Song of Songs (Totality of Torah) (Kabbalah & Aesthetic Judaism)


(E.M. Lilien, E.M. “Das Stille Lied”, from Das Buch Juda: Gesaenge by Börries Freiherr von Münchhausen)

What’s more important, law or poetry? I used to think that Torah is law. And I used to think you were supposed to think that Torah constitutes the nutshell of the cosmos, containing all things therein. Except that the essence of the essence is the Song of Songs. The Song of Songs is “the holy of holies.” I already knew that as  Rabbi Akiva’s dictum in the Talmud. What I did not quite understand is that it is the Song of Songs that is supposed to represent the “totality of the whole Torah, totality of the whole work of Creation,” and everything else that matters; the exile in Egypt, the redemption of Israel, the resurrection of the dead,  etc., etc. According to the Zohar, “Whatever was, whatever is, and whatever will be…is all in the Song of Songs.” I don’t think they meant by this an “allegory.” (Zohar 2:144a)

About zjb

Zachary Braiterman is Professor of Religion in the Department of Religion at Syracuse University. His specialization is modern Jewish thought and philosophical aesthetics.
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1 Response to Song of Songs (Totality of Torah) (Kabbalah & Aesthetic Judaism)

  1. evanstonjew says:

    Question: why did the Zionist movement embrace the fin de siecle Jugendstil aesthetics of Lilien but didn’t follow through when new artistic styles replaced the art-nouveau style. Was there something about these erotic curves that was a more natural fit with Labor Zionism than the more angular modernisms of the 20’s and 30’s?

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