect all mankind.

… Mashiach will “breath the fear of God,” since his soul is rooted in the place of breathing, the nose. Through the ‘nose,’ Mashiach obtains all his essential vitality. Conversely, anger is also expressed through the nose, as in (Numbers 25:4), “His nose flared with anger.” Thus, the deeds of Mashiach along with his prayers will restrain G0d’s anger at its source — the nose … Mashaich will “breathe the awe of God.” Using prayer as his main ‘weapon,’ Mashiach will develop the concept of “the nose” to its fullest. Being the breath of our nostrils, he will help us direct our very life-force to search for G0d, all the while abandoning sin and drawing ourselves towards his mitzvot. In Mashiach’s time, each person will be filled with ‘breath’ that contains awe of God, hence a growth of that awe. And this awe will permeate all levels of Creation, so that everyone will have the chance to return to God. Then great kindness — and love — will reign.

… Remembering that Mashiach corresponds to the nose, we can understand that his ‘breathing’ will have a very positive effect on mankind. … The breath that Mashiach will breathe will emanate from the Torah and its 613 mitzvot. This is (Genesis 1:2) “The spirit of God that hovered over the waters.” The spirit is Mashiach and the waters are the Torah. Mashiach’s spirit is embedded in the Torah, and he will draw his breath, the awe of God, from it. With this spirit, he will be able to “breathe into others,” filling them with a feeling of awe and respect for God. (Likutey Moharan 1. 8:2)
“Mashiach: Who, What, Why, How, Where, When,” Chaim Kramer

The Messiah’s sense of smell set him apart from all humans in history:

Divine inspiration will rest on the Messiah’s sense of smell just as it rested on Moses’ site so that he could know just by looking. Thus God commanded Moses: “You will select out of all the people men who fear God, men of truth, who hate unjust gain” (Exodus 18:21). The Messiah will be at least as exalted as Moses, for it is written, “Behold, my servant, the Messiah shall prosper. He shall be exalted, lifted up and shall be very high” (Isaiah 52:13). Surely, then, Divine inspiration will rest on his sight just as it did on that of Moses. But in addition, it will also rest on his sense of smell — a miracle that was not made for any other tzaddik. Thus, although the Messiah will be able to judge bysight, he will judge instead by his sense of smell, since that is an extra gift that God gave solely to him. In addition, it is more powerful than the sense of sight, for one can see only what is before him, whereas one can smell also what is behind.
Days of Peace, Ben Ish Hai Anthology

Here we are at the beginning of verse 3, and Shir Hashirim introduces a strong messianic aspect related to the end of the exile.

B.) Goodly Oils

A new component is introduced — ‘oil.’ We now have several elements associated with the male figure, that may be compared to each other:

  • Verse 2: Love and Wine
  • Verse 3: Fragrance, Oil and Love
  • Verse 4: Love, Fragrance and Wine

We can see that the concept of ‘fragrance’ in verse 3, reinforces the connection between the love and wine. (“Because of …”) We were also told that his love is ‘better’ than wine.

As the fragrance ‘originates’ from the oil, we can say they are “at the same level,” both ‘above’ the wine.

The concept of ‘oil’ from the highest region parallels the Torah itself ‘descending’ into the world, yet remaining ‘apart’ from it. (See final section on this page regarding ‘Chasidus.’)

Just as the inedible bitter olive turns into oil that is desirable and pleasant-tasting, the Torah’s message on earth is initially small but ultimately great: in slow but steady developmental steps, all of mankind gets ready to do its bidding. Other liquids pour noisily into a cup, raising froth through a seething, foaming stream. But if you pour oil into a cup, if flows quietly, without foaming up. … Just as oil never mixes with water … Torah rejects any synthesis with non-Torah.
Megillas Shir Ha-Shirim, Rav. Dr. Raphael Breuer

Specifically regarding Israel, we see a “cause and effect” related to what is required for the people to turn to Hashem. This ‘goodly’ oil, which is the ‘goodness’ of G-d, may manifest in ways we find difficult or unpleasant – but always with the greatest good in mind.

Another matter, “your name is like poured oil,” just as this oil is bitter at its outset and sweet at its culmination, so too, “your beginning may be small, but your end will soar very high” (Job 8:7). Just as this oil improves only by means of crushing, so too, Israel repents only by means of crushing.
Shir Hashirim Rabbah 1:3

The above speaks to idea of Hashem having to discipline Israel at times:

You fear not, My servant Jacob, says the Lord, for I am with you, for I will make a full end of all the nations where I have driven you, but of you I will not make a full end, but I will chastise you justly, and I will not completely destroy you.
Jeremiah 46:28

The main contrast in the elements we have seen thus far, is between oil and wine. We will deep-dive into the wine and oil at the end of this post.

In the mystical imagination, wine and oil are not simply liquids. You see, everything that exists in the physical plane has a spiritual parallel, which constitutes its source and root On High. This is true of all things — including wine and oil. The amazing thing is that when you discover the spiritual source of a thing, suddenly its physical properties make so much sense. Like why wine intoxicates, and why oil stains are so difficult to get out. It’s an incredibly powerful “aha!” moment.
On The Essence of Chasidus – 12 – The Secrets of Wine & Oil, Intown Jewish Academy

C.) His Name poured forth

Here we have a “divine action” in the form of the ‘Name’ being “poured forth.” What this ‘Name’ is, how it is being ‘poured,’ and its destination, are not directly stated. However, the ‘maidens’ (associated with our world) express ‘love’ for this action, thus they are impacted by it. Therefore, we see that this action extends from the highest to lowest realms of reality.

The concept of ‘Name’ with regard to the Creator has to do with things such as His attributes, authority, power, function, etc. All of these are aspects of the Creator that we can “related to,” within the four Worlds of Existence. This is ‘immanent’ aspect of G-d, versus the unknowable transcendent apsect (Ein Sof, etc.)

There are many terms that are considered ‘names’ of G-d. These all relate to how He is interacting with His creation in a particular setting.

The Torah begins with Elohim in the first words of Genesis. We also find Shaddai, the name we are told was ‘known’ to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.

I appeared to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob with the name Shaddai, but with My name YHWH, I did not become known to them.
Exodus 6:3

Other names such as Yah, El, Adonai, El Chai, and others, appear through the pages of the Tanakh. (3) There are also terms found through Torah literature such as Avinu Malkeinu (Our Father, our King), Hakadosh Baruch Hu (The Holy One, blessed he He) and others.

The most holy of reference to our Creator (appearing twice as much as all others combined in the Tanakh), is the four-letter Name of Yod-Hey-Vav-Hey (henceforth, YHVH). This is generally used with regard to Hashem ruling over existence.

To the conductor, on the gittith, a song of David. YHVH, our Master (Adon), how mighty is Your Name in all the earth, for which You should bestow Your majesty upon the heavens.
Psalm 8:1,2

The four-letter Name is not pronounced in Judaism, as it is not yet ‘One.’ This ‘disunity’ in the Name (as it relates to us in the lowest world of existence) is associated with the idea of the Shekinah being in exile. It is expressed as the final letter Hey of the Name being ‘apart’ from the rest. This final Hey is the female in Shir Hashirim, seeking to return. (See comments under chart at the end of this post.)

This will change in the messianic era when the Temple is restored. The timing of this is influenced by the ‘return’ (teshuvah) of the people, through observance of the Torah’s commands:

Hashem, God of Hosts, Hashem is His mention. And you, return to God. Keep loving-kindness and justice, and hope to your God always.
Hosea 12:6-7

And the Lord shall become King over all the earth; on that day shall the Lord be one, and His name one.
Zechariah 14:9

When the full Name is ‘restored’ the flow of divine sustenance (‘shefa’) from above (the Yud) to below (the final Hey) will no longer me hindered or minimized.

(See ‘Brought Me to His Chambers” section below)

D.) The Maidens (loved you)

The identity of these “young women” is not revealed. As Shir Hashirim is addressing the final exile leading into the messianic era, both Jew and non-Jew are impacted, thus either understanding has merit.

The key point is that the ‘maidens’ are those who will benefit from the one being spoken of. A number of explanations are given in the following text:

Another matter, “therefore, the young women love you, “because You gave us the plunder of Egypt, the plunder of the sea, the plunder of Siḥon and Og, and the plunder of the thirty-one kings. Alternatively, “therefore, the young women [alamot] love you,” because You obscured [shehe’elamta] from them the day of death and the day of consolation, they love You. Alternatively, “therefore, the young women love you,” with youthfulness and alacrity. Alternatively, “therefore, the young women love you,” these are the penitents. Alternatively, “therefore, the young women love you,” this is the third group, as it is stated: “I will bring the third through the fire, and I will refine them like the refining of [silver]” (Zechariah 13:9). Alternatively, “therefore, the young women love you,” these are the proselytes; that is what is written: “Lord, I heard Your renown; I was afraid, Lord; your deeds are in the midst of the years…” (Habakkuk 3:2). Alternatively, “therefore, the young women love you,” this is the generation of persecution, as it is stated: “For we are killed all day long for You; we are considered as sheep for slaughter” (Psalms 44:23). Alternatively, “therefore, the young women love you,” this is Israel, as it is stated: “Rather, it is from the Lord’s love of you, and from His observance of the oath…” (Deuteronomy 7:8). Alternatively, “therefore, the young women love you,” because you obscured from them the reward of the righteous.
Shir Hashirim Rabbah 1:3

The measure of ‘benefit’ from this ‘fragrance’ is conditional. It relates directly to the ‘condition’ of the path between origin (Hashem) and destination (them). It is not only a matter of “keeping the commandment,” it is also a that of why we do:

At present, since we fail to sense the Torah’s sweetness, we serve God in an inferior way — either out of desire or reward or out of simple belief in Torah’s value without actually sensing it.
Dubner Maggid Commentary on the Song of Songs, Rabbi David M. Zucker

The above is reflected in the Talmud, regarding the “seven types of Pharisees,” which contrasts the one serving Hashem in an inferior status to the one properly engaged.

There are seven types of Pharisees … (including) the Pharisee from love [of God] and the Pharisee from fear.
Sotah 22b

When the commandments are kept for the right reason, the ‘path’ leads to the ‘Holy of Holies’ of the King, the ‘chambers’ mentioned in verse 4. (See “We Will Rejoice and be Glad in You” section below.)

The expression “fragrance of Your fine oils” refers to the reward for performing mitzvos. We say that love of God on account of the fragrance of His fine oils, is a form of love that is fitting for immature young maidens. That is, serving God for reward — a lesser form of service — is fitting for the gentiles. But we, God’s special people, are suited to serving God in the true sense — not for reward, but rather for its own sake, out of a sense for the intrinsic sweetness of His Torah. Thus we say: “Draw me along and we shall run after You. Let the King bring me into His inner chamber. We shall jubilate and rejoice in You.
Dubner Maggid Commentary on the Song of Songs, Rabbi David M. Zucker

Ultimately, the Source of the fragrance experienced by the maidens, is their own destination:

The goal of their desire and intention is to ascend and adhere to the place from which they draw nourishment. 
Ezra ben Solomon of Gerona Commentary on the Song of Songs

1:4 Draw me, we will run after you; the king brought me to his chambers. We will rejoice and be glad in you. We will recall your love more fragrant than wine; they have loved you sincerely.

Whereas verse 3 was more focused on ‘things,’ the 4th verse is centered on a series of ‘actions,’ on the part of different entities. Also, some are looking back, while others are in the present and future:

  • Present: Draw me
  • Future: We will run
  • Past: Brought me
  • Future: We will rejoice
  • Future and Past: We will recall
  • Past: They have loved you

Verse 4 is an example of how Shir Hashirim transverses through time in a one verse, indicative of the ‘singularity’ the text is pointing toward.


Note the intimate connection between the singular and plural pronouns in verse 3. (“Draw ME, and WE will run…”) We see this through the entire text. The singular (the female in the text) is the Shekinah. The plural alludes to the Shekinah and the people of G-d, who are ‘attached’ to her:

For Israel is like the leaves and the Shekinah is like the trunk of the tree.
Sha’are Orah, 1st Gate

This connection exists regardless of any problematic ‘status’ the people may be experiencing. Any ‘distancing’ between them is ‘qualitative’ never ‘quantitative.’

Whenever Israel is exiled, the Divine Presence, goes with the (Megillah 29a). Hence “in all their affliction, He is afflicted.” Therefore, even if we are unworthy, He will redeem us for the sake of the Divine Presence. … Even if you see that the generation is totally unworthy of redemption “fear not” (Isaiah 41:10) that you will remain in exile eternally.
Days of Peace, Ben Ish Hai Anthology

This is based on the promise of the Torah:

Hashem’s portion is His people; Jacob is the ‘lot’ of His inheritance.
Deuteronomy 32:9

The word ‘lot’ (חְבֹּ֖ל) above can also mean a ‘pledge’ (see Exodus 22:6). Thus, this can be read that Jacob has a ‘pledge’ for his inheritance. (Ben Ish Hai). See also “We Will Recall” section below.

It is this pledge from Hashem that is behind prayer relating to the coming Kingdom.

Because this attribute (Shekinah) travels with the people of Israel in exile, we pray that “the kingdom of David Your anointed be returned to its place.”
Sha’are Orah (1st gate) Rabbi Yosef Gikatilla 

With this 4th verse of Shir Hashirim, we have another “cause and effect,” in her request for action on the part of the male figure (“draw me”) followed by a proactive response (“we will run”).

“O draw me, and we will run after You!” (Song of Songs 1:4). As soon as You call me, I run to You. God is always calling us to Him, trying to draw us closer. But then He hides Himself, as it were, to see if we really want to find Him. Then we must strengthen ourselves with faith and good deeds, and we will find Him.
Nefilat Apayim 4:13, cited in The Friday Afternoon Prayer: Song of Songs,

Not only do we “run after” Him, when we resolve to diligently pursue G-d, He ‘reacts’ to the desire on our part. This is called the ‘awakening’ or ‘arousal’ from below. This ‘reciprocity’ is a ‘circuit,’ as Daniel alluded to:

And you, Daniel, close up the words and seal the book until the time of the end; many will run to and fro, and the knowledge will increase.
Daniel 12:4

In this manner, we ’cause’ G-d to act:

“God is your shadow …” (Psalm 121:5) … God is our shadow, and like every shadow, He follows our lead. As the Ramchal says, (Daas Tvunos chelek bet, p. 22-23), “Therefore, the actions of the Creator change based on their (Am Yisroel) desire. For He always aligns Himself with their will and desire.” …  This breathtaking picture of our potential to shape the unfolding geula is an expression of a profound principle found in the Zohar and the sefarim ha’kedoshim. It’s known as itaruta d’ltatah and itaruta d’layla, the relationship between an “Awakening from below,” and an “Awakening from Above.” This dynamic relationship between our will, choices, and actions, and God’s shadow-like response, is the great determinant on which the hinges of history, and geula shleima, swing. “There is no itaruta d’layla, no Awakening from Above, until there is first an itaruta d’ltata; for the itaruta d’layla requires a yearning from below.” (Zohar 1:86b) … “Please arrive and have mercy on Zion, for it is time to mercifully favor her; for the destined time has come. Because your servants lovingly desire her very stones, and cherish her dust.” (Tehillim, 102:14-5) Reflecting on these verses, Rabbi Yehudi Halevi says at the end of the Kuzari, “The only way Jerusalem will be rebuilt is if the children of Israel intensely long for it, so much so that they express their love for her stones and dust.”
Rabbi Shimon Apisdorf, “Covid Ha’atzmaut: The Shofar in Our Hearts,” 

The Shekinah is thus the ultimate connection “in-between” Creator and creation, functioning “in both directions”:

The Shekhina is God’s female force and, as such, the lowest and, to a certain extent, weakest of the divine forces in their dynamic interplay with one another, but at the same time she is the most important and strongest, because she unites within herself the flow of all the other energies. She forms a bridge over the heavenly and the earthly realms, not only because of her position on the borderline between the divinity and the human world but above all because she is God’s embodiment in the world. Through her, God enters the world, and her only task is to unite Israel with God. If she succeeds in this, she will not only lead Israel to God but will herself return to her divine origin. By taking up residence amid the people of Israel, she has made Israel’s destiny her own. She is responsible for Israel and Israel likewise for her. Only through her does Israel have access to God, just as her (re-)union with her divine spouse depends in the end on Israel. Because she alone belongs to both worlds, it is only through her that the earthly world can be reconciled with the heavenly one and only through her that humans can find their way to God. The female force is the key to both worlds. Without her the heavenly world would be incomplete, and the earthly world would neither have been created nor be able to find its way back to its creator.
Daughter, Sister Bride, and Mother: Images of the Femininity of God in the Early Kabbalah,
Peter Schäfer 

Even more than the previous two verses, this one brings a strong sense of desire on the part of the female character. The longing is overwhelming and relates to a concept called the “expiry of the soul,” that ties back to the idea of “la petite mort” (little death) discussed in verse 2 as found in the Tanya (see below). This is the essence of the Shema prayer (Deuteronomy 6:4) which ‘declares’ the “past, present and future” oneness of all things in Hashem.

Until this point, it has been explained that as a result of the blessings preceding the Shema and of the Shema itself, “the intelligent person will reflect on these matters in the depth of his heart and brain” and then “his soul will be kindled” and he will desire to cleave to G‑d. The direction taken by this form of divine service is elevation “from below to above,” i.e., the individual desires to leave the bounds and limitations of the world and become one with G‑d. This feeling can find expression in the “expiry of the soul” (kelot hanefesh) in its love for G‑d. (This surely does not result in any obligation to study Torah or the like in order to draw G‑dliness down below. On the contrary, a person in this situation is in a state of longing and “expiry of his soul” in order to become united with G‑d as He is Above.)
Likutei Amarim (Tanya) 49

Experiencing this “unity with G-d” in our present existence, extends to the idea of learning Torah together:

But two who are sitting together and there are words of Torah spoken between them, the Divine Presence [Shekhinah] rests with them.
Avot 3:2

Not only are we connected through the Shekinah during study, it is also said that Hashem (metaphorically) “sets example” for our own behaviors that we should imitate:

The day consists of twelve hours; during the first three hours the Holy One, blessed be He, is occupying Himself with the Torah.  
Avodah Zara 3b  (4)


This is a reference to the holy of holies – the highest place of connection/unification in our present reality. It is as far as you can get from worldly desires, which turn exclusively to desire between us and Him.

This refers to what the Kohen Gadol experienced when he entered the Holy of Holies … a place of captivating splendor, one could stare on and on at the glorious sights there and not tire. Yet the Kohen Gadol would pay no regard to all this for even a second, far be it, he would be instantly struck down … his attachment to worldly delights was completely obliterated. The is the experience we plead for: “Let the King bring me into His inner chamber, we shall jubilate and rejoice in You” — in You alone. 
Dubner Maggid Commentary on the Song of Songs, Rabbi David M. Zucker

The same theme is found in Sha’are Orah. Note the reference to the ‘maidservant’ as it relates to the ‘maidens’ in verses 2 and 3.

Know, that in the future, when YHVH, may He be Blessed, comes to redeem Israel, and to receive the community of Israel in His arms, He will remove all His garments and Cognomens and He will then receive the community of Israel. When He receives Israel they will unite together as One. He will turn and dress both of them in all the garments and Cognomens, and they will be like one on the inside, like one inseparable entity with all the other garments and Cognomens, hovering around them on the outside, like servants who minister to their masters. This is the essence of the verse: “And You will spread your wings on your maidservant, for You are the redeemer.” (Ruth 3:9) That is to say that whenever You spread Your wings and Your clothing upon the community of Israel, at the time of the redemption, all the princes will be hovering on the outside, and then this verse will be fulfilled: “And YHVH will be King over the whole earth and on that day YHVH will be One and His Name One. (Zechariah 14:9)
Sha’are Orah, 5th Gate (5)

The futuristic aspect of the verse relates to a major change in the fabric of reality:

The building of the Temple is the earthly manifestation of the utter banishment of Samael from the divine world above.
Midrash ha-Ne’lam al Shir Hashirim, Zohar: Pritzker Edition Vol 11

Until then, as mentioned in our Intro article on the Shekinah, there’s always this issue regarding the “conflicting objectives” of the “other side.”

The serpent, who lurks beneath the Shekinah, craving the rich nourishment of emanation.”
Zohar, Pritzker Edition, Vol 1. p.329


Why is this verse futuristic? We certainly do rejoice from time to time. In fact, we’re commanded to on the Sabbath and other days. However, all rejoicing is ‘limited’ while in the exile. The moedim (Biblical ‘holidays’) are “appointed” times reflecting the ‘disconnect.’

This aspect of past, present and future, carries with it the concept of what is appropriate at what time. We cannot fully rejoice, until the day of unification comes.

This is mentioned in the Talmud in an interesting manner:

It is forbidden to a man to fill his mouth with laughter in this world, because it says, “Then will our mouth be filled with laughter and our tongue with singing” (Psalm 126:2). When will that be? At the time when “they shall say among the nations, The Lord hath done great things with these.” (Psalm 126:3)
Berachoth 31a

The sense of “proper timing” is alluded to in the dialogue between the male and female in the text. Verses 2:7, 3:5, and 8:4, all warn “not to awaken love before its time.”

This idea of ‘separation’ is only within the exile “down here,” as ‘above’ all things are intimately connected.

R. Simeon also connected the words, ‘Also on the tenth day of this seventh month there shall be a day of atonement’ (Leviticus 23:27), with the words, ‘In the tenth day of this month’ (Exodus 12:3), used in regard to the Passover lamb; for the one ‘tenth day’ is dependent on the other.
Zohar 2:40b


As mentioned in one of our Introductory Articles, the text of Shir Hashirim, “…moves back & forth along the longing of the past, to the exile of the present, to the hope of an even better future.”

In one sense, this reference to ‘recall’ is a direct connection back to the experience at Sinai:

“We recall Your love as better than wine.” We use the term ‘recall’ to rule out the notion that we never before experienced this exalted level. We did experience it — at the time of the giving of the Torah … indeed, in regard to this event it is written (Exodus 24:11): They beheld G0d, and they ate and drank.” The simple meaning of this statement is that we imbibed the radiance of the Divine Presence as if we were partaking of the finest delicacies. We thus describe God’s love as better than wine — more delightful than all the delicacies of the world, which are represented by the term wine.
Dubner Maggid Commentary on the Song of Songs, Rabbi David M. Zucker

Verse 4 “sets up” the next verse relating to our present ‘inferior’ status due to lack of clear connection. The verse switches from the past tense to the future, reflecting the desire for the future Redemption from our present Exile.

Chasidus explains that the preparations for a revelation must foreshadow the revelation itself. Since, in the era of the redemption, the revelation of G‑dliness will find expression even in the physical world, it is fitting that our preparation for these revelations be associated with physical activities such as eating and drinking.
The Eighth Day of Pesach: The Feast of Moshiach

This ‘recalling,’ includes the promise made as to what the future holds.

Even if Israel is poor, rejected by God, humiliated and like prey to the nations after the loss of its political independence, it knows that the days of exile will come to an end. The certainty, vouched for by God, that the Sanctuary which was twice destroyed will be rebuilt is the significant pledge of God’s eternal love for His people, which always awakens in this people intense longing for God’s nearness. … The Torah identifies with Shir Hashirim. For the Torah is the pledge for the love around which the Song revolves. If the pledge is violated, the Torah itself stands before God’s Throne as an accuser.
‘Megillas Shir Ha-Shirim,’ Rav. Dr. Raphael Breuer


As mentioned, Kabbalah is the “science of correspondences.” This is particularly acute with regard to all we encounter in Shir Hashirim. Through these first four verses, there has been a continuous flow of physical elements, what they represent spiritually, and how they relate to each other.

The object of ‘recall’ in verse 4, is ‘love,’ which is (also) said to be “above wine.” Earlier, we established that this highest level is also that of ‘oil.’

The idea that we must ‘recall,’ implies something that is now ‘hidden’ from us — a ‘secret.’ This is the level of ‘kabbalah’ with regard to learning. There is also a ‘level’ beyond this, the “secret of secrets,” or “sod of sod.” What we know of this ‘hidden’ realm, we determine from the level below it.

At this point, we will deep-dive into these ideas. But first, we need the map.

A Picture is Worth a Thousand Words

Here we take an idea from Shir Hashirim and ‘align’ it with others from Torah, along a template, which reveals their connection at the deeper level.

In the footnotes to our article on the Temple, we introduced the idea of a ‘template’ consisting of the “Four Worlds of Existence” with a ‘hidden’ fifth realm of ‘pre-existence,’ and how the Temple setup is designed upon this pattern.

This “four plus one” template is the framework of reality. The chart below shows a few examples of how concepts found in Torah literature both align with the template, and ‘correspond’ with each other. This example is derived from our master Soul Chart (with over 100 rows) which is a tool we created for Torah learning.


As mentioned earlier,

“… when you have something called wine, or when you have something called oil, each of them has a spiritual source. In other words, there is something called wine spiritually and something called oil spiritually.”

Our main focus here is expanding on the concepts of the wine and oil in Shir Hashirim. For this example, we are showing seven additional components to the template. We will go row by row to explain how things in the same columns correspond to one another and how this impacts our understanding.

Shir Hashirim Song of Songs soul levels worlds of existence

ROW 1 – The four-letter Name of Yud-Hey-Vav-Hey (including the hidden ‘cusp’ of the Yud)

The foundation of the template is the most holy 4-letter name of G-d (Yud-Hey-Vav-Hey). This Name itself has a ‘hidden’ aspect, that being the idea of the ‘cusp’ hidden within the Yud – thus there are five ‘levels.’ The cusp forms when you put your pen down to write the Yud in Hebrew. You make a ‘point’ on the page before continuing to make the letter. This point then ‘vanishes’ upon completion of the Yud. The rest of the letters then follow from this.

The cusp represents the concept of “pre-existence.” This is not a ‘level’ like the four which are within existence, rather it relates to the idea of the ‘transcendent’ aspect of the Creator.

YHVH Yod Hey Vav Hey Shir Hashirim Song of Songs

The template originates from the 4-letter name, which is considered the “trunk of the tree.” Examining the physical letters themselves, gives clues to certain things:

  • Cusp of Yud: This is associated with the ‘transcendent’ aspect of the Creator which is unknowable in our present reality. It is also considered the ‘essence’ of G-d and all things that would emanate into ‘existence.’ Just as the roots of a tree are ‘hidden’ in the physical realm, the spiritual ‘roots’ of things are hidden beyond/before what are called the Four Worlds of Existence. (See Row 5.) Within the cusp nothing is separate or definable. It is ‘yachid’ – pure singularity.
  • Yud: The four letters represent alternating “masculine-feminine” dimensions. The Yod is the “upper masculine.” It is also the tiniest letter, representing the ‘point’ of the beginning of ‘existence.’ There is a distinction to be made here. Everything ‘hidden’ in the cusp (outside existence) is also hidden in the Yud (within existence).  Whereas the cusp represents ‘yachid’ (pure singularity) the letter Yud is ‘echad’ – a composite unity of definable entities. Partly for this reason, the level of the Yud relates to the “Image of G-d” found in Genesis 1:27.
  • Hey (first): This is the “upper feminine” and beginning of actual ‘Creation’ in Genesis 1. The letter hey, being ‘wide,’ represents the expansion of the singular point of the Yud. One can compare this to the “Big Bang” theory, where creation developed from the ‘explosion’ (the Hey) of a singular point (the Yud), though science cannot ‘see’ before this point (into the invisible cusp/pre-existence.)
  • Vav: The last two letters are a reflection of the first two. The vav is the “lower masculine.”  The vav represents the ladder of angels in Jacob’s dream in Genesis 28. Vav is also the number 6, which are the six sefirot of “Ze’ir Anpin,” the divine groom at this same level. (See row 7.) The vav is the image of a hook, representing the aspect of ‘connecting.’ In Shir Hashirim, this is specifically related to bringing the female (Shekinah & the people) back to the Source.
  • Hey (last): This is the lower feminine which is associated with the Shekinah, along with the people of G-d. The aspect of the ‘bride.’ The ‘Name’ being ‘One’ relates to the coming of the messianic age (Zechariah 14:9). However, at this time the shekinah/bride is in exile – a main theme of Shir Hashirim. The term ‘teshuvah’ (return) is kabbalistically understood and pronounced as “tashuv-hey” – the “return of the hey” (i.e., return of the shekinah/bride).

Yod Hey Vav Hey Name Shir Hashirim Song of Songs When the letters are placed in a vertical pattern they form the ‘image’ of a human. This also reflects the pattern of ‘descent’, and the earlier-mentioned idea of “spiritual gravity” where there is an ‘upper’ spiritual root of all things in the lower realms.

ROW 2 – Shir Hashirim 1:2-4

We now look at our verses to see how they correspond to the 4-letter name of our template. The earlier-mentioned concepts of a spiritual source to things and that of “spiritual gravity” is present in our text in terms of the descent of oil and its fragrance, from the upper worlds to the lowest (toward the ‘maidens’). We expand on this in Row 8, “Levels of Interpretation.”

  • Oil: The hidden ‘cusp’
    • We know from our text that the ‘oil’ is ‘above’ the ‘wine,’ and that the latter is associated with the level of secrets/kabbalah (See ‘wine’ below and Row 8.)
    • Oil is at the pre-existent realm of pure singularity, containing the essence of all things, including ‘opposite/opposing’ concepts. This is reflected in the ‘conflicting’ properties of oil:
      • Mix it with another liquid and oil remains apart, rising above the other.
      • Yet, while remaining separate, it also saturates through everything.
  • Wine: the Yud
    • As with oil, it is hidden. Olives and grapes are each crushed to release what is hidden inside them. Both liquids “are out of sight” and need to be extracted.
    • Wine takes you out of your ‘normal’ state of mind. The saying goes, “When wine goes in, secrets come out” (Eiruvin 65a). Metaphorically, we need to go “beyond the intellect” to investigate the mysteries of Torah.
  • Poured: the first Hey
    • In our text, the oil was ‘hidden’ at the previous level (of the Yud) which is still “outside of creation.” Only at this “third level” (the first Hey) does it manifest “within creation” in the ‘containment’ of the letter Hey. This relates to the Sefirah of Binah. (See Row 7.)
    • This third level is the Sefirah of Binah (see Row 7) which is the ‘upper mother’ aspect (Row 3) and ‘womb’ — thus the aspect of the ‘container’ for the wine.
    • Another aspect to this, is that within this template of 5, the lower 3 levels are often grouped as a ‘set.’ (These 3 are considered the worlds of ‘creation’ specifically. See Row 5.)
  • Forth: the Vav
    • The pouring of the ‘wine’ moves through the lower levels to the endpoint, corresponding to the connecting aspect of the vav.
    • This is the ‘volatile’ level, corresponding to the movement of angels in Jacob’s ladder dream. (See Row 5.)
  • The Maidens: the second Hey
    • These represent those who are separated from their Source. This can be the nations, Israel, or the individual, as discussed in our article on the Purpose of Exile.
    • Note that the fragrance they perceive originates from the oil before existence – This is the Keter-Malkhut connection mentioned in our Introduction on the Shekinah. (We will develop this further in our commentary.)

ROW 3 – Spiritual Personae (Partzufim)

The letters of the Name (and the Sefirot) relate to spiritual personae (‘partzufim,’ singular: ‘partzuf’).

  • upper masculine (the Yud, and aspect of ‘Father/Abba’)
  • upper feminine (the first Hey and aspect of ‘Mother/Imma’)
  • lower masculine (the Vav and aspects of groom, son, brother)
  • lower feminine (the last Hey and aspects of bride, daughter, sister)

The lower two are associated with the main characters in Shir Hashirim. (The male is referred to as groom, son, and brother, at various places in Shir Hashirim.)

The mystical ‘5th level’ beyond existence also has certain partzufim associated with that reflect its transcendent quality. One is Atik Yomin, which is “Ancient of Days,” alluded to in the book of Daniel (7:22). Another is Arik Anpin, which is a dimension of the former. Note the reference to the ‘nose’ of Arik Anpin in the following:

The term Atik Yomin, “the Ancient of Days,” implies absolute transcendence in relation to “the days of the world,” the normative consciousness of created reality. The word Atik in addition to “ancient” means “to copy.” It is the Divine power “to copy” a higher reality or world onto a lower. … The term Arich Anpin, “the Long Face,” derives from the Biblical phrase Erech Apaim, literally “long nose,” implying “long breath,” which implies a state of infinite patience and mercy.
Basics in Kabbalah and Chassidut: Arich Anpin, Rabbi Yitzchak Ginsburgh

The “long nose” of Arik Anpin relates back to the source of the fragrance of the oil at this level.

And the Lord God formed man of dust from the ground, and He breathed into his nostrils the soul of life, and man became a living soul.
Genesis 2:7

ROW 4 – Isaiah 43:7, Humans and the Worlds of Existence

Everyone that is called by My name, and whom I created for My glory, I formed him, yea I made him.
Isaiah 43:7

This verse connects human beings to the pattern of the spiritual worlds of existence (below) including three of the direct names; Creating/Beriah, Forming/Yetzirah and Making/Asiyah (i.e., the 3 levels within ‘Creation.’)

The clause, “by my name,” refers to the 4-letter name, beginning with the Yud (and world of Atzilut). Note that this aligns with “the Name” mentioned in Shir Hashirim, in the same column.

“Everyone that is called,” is the mystery, originating in the ‘desire’ or ‘will’ of the Creator (“ratzon Hashem”) before existence (in the ‘cusp.’) The term ratzon is active and implies ‘running with determination and resolve to do something that one wants to do. It implies a response on our part in terms of following His Torah:

The Torah’s commandments and instructions are called G-d’s Will (“ratzon Hashem”), which according to Rabbi Edel would suggest that they are a means to His ends, and not His ends in and of themselves.
“Running on Willpower: What’s in a Word?,” Ohr Somayach

Rashi associates this verse with the exile, and that which was given to prepare for it (e.g., “the oil poured forth”).

“Everyone that is called by My name, and whom I created for My glory. All the righteous, who are called by My name and everyone who was made for My glory, I formed him, yea, I made him. fixed him with all that is necessary for him, and I prepared everything.” That is to say, that although they experienced exile and trouble, I prepared for them all the necessities of their redemption.
Rashi on Isaiah 43:7

ROW 5 -The (four) Worlds of Existence

This is the series of spiritual worlds that came into existence out of ‘nothingness.’ (The transcendent ‘level’ beyond these.)

  • Atzilut – Nearness (Yud)
  • Beriah – Creation (Hey) — Note the 3 lowest levels are all part of ‘creation.’
  • Yetzirah – Formation (Vav)
  • Asiyah – Making (Hey)

These four worlds are depicted in Jacob’s ladder dream in Genesis 28. Corresponding to the four Words (directly above) from the “top-down,” Jacob saw:

  • Atzilut “YHVH above”
  • Beriah: the ‘heavens’
  • Yetzirah: the angelic realm (the ladder with angels moving up and down),
  • Asiyah: our world

Before any of this existence was pure undefinable ‘singularity.’ This is referred to as the ‘essence’ of the Creator. We cannot directly comprehend anything at this “level, which is not a level.” We can however, to varying degrees, derive things from what emanated of it. (Each world below another one, ‘explains’ something of the one above it.)

Note that everything under the Yud column relates to a level of ‘existence’ that is still ‘outside’ of actual ‘creation’.  This level, called Atzilut (meaning ‘nearness’) is the ‘interface’ between the three lower worlds of Creation and the transcendent/unknowable aspect of the Creator. (6)

When we speak of “God the Father,” we are referencing the level of Atzilut at the immanent level (which we can relate to) and not the transcendent aspect (which we cannot relate to). This is all ‘one’ G-d of course, which is the greatest of mysteries, as outlined in the Zohar. (7)

ROW 6 -Corresponding Soul Levels

As the worlds of existence depict the flow ‘down’ from Hashem to us, our “path of return” follows the same steps back to the Source of all. The same framework of; 1.) pre-existence, 2.) an interface and 3.) the three lower levels follows.

Our spiritual journey can be ‘mapped’ as an ascent through these soul levels. From the ‘bottom’ level of Nefesh and ‘ascending,’ we have:

  • Yechida: Complete unity with the Creator, source of the ‘spark’ in the Nefesh
  • Chaya: The level of collective consciousness and unity between souls
  • Neshama: The level of connection and height of personal consciousness
  • Ruach: The level of struggle. This is where we can stagnate, regress or move forward
  • Nefesh: The basic soul. containing the ‘spark’ that connects us to our Source

Generally speaking, we regularly deal with the lower 3 levels in life. The 4th is ‘attainable’ but requires close interaction with others, due to its ‘collective’ aspect. This reflects the importance of getting together for spiritual purpose – which is integral to our Shir Hashirim Project!

Recall the Talmudic statement mentioned earlier:

When two are sitting together and there are words of Torah spoken between them, the Divine Presence [Shekinah] rests with them.
Avot 3:2

ROW 7 – Sefirot: the ‘dominant’ sefirah/attribute associated with each world

Each of the worlds of Existence has the complete set of ten sefirot in it. However, each world is also associated with one particular ‘dominant’ sefirah. The exception to this being the world of Yetzirah, which relates to a group of six Sefirot called ‘Ze’ir Anpin’ (lesser countenance).

  • Atzilut – Chokmah/Wisdom
  • Beriah – Binah/Understanding
  • Yetzirah – Ze’ir Anpin/the 6 Sefirot from Chesed to Yesod
  • Asiyah – Malkhut/Kingdom-Kingship

With regard to Shir Hashirim 1:2-4 the wine is ‘hidden’ within Chokhmah, and emerges and is held in Binah:

The anointing oil of Aaron, the High Priest, alludes to the mystical dimension of the holy oil in the Celestial Regions, which have their roots in the sefira of binah.
Oil Flowing From the Heavens,

From here, it pours through the six Sefirot of Ze’ir Anpin then “down to the maidens” at Malkhut. The aspect of Ze’ir Anpin relates to following the commandments of the Torah, to establish the connection/flow from Binah to Malkhut. This alludes to the account of the River of Eden that emerges (Binah) from a hidden spring (Chokhmah) into the ‘garden.’ (8)

ROW 8 – The “levels of interpretation” in learning torah (PRDS+1)

The four levels of interpretation many are familiar with are (from “top-down” again):

  • Sod/kabbalistic
  • Drash/interpretive
  • Remez/hint
  • Peshat/basic

The first letters of these form the acronym PRDS (also called ‘pardes’) which is the concept of a ‘garden’ or ‘orchard’ of learning Torah.

As mentioned, the three lowest levels in our template usually form a group. Here, they reflect the levels of peshat, remez and drash, that remain “within the text” and the level of ‘intellect.’

The fourth level of sod/kabbalah, requires going “outside the text” and “beyond intellect,” in order to reveal the inner secrets of the Torah. (Compare this concept to Atziult being ‘outside’ of the 3 lower worlds that comprise all of Creation.) These are the deep explanations of the text that have been brought down through the generations.

There have always been ‘restrictions’ on the study of kabbalah due to this. A major principle here is being properly ‘prepared’ to receive ‘hidden’ spiritual insight. A person can remain ‘within’ the three levels of peshat, remez and drash and focus on those connections to a very ‘satisfying’ degree.

Sod/kabbalah is the level of continual searching that leads to new understanding that leads to more searching:

It’s not healthy to go outside of your vessel. It’s too early. If you go outside your vessel, you might not come back. You have to be really grounded in order to be able to go away and come back. … 

You could approach it two ways … You could either opt for that which is settled and be satisfied with a lower level of light – that which can be settled … that was the path of the non-kabbalist. The other path was, “we’re throwing caution to the wind.” I want to connect with the deepest secrets even if I won’t be able to integrate it … For 3,000 years there was tension, there was a choice. Are you going to experience, study, connect with a level you can contain … a lower level that you’re accessing? Or do you want to access something tremendously profound, but you won’t be able to bring it back with you? In other words, you won’t be able to really integrate it. It’s going to be “up there.” And you’re going to be known as one who is “out there.” … That was the choice. It’s either the other beverages that fit into the cup and make you satisfied – or wine that gets you ‘high.’ That was it. That was your choice of beverages. Until Chasidus. And now we will talk about oil, because oil is different than wine.
On The Essence of Chasidus – 12 – The Secrets of Wine & Oil, Intown Jewish Academy

Kabbalah corresponds to ‘wine,’ as a physical aspect of wine is that you get ‘inebriated’ – that is out of your ‘usual’ state of mind, and “secrets are revealed.” (We are leaving out any concepts of “good and bad” behavior here and focusing on the idea of going ‘beyond’ the ‘usual’ ways of thinking.)

Another aspect of Kabbalah is that it has its own ‘language’ compared to the other levels. This level of ‘secrets’ is ‘intoxicating’ in that it takes you out of your normal ‘settled’ state of mind. One might call it a “spiritual high” which sets into motion a desire to learn deeper and deeper concepts.


There is yet another level of understanding that is not ‘exegesis’ and goes past exploring the ‘secret’ concepts of Torah. This is the level called ‘Chasidus’ — where everything, even ‘opposites,’ exist in a realm of pure ‘singularity.’ This is where Shir Hashirim takes us.

Being at the “cusp of the Yud,” at the level of ‘essence,’ Chasidus gives understanding of how everything is present at every level.

Kabbalah is light. Chasidus is higher than light. It is essence. It is higher than the binary construct of light and darkness. It can be both light and darkness. … Chasidus is wisdom that is so essential that it is found everywhere. It is not locked away. This concept, like all matters pertaining to the inner Torah is also expressed in the revealed Torah … Oil, Chasidus, the inner Torah, is so essential, it is found, expressed within everything, even the revealed Torah. In other words, kabbalah is wisdom that’s esoteric and locked away in its own language, Chasidus will tell you something and then say, “Oh, and by the way, if you want to know, you can also find this when you open up the Talmud. You will find the same thing. You know why you will find the same thing?  Because it’s the oil and oil is found everywhere. Oil is essential truth – not one dimension of truth that is secretive. It is the essence of Truth. You will find it in esoteric language. You will find it in revealed language. You will find it in halakha.
On The Essence of Chasidus – 12 – The Secrets of Wine & Oil, Intown Jewish Academy

Understanding this returns us to the aspect of oil versus wine and the properties of each. Chasidus is likened to oil in that it ‘encompasses’ and ‘saturates’ all that is within the ‘lower’ levels but does not ‘mix’ with them (as they do between themselves).

Chasidus is compared to oil, which represents the “secret of secrets.” Oil symbolizes the distilled essence of everything. Hence it necessarily possesses the following two characteristics: On the one hand, it is in itself distinct and separate from everything (for where it to be bound to any one particular thing, it could not then be the essential aspect to every thing); yet at the same time, because it is ‘essence,’ it must also pervade and be found within everything, for the essence, by definition, exists and is found everywhere. This concept, like all matters pertaining to the Inner Torah, is also expressed in the revealed Torah, even in actual halachah (a practical law): on the one hand, oil does not mix with any liquids, and conversely, it penetrates into all matter. And thus, Chasidus is likened to oil, for it also possesses these two properties. By virtue as its nature as Essence, it does not mix with any other thing — it is the essential core of the life-force, higher than any radiation and reflection. And on the other hand, Chasidus diffuses into and permeates every single thing.
On the Essence of Chasidus, Rabbi Menachem Schneeson

An example of this level of understanding is at Purim, where we hear this peculiar statement:

One must become so intoxicated on Purim that they cannot distinguish between “cursed be Haman” and “blessed be Mordechai.”
Megillah 7b

This seems like a bizarre instruction, and there are some who take it quite literally. The real meaning behind this requires going beneath the surface.

The drinking relates to wine, which is the level of kabbalah, which is the level of echad – unity within existence. The word for ‘intoxicated’ (or ‘drunk’) in tractate Megillah is “livsumei” – which means ‘fragrance.’ (Our connection to the verse in Shir Hashirim.)

Now substitute terms in the statement from the Megillah and you get:

“One must reach a higher state of kabbalistic and chassidic understanding at Purim, to see that there is no difference between Haman and Mordechai “from Hashem’s perspective,” in that that both were sent by Him for the same purpose based on His hidden will.”

The books of Esther (the Purim story) and Shir Hashirim have much in common. We will explain more as we go further into our commentary.


(1) Regarding Isaiah 11 and the messiah, see: The Jewish Messiah: Who Is The Messiah In Judaism? from Aish HaTorah.

(2) The Zohar offers an interesting story related to the mystical sense of smell:

Once, when R. Isaac and R. Judah were on a journey, they came to a place called Kfar Sachnin, where Rab Hamnuna the Elder used to live. They put up at the house of his wife. She had a young son who was still at school, and when he came from school and saw the strangers his mother said to him: Go up to these distinguished gentlemen that you may obtain a blessing from them. He began to approach, but suddenly turned back, saying to his mother: I don’t want to go near them, because they have not recited the Shema this day, and I have been taught that if one does not recite the Shema at the proper time, he is under a ban the whole of that day. When the others heard him they were amazed, and they lifted up their hands and blessed him. They said: Indeed this is so; to-day we were busy looking after an engaged couple who had no means of their own and were therefore delaying their marriage. There was no one to provide for them, so we did so, and so omitted to say the Shema at the proper time, since if a man is engaged on one mizvah (religious precept) he is exempt from performing another (which might interfere with it). They then asked him how he knew. He replied: I knew by the smell of your clothes when I came near you.
Zohar 3:186a

(3) One name, ‘Ehyeh’ (from “Ehyeh Asher Ehyeh,” in Exodus 3:14) is associated with the ‘unknowable,’ transcendent aspect of G-d prior to anything ‘else’ existing. The preeminent text for study of the names of the Creator and their association with His emanations (Sefirot) is Sha’are Orah (Gates of Light) by Rabbi Yosef Gikatilla (13th century).

(4) For other examples and discussion of Hashem performing mitzvot, see

(5) Sha’are Orah uses ‘cognomen’ for terms in the Tanakh that are associated with G-d. The various names of G-d have their own. For instance, YHVH has Nora (awesome), Noseh Avan (remover of sin). Cognomens for El are Gadol (great), Rachum (merciful), Chanun (pardoning).  For Elohim, they include terms like Adir (mighty), Shofet (judge).

(6) For a deep dive into this subject see:  Ayin Beis: Existence Unplugged Chapter 8: Atzilus Interface

(7) Zohar 2:161 a-b

(8) “… the second chapter of Genesis is the “chronicle” of creation, fleshing out in detail the original story sketched out in chapter one. Perhaps the narrative of the river flowing from Eden to irrigate the garden may be viewed as a metaphor for the cosmology of the universe. Indeed, as discussed above, Eden as the point-like wellspring feeding the river on a literal level and as point-like Chokhmah feeding the seminal idea to Binah on a mystical level is very much like the initial singularity that is the origin point of our universe. Just as Binah develops and expands the seminal idea it receives from Chokhmah, the river (which, in Kabbalah, represents Binah) flowing from Eden expands and widens as it gets further from its source, the wellspring. This river lends itself as a metaphor for the expanding universe. Finally, the only habitable location in this story is the garden which, in fact, was inhabited by the first humans, Adam and Eve. This garden may be viewed as a metaphor for our planet Earth—the only celestial body inhabited by humans. This parallel is even starker in the Kabbalah, where both the garden and the planet Earth are the physical embodiments of the sefirah of Malchut.” … This verse positions Eden as the wellspring feeding the river that waters the garden. In the esoteric teachings of Kabbalah, the wellspring-river metaphor is used to illustrate the relationship between the two sefirot Chokhmah and Binah. In this analogy, the spring is a metaphor for the sefirah of Chokhmah, because it is the source of water, just as Chokhmah is the source of wisdom. Furthermore, a wellspring is a pointlike opening, just as Chokhmah is traditionally depicted as a dot—the seminal flash of inspiration. Indeed, yud, which is essentially a dot and is the first letter of the four-letter ineffable name of G‑d, the Tetragrammaton, is identified with Chokhmah. The river, on the other hand, serves as the metaphor for the sefirah of Binah. Fed by a pointlike wellspring, the river expands in all directions, in that the river has a depth, a width, and a length. Similarly, Binah takes the initial idea from Chokhmah and deliberates, explores, and fleshes it out in all directions. Thus, the second letter of the Tetragrammaton—heh, which is graphically an expansion of the letter yud in two directions—is identified with Binah. Thus, in Kabbalah, on a mystical level, Eden and the river flowing from it represent Chokhmah and Binah, respectively. We see, therefore, that both on a literal level—as the wellspring feeding the river—and on a mystical level—as a metaphor for Chokhmah that inspires and feeds Binah—Eden represents a pointlike concept: a singularity.
Quantum Torah: Singularity and Paradise, Alexander Poltorak

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HELPFUL KEYWORDS TO SEARCH WITH FOR THIS SECTION: fragrance, oil, wine, chambers, maidens, king, pouring, temple, holy of holies, drawing, recalling, exile, smell, mashiach, messiah, worlds of existence, soul levels, Purim, Esther, chasidus, kabbalah, light, hidden, secret, YHVH, four-letter name, connection, sefirot, feminine, masculine

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