Song of Songs: Shir Ha-Shirim: The Traditional Hebrew Text with the New JPS Translation

Song of Songs: Shir Ha-Shirim: The Traditional Hebrew Text with the New JPS Translation

Song of Songs: Shir Ha-Shirim: The Traditional Hebrew Text with the New JPS Translation

Song of Songs: Shir Ha-Shirim: The Traditional Hebrew Text with the New JPS Translation


Song of Songs is a wondrous collection of love lyrics nestled in the heart of the Hebrew Bible--songs of passion and praise between a young maiden and her beloved. It is religious lyric par excellence. But what is its true meaning? Is it an expression of human love and passion, pure and simple? A celebration of the covenant between God and Israel? Or something else?
The latest volume in the Jewish Publication Society's highly acclaimed Bible Commentary series, Song of Songs provides a line-by-line commentary of the original Hebrew Bible text, complete with vocalization and cantillation marks, alongside the JPS English translation. Unique to this volume are four layers of commentary: the traditional PaRDeS of peshat (literal meaning), derash (midrashic and religious-traditional sense), remez (allegorical level), and sod (mystical and spiritual intimations). Michael Fishbane skillfully draws from them all to reveal the extraordinary range of interpretations and ideas perceived in this beloved biblical book. A comprehensive introduction, extensive endnotes, a full bibliography (traditional and modern), and additional explanatory materials are included to enhance the reader's appreciation of the work.
This original, comprehensive commentary on the Song of Songs interprets historical, critical, and traditional sources drawn from the ancient Near East, the entire spectrum of Jewish sources and commentaries, and modern critical studies.


The Song of Songs has been my intellectual and spiritual love for decades, its rhythms entering my soul and its images forging deep figures of beauty. (It is a song of love and longing—expressed in poetic dialogues; it is also a song of rupture and loss—expressed in searches within and without.) Yet my love of the Song is a young love compared to all those who have studied and interpreted the work for millennia. The ones who came before me have been my teachers and partners in private conversation, as I experienced the many ways this work has been understood and transformed by every sensibility of the Jewish soul: plain-sense, midrash, poetry, philosophy, and mysticism. The present work has tried to capture this great bounty via three main forms: the introduction (which presents the work and its creative regenerations in great detail over the centuries), the running commentary (which is built around all the forms of creativity that have emerged over the generations), and the excursus (which annotates the history of interpretation in its great depth and variety).

The introduction presents the nature of the Song of Songs and its interpretation in a linear and historical fashion. The story begins in antiquity and continues unabated into the twenty-first century. In the telling, the introduction presents the reader with many of the features that make the Song such a beautiful and powerful poetic work. It unpacks the various levels of interpretation that have rendered the Song a multivocal song of love over the millennia. The unfolding of these levels is grounded in tableaux of concrete human love (between female and male, reciprocally)—and its ongoing desire for fulfillment. In turn, this very concreteness has sponsored a spectrum of spiritual emotions (of humans for God—and God for humans), expressing many religious valences and values. Like a “rose of Sharon,” the Song blossoms in delicacy and diversity.

Unlike the introduction, the commentary is arranged in an iterative and synchronous fashion. Its format allows it to operate on four levels at once. That is, each literary unit receives four levels of interpretation, in a consistently repeating sequence. The reader is invited to actively engage the discussions, verse by verse, allowing the text’s plain sense to interact with other levels of meaning. For each of those levels, the full range of historical materials has been taken into account. Because those sources are sometimes arcane and complex, I have reformulated their content in contemporary terms so that the comments may address the reader in a clear and direct way.

As I surveyed and studied the works on the Song through the ages, one aspect stood out: when the comments were written by engaged authors, they intended the Song to instruct readers both intellectually and spiritually. Commentators drew from . . .

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