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SONG OF SONGS: CHAPTER TWO (completion of Song One)

A tale that ventures into the untamed love of the soul, where even the whispers of the heart are powerful enough to shape destinies. * Inspired by the rich spiritual symbolism of the commentary of Malbim.

by Rabbi Boruch Merkur

Beneath the expansive branches of cypresses, enveloped in an intangible sanctuary, the two lovers come to a deeper understanding. They realize that their love is both haven and responsibility—a blessing they are given to channel outward. As if a mirror to their souls, the landscape transforms into an extension of their emotional and spiritual states.


Now, she speaks:


"I am a rose of Sharon, a lily of the valleys."


In uttering these words, she acknowledges her dual nature. Like a rose of Sharon, she blooms most vividly when basked in the light of the sun, opening her petals to drink in the light. This is when she feels her beauty is most evident, under the radiant gaze of her Beloved, who shines like the sun over Sharon's plains. Yet, she also knows the depth of valleys, those hidden places shrouded in shadows. There, her fragrance—imbued with wisdom, morality, and grace—is felt, seeping into the hearts of those who pass near. It is as though she's saying, "I am both—visible beauty and inner essence, open fields and hidden depths."


She becomes aware that she has an innate need to expand her being in two dimensions. In the light, she opens up like a rose to embrace the fullness of spiritual illumination. In doing so, she becomes a vessel, a conduit of that light, embodying it in her beauty and grace. In the darkness or the 'valleys', she draws inward, taking the spiritual sustenance she has absorbed to then emanate a different kind of light—an aroma, a subtle essence of goodness and wisdom that nurtures the soul.


He listens to her words and finds himself reflecting upon his own dual nature. He too understands that he is part of this vast schema—a part of a two-way flow of divine and earthly love. When in the light, he reflects it; when in the shadow, he seeks to channel it inward to nurture his inner world.


Thus, she illustrates that her love is as multifaceted as she is. In the grand plains and the hidden valleys of their relationship, she can be both a rose and a lily—each requiring different conditions to thrive, yet both contributing to the landscape of their love. Through her words, they both grasp a newfound awareness: that their love, like them, must have its times of glowing visibility and its periods of quiet, unseen growth—each one equally essential in nurturing and sustaining the spiritual architecture of their relationship.


In a lush garden teeming with life, one flower stands out: a single lily, delicate yet resilient, surrounded by thorns. She does not blend in with her spiky neighbors; she stands taller, luminous amidst the green and brown. To look upon her is to be instantly captivated, for in her presence, all else fades to the background. "Like a lily among thorns, so is my darling among the maidens," the Beloved observes.


This observation, however, holds more weight than mere admiration. The Beloved understands the precarious situation of the lily—how it grows on a tree laden with thorns, each one a potential hazard that could pierce and mar its beauty. Yet, the lily rises above them, untangled and untouched.


Similarly, the maiden finds herself among the daughters of Jerusalem—individuals who, despite their own allure, are not her equal in spiritual depth. There is a real danger that she might be swayed or compromised by these surrounding influences. Yet, her inner sanctity elevates her, sets her apart. She knows that to mingle too closely with that which does not share her essence is to risk her own integrity.


Here, we are compelled to think of our own souls, often likened to this exquisite lily. Our environment is fraught with material pursuits and superficial temptations—thorns, in a metaphorical sense. These worldly forces, so contrary to the nature of the soul, threaten to puncture and diminish its intrinsic holiness. It's a delicate balance; one must navigate through life without letting the piercing thorns of materialism compromise the soul's sacred beauty.


In a way, the lily's environment is a mirror to our own existence, where the spiritual and the material cohabit. The challenge, then, is for the soul to rise above, to remain untangled from the complexities that threaten to bring it down. And in doing so, just like the lily, it captures the gaze and the heart of the one who cherishes it above all else.


The maiden finds herself amidst a forest, a forest of towering trees, their branches intertwined in a complex network. Each tree is like a person she has met, some tall and imposing, others short and gnarled. They have their own wisdom, their own shade, and their own fruits. Yet, among them, there is one that catches her eye, one unlike the rest.


"Like an apple tree among trees of the forest, so is my Beloved among the youths," she thinks to herself. Indeed, the apple tree stands distinct. Its height may not rival that of the surrounding oaks and pines, but its presence is unmistakable. Two things make it so: its unique aroma and its succulent fruit.


"I delight to sit in his shade, and his fruit is sweet to my mouth," she muses, settling beneath the tree. In her mind, the shade is the wisdom and protection that her Beloved provides. The apple tree’s branches may not be as robust as those of the surrounding trees, yet they offer a comforting shade, a respite from the harsh sunlight, the relentless scrutiny of the world.


And then there's the fruit—apples that bring sweetness to her life. The very apples seem to be a manifestation of love, a love that, though sometimes concealed by the towering entities of the world—the complexities, the traditions, the societal norms—remains as sweet as ever. She tastes one and finds it exactly as she knew it would be: perfect in its sweetness, unique in its flavor, filling her with a sense of wholeness.


The apple tree stands as an allegory for a different kind of governance, a different kind of power in the universe. Around it, nature and its laws, celestial bodies and their grand mechanics, all strive for attention. And yet, in its modesty, the apple tree offers something they cannot: a depth that goes beyond apparent complexities, a simplicity that holds within it the very essence of life. For the maiden, this tree, her Beloved, eclipses all others. His influence may appear subtle, often obscured by the grandeur and laws of nature, yet its essence touches the core of her being.


This realization isn't confined to her alone; it reflects a broader, cosmic interplay. Sometimes the natural world dominates, asserting its force, rendering the divine obscured and hidden. But when souls manage to govern their smaller worlds—their own lives—with wisdom and free choice, the grandeur of the natural world yields to a higher intellect, revealing the hidden governance of the divine.


In this delicate balance, she finds herself enamored with the subtlety and the assurance that her Beloved offers. Whether cloaked in the overshadowing influences of the world around her or basking in the palpable intimacy of his guidance, his "fruit" remains—sweet to her taste, fulfilling in its love, a constant in a world of variables.


So she sits, under the shade of her Beloved, tasting the sweetness of his love, acknowledging the profound yet simple wisdom that surrounds her. In this singular moment, with the taste of the apple still lingering on her lips, she understands that the profound love and intricate governance of her Beloved are not opposing forces, but rather complementary facets of a singular divine affection.


"He brought me to the banquet room," the woman whispers to herself, still feeling the echo of his touch. It was a secluded spot where the wine was not just wine, but symbolic of an intoxicating, divine joy. The room was a sanctuary, an enclave that seemed removed from the world, yet deeply embedded within it. Her Beloved led her there, his eyes never leaving hers, drawing her inward. The banquet room was not just a place of food and drink, but a space that signaled a higher, divine sustenance.


The ambiance was the din of prophecy, eachoing even in the sweetness of the grapes and the ripeness of the moment. It offered her the ethereal feeling of being alive in the company of the Divine, manifest through Beloved's presence.


"And his banner of love was over me," she continues, almost in awe. This banner was not a piece of cloth hoisted on a pole but an invisible emblem radiating from Beloved. It was love, pure and transcendent, that soared over her, enfolding her in a protective, liberating embrace. The experience of such love was an initiation, a prelude to something even more profound.


In this House of Wine, the very atmosphere bears witness to their union, and like a flag unfurled, the banner of love is raised over them. The Shepherd has placed this emblem above her not merely as a claim but as a signal, a proclamation to all the realms that she is the object of an extraordinary affection. The banner serves as an overarching protection and an internal compass, anchoring her in her newfound spiritual alignment.


Love, she realizes, is the Shepherd's flag. And in this realization, she comprehends the unfolding sequence of intimacy. It is love that has drawn her into this divine assembly. Love precedes even the kiss, the most intimate of connections, and it is also the precursor to partaking of the extraordinary wisdom represented by the wine in this sanctuary. This love secures her, binds her soul to his, making her receptive to the cosmic truths she is about to imbibe.


As she stands there, under the banner of love, in the heart of the House of Wine, she senses that there are two kinds of wine. One is earthly, catering to mundane joys, while the other is heavenly, the elixir of divine wisdom. The latter is what fills the cups in this banquet room. This wisdom-infused love elevates her, readying her soul for deeper union and revelation. It was love that led her here, and it is love that will sustain her as she embarks on this sacred journey toward ever-deepening spiritual communion.


In the wake of her journey through the sanctuary of love and divine sustenance, she finds herself on the cusp of exhaustion. This depletion is unlike any she has known; it is a languishing born from the intensity of love. Her very soul yearns for sustenance, a longing deeper than the marrow of her bones.


"Sustain me with raisin cakes, refresh me with apples, for I am faint with love," she murmurs, a plea reverberating not only in the banquet room but throughout her entire being.


The nourishment the cakes provide allow the maiden to hold on to the ecstatic visions and spiritual highs that have so profoundly moved her. Likewise, the fragrance of the apples holds the promise of wisdom gained through inquiry and contemplation.


As she utters her plea, she realizes that this wisdom, manifested through understanding and investigation, forms a secondary but crucial support system. Initially, the prophetic experience is her primary sustenance; afterward, the insights from pondering the divine deepen her connection and give her stability.


Her entire being—body, soul, and spirit—is overwhelmed with a love so intense, it leaves her faint. This is a love not of whimsy but of profound attachment. Her soul cleaves to her Beloved with an ardor that can be likened only to the most intense forms of human affection. Yet this is not mere human love; it is an adoration that seeks to unify the mortal and the divine. It's as if her spirit is tethered to a form of love so monumental that it leaves her drained, in need of divine sustenance to carry on.


In this moment, she understands that the path she's embarked upon demands not only emotional and spiritual fuel but also intellectual sustenance. Through the divine wisdom granted to wise men of old, she grasps that her love for the Shepherd and her desire to fathom the depths of the Divine can coexist.


As she utters her plea, the atmosphere shifts subtly. It seems as though the banquet room itself, this House of Wine, is responsive to her needs. She senses a surge of nourishment, as if the walls were providing nourishment and the air were imbued with the fragrance of apples. Each element offers her a layer of sustenance, one for her spirit's yearning for prophecy, and another for her mind's thirst for wisdom.


There, under the banner of love, in the heart of this House of Wine, she knows that she will find the sustenance her soul craves, in forms both direct and nuanced. It’s not just a need but an unfolding sequence, a layered nourishment that recognizes the complexity of her love and the multidimensional nature of her spiritual journey. This realization doesn't alleviate her exhaustion entirely, but it enriches her understanding, making her willing, even eager, to continue her journey toward deeper spiritual communion.


It's as if her soul has detached itself from worldly entanglements, gripped by love and yearning for her Beloved. In this state, she can only rely on the distilled wisdom and the spiritual pursuits that give her a semblance of stability. Her essence clings to these forms of support like a patient clinging to life, absorbing Divine mysteries and tracing the outlines of heavenly wisdom through the pathways of human understanding.


As her thoughts unfurl like the petals of the flowers surrounding her, she becomes aware of a comforting presence. It's as if an ethereal embrace envelops her from behind: "His left hand was under my head; His right arm embraced me."


In this tender moment, the left hand beneath her head signifies what she gains through her own mental faculties and understanding. It provides the groundwork, a bed upon which her head—her intellect—may rest. Yet, it's the right arm, the embrace, that symbolizes the sublime, the miraculous—those Divine truths apprehended not by human effort but by grace, by a love so profound it defies explanation.


In the grand scheme, the right arm of miraculous understanding will be her mainstay, embracing her with an irrevocable love. Meanwhile, the left hand of intellectual achievement serves as a sort of foundation, yet one that is placed "under the head," subtly secondary to the overwhelming grace and love that surround her.


In this mysterious union, the Spirit finds equilibrium between what can be understood and what can only be experienced. The invisible currents of the meadow seem to hum in harmony with her newfound state: a balance of human understanding and Divine revelation, both embracing her in a love so fervent that it burns away all else.


In a moment of stillness, the maiden stands surrounded by the gazelles and hinds of the open field. Her heart beats in sync with the pulse of the earth beneath her feet, and she senses the natural forces that animate her world. The Maidens of Jerusalem, embodiments of her earthly desires and concerns, watch her from a distance.


"I adjure you, O maidens of Jerusalem," she calls out to them, her voice carried by the wind, "by gazelles or by hinds of the field, do not wake or rouse love until it pleases."


As her words resonate in the air, she is cautioning these physical elements within herself and the world around her. This love, an all-encompassing union with her Beloved, isn't to be trivialized or forced. It should neither be distanced nor drawn close by the whims of external circumstances, but only come into full bloom when it naturally desires to. She pledges her promise to the hinds and gazelles that roam freely in the fields, as if they are the witnesses to this sacred commitment; they are the manifestations of natural vitality that should neither hasten nor hinder the course of true love.


At a deeper, spiritual level, the woman is addressing not just physical yearnings but also the more complex facets of her soul. She warns her corporeal inclinations not to awaken a love that isn't pure, one that's driven by material desires or superficial lust. Only a love that emanates from a soul seeking union with Divine spirit is worthy of arousal. Here, she is momentarily outside the city, in a metaphorical wilderness, where her soul has expanded beyond bodily needs and limitations. She's connected to a higher intellect, isolated from these earthly forces.


The natural elements, exemplified by the gazelles and hinds, run through the channels of her being—much like the blood coursing through her veins—keeping her physically alive but not to disrupt the sanctity of a spiritual love. In this isolation, she is adjuring them to respect the sanctity and timing of this love, for it is not just a commitment between two entities, but rather between her soul and the eternal spirit it seeks.


As she stands there, the first song of her soul seems to reach a harmonious conclusion. This marks a significant chapter in her lifelong search for Divine union, a journey that is to be neither rushed nor delayed but should proceed at the pace set by the heart and soul in their quest for the ultimate Beloved.

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