Last updated 4.3.24

Let’s review the flow of the first four verses:

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

The previous verses (2-4) were spoken by the feminine character, and “set up” these next three. They are her final ones before the masculine entity responds in verse 8. The female’s focus has been on the male and their relationship — with its past, present and future spoken of in a unified way. This continues, as she addresses the current deficient status of their connection.

Two new parties indirectly enter into the conversation (in addition to the ‘maidens’ of verse 3); the “daughters of Jerusalem,” and “her mother’s sons.”

5. I am black but comely, O daughters of Jerusalem! Like the tents of Kedar, like the curtains of Solomon.

6. Do not look upon me [disdainfully] because I am swarthy, for the sun has gazed upon me; my mother’s sons were incensed against me; they made me a keeper of the vineyards; my own vineyard I did not keep

7. Do not look upon me [disdainfully] because I am swarthy, for the sun has gazed upon me; my mother’s sons were incensed against me; they made me a keeper of the vineyards; my own vineyard I did not keep

Tzimtzum?

This is a process of universal “Tzimtzum” (constriction). Every spiritual advancement (personal or communal) is preceded by some Tzimtzum. Have you noticed more people, including ‘celebrities,’ podcast hosts, etc., making spiritual comments, asking questions, etc.?
Thus, we find verses speaking of unprecedented darkness at the end of the age, and others speaking of unique opportunities to ‘connect’ to higher realms, at the same time. (i.e., Daniel 12:4)
It is important to understand that a spiritual ‘status quo’ is not enough. Even “giving more time” to what you’ve done before won’t align with #3 above. You have to leave your comfort zones — physical, emotional, intellectual and spiritual.
Negative prophecies” are all subject to diminishment or complete annulment by way of repentance and teshuva. (i.e., Ninevah) We should always be focused on this as we learn and connect.

I am black but comely, O daughters of Jerusalem! Like the tents of Kedar, like the curtains of Solomon.

 

As discussed in our Holy of Holies background article:

Song of Songs will also stretch our own imagination in new ways. It is a text where opposites exist ‘together’ and must be resolved. This includes verses simultaneously having “positive and negative” connotations, that span and intermingle past “good times,” a present exile & process of rectification, and future redemption.

Black but comely

As with much in the text, the terms ‘black’ and ‘comely’ are metaphors. What we can determine from the peshat (plain meaning), is that they are ‘opposites’ in some way.

The negative is expressed first (showing a level of humility). This is followed by the word ‘but,’ which is assumed grammatically. This introduces something that is at least partially obscured. The feminine speaker indicates that both of these states exist within her.

In this case, we can find interesting connections by looking at the root of these terms.

‘Black’ comes from Shachar (שָׁחַר) which relates to the darkness of night/early dawn (Isaiah 26:9) and the act of “looking early or diligently” for something (Proverbs 8:17).

‘Comely’ is derived from Naveh (נָוֶה) which has the meaning of a habitation (Exodus 15:13, Proverbs 21:20) especially an abode of a shepherd or sheep (2Samuel 7:8, 1Chronciles 17:7).

This is fascinating with regard to the previous and next verses, which respectively relate to the female of the text “seeking” in verse 4, and the male in verse 7 replying with a reference to the abode of the flocks.

Light and shadow are spread over Israel’s life and history. Often the shadow exceeds the light, but always a ray of light of inalienable belonging breaks out of the dark clouds of alienation from God. My deeds and lack thereof are covered in the dark of night, but the works of my forefathers shine with the brightness of daylight. Aware of my own insignificance, I am inferior and rejected in my own sight, but God does not abandon his devoted people.
If the Egyptian oppression darkened the light within me, the light broke out in double brightness on the day of my resurgence. The people that had sunk into despair and rebellion on one side of the seashore, covered on the opposite side, in bursting out into the lofty sounds and heavenly notes of the song at the sea. The people that had rebelled against God at Marah were granted there the miracle of the piece of wood that sweetened the water, by God‘s word, and his instruction. So too, at Refedim. There too, the darkness of perplexity and confusion was clarified and transformed into a profound and majestic act when Moshe built an altar, which he called Hashem is my banner.
At Chorev, the people stumbled in straying after the golden calf, and at Chorev that same people took an oath in saying ‘All Hashem has spoken, we will do. In the wilderness, which saw the people stumble from betrayal to betrayal, the tent was erected for God‘s dwelling place. The black shadow cast over Jewish history by the faint heartedness of the spies, was erased by the light of the firm trust in God of Yehoshua and Kalev. The immorality at Shittim, which kindled God‘s anger was a tone for by the action taken by Pinchas, who did justice and wrought judgment. The thick black cloud that spread over Israel, as a result of a betrayal, was stopped by Yehoshua, who brought him to submit to God‘s will. In the history of Israel’s kings as well, light and darkness, interchange. How dark is the image Achav! Yet how bright is the light that envelops him in the moment that he breaks down under the weight of his guilt, mournful and full of remorse! And how the brightness of the tribes of Yehuda and Binyamin stands out against the dark background of the kingdom of the ten tribes!
Megillas Shir Hashirim, Rav Samson Raphael Hirsch
Something that is purely external can always be removed. The history of the Jewish people attests to this, for whenever the people were remorseful and sought to return to God, they were always received with mercy.

The female appeals to the male, stating she is ‘black’ but ‘comely,’ as if to say, not to overlook the good in her, because of her flaws. The response this draws from the male will seem a bit harsh, but that is required.

In the text of Shir Hashirim the Shekinah is ‘rebuked’ along with the people. As she is connected to both Hashem and the people, she also has the role of passing along chastisement from above.

The following text, presented as a dialogue between the people and the Shekinah, relates to that.

The People: Maybe you (the Shekinah) can see only the destruction we have caused; don’t you see the good our generation has done?

The Shekinah: Why take credit for mitzvoth when that was what you were created to do? You perform a few positive mitzvah and continue to overlook so many. You shy away from the responsibility you have been given to change the world and fix yourself. Then you look to heaven for all of your materialistic desires and wonder why they are not fulfilled. Are you blinded by your physical body to such an extent that you cannot see Who it is that created you and for what Divine purpose you have been brought here for? Are you waiting until your soul feels so empty from your unworthy pursuits that suddenly you will be filled with repentance? Of course every good mitzvah you perform is seen and appreciated, but so are your sins noticed. There are many, and it makes little sense that someone who has been blessed with such a holy Jewish such as you continues to purposely push yourself further away from the truth.
Tikkun Shekinah, Rabbi Moshe Steinerman

Darkness vs light (darkness contains the light? … Binah= darkness-light)

Examples from pp 11-13 Hirsch

  • Egypt
  • Marah
  • Chorev
  • Wilderness
  • Kings good and bad and internal change too
  • Our week contains
  • weekdays and Shabbat

External vs internal

Daughters of Jerusalem

The maidens, daughters and sons of verses 3 to 6, all relate to the people and their relationship to the Shekinah. Even among those concerned with Torah, there is the matter of kavanah (intention). Is it purely for Hashem or for personal gain in any way? The latter is associated with the idea of an ‘unclean’ maidservant:

However, a person must use all the necessary means in focusing his or her intention to come to the stage of practicing Torah for its own sake. If this effort is not made, then the person will not come to the stage of practicing Torah for its own sake, but will fall straight into the trap of the unclean maidservant, who is the opposite number to the maidservant of the side of holiness. The purpose of the unclean maid servant is to confuse a person, so the work of Torah that is practiced, not for its own sake, will never lead them to Torah that is practiced for its own sake about this made servant it is said. And the maid servant will disinherit her Mistress” (Proverbs 30:23). She will not allow the person to get close to the Mistress. The Holy Shekinah.
In the Shadow of the Ladder, Introductions to Kabbalah by Rabbi Yehudah Ashlag

Tents of Kedar, curtains of Solomon

As from the moment she was emanated from Her source, it is incumbent that the maximum perfection that will be attained at the very end will be within her nature, but it has been said to her from above, “go and diminish yourself, up to the moment she will return to her original place by her elevation in accordance to her deeps. However, it is not the case that Her creation has been diminished from the very beginning and Her ascent will be greater afterwards, becaue, “there is nothing new under the sun.” However, the order is inverse, as She is in her great power since She was emanated, and then it will diminish, until She will return to Her strength. In any case, “the end of the action is found in the first thought,” and this is the reason why the perfection of the human has been established first, and afterward comes its diminution, in order to return to the degrees upon which he descended, to elevate to his perfection that has been embedded in his nature from the very beginning.
Da’at Tevunot, Rabbi Moshe CHaim Luzatto

1:6 Do not look upon me [disdainfully] because I am swarthy, for the sun has gazed upon me; my mother’s sons were incensed against me; they made me a keeper of the vineyards; my own vineyard I did not keep

We encounter another verse with multiple concepts in it. After expressing her love and desire in the previous verses, the female presents an appeal to the male figure, based upon her ‘complex’ condition. She introduces a new entity, the “mother’s sons,” a reference to the people of Israel. She indicates some behavior on their part, has contributed to her own ‘negative’ situation.

Do not look upon me [disdainfully] because I am swarthy

A new group – presented in a negative light

Vineyard (Purim reference – also find Vine of Sodom on CD)

Idel book  138-141

For the sun has gazed upon me;

My mother’s sons were incensed against me;

They made me a keeper of the vineyards; my own vineyard I did not keep

O God of Hosts, return now; look from heaven and see, and be mindful of this vine
Psalm 80:15

Deuteronomy reveals there is a foreign vine that Israel had attached itself to.

For their vine is of the vine of Sodom, and of the fields of Gomorrah; their grapes are grapes of gall, their clusters are bitter.
Deuteronomy 32:32

This is expounded upon in the Zohar (citing the above verse) which sttes

There are two kinds of vine. There is the holy celestial vine, and there is the vine which is called the vine of Sodom, the strange vine; “therefore Israel is called “this vine.” And when Israel sinned and abandoned “this vine”, then it was said of them: “For from the vine of Sodom is their vine.”
Zohar 1:238b

1:7 Tell me, you whom my soul loves, where do you feed, where do you rest [the flocks] at noon, for why should I be like one who veils herself beside the flocks of your companions?

 

Shekinah: My child why did you draw close to me only to later forget my existence?
The People: I didn’t purposely stop my devotion to Hashem and the temple. My situation changed I saw no response to my cries and so I decided to devote myself to other things.
Shekinah: What? Is this enough reason to turn your back on the wounded? That you saw no healing for your efforts? Is this a reason to stop giving support I ask you did you really care to begin with?
The People: Maybe not enough. I certainly wanted to be there for you and understand your pain. I wanted the Geula (redemption) and your happiness. I wanted you to reunite with Keter.
Shekinah: You drew close to me, and then turned away. This caused me even more pain.
The People: I didn’t mean to make things worse. Please recall all the nights I cried for you and begged Hashem to take us all home.
Shekinah: I do remember. That is why I watch over you every day, and it pains me when you drift further, and further from Hashem.
The People: You were there? Why didn’t I feel you?
Shekinah: I hid myself. It was important that you returned to me first and now you have. If you will once again care for me I will be with you in a revealed state.
Tikkun Shekinah, Rabbi Moshe Steinerman

The subject of ‘free will’ enters here, as ‘choice’ is presented to her throughout the text, all the while the promise (based on the Torah) makes clear what awaits in the future.

Everything is foreseen, yet freedom of choice is given. The world is judged with goodness, and everything is according to the preponderance of action.
Pirkei Avot 3:15


This is a “collective commentary” that anyone can contribute citations and ideas to.  See our Home Page for contact info.

HELPFUL KEYWORDS TO SEARCH WITH FOR THIS SECTION: fr


Return to Index of Chapter 1 Verses

Return to the Shir Hashirim Home Page

Contact Us

We're not around right now. But you can send us an email and we'll get back to you, asap.

Not readable? Change text. captcha txt

Start typing and press Enter to search