Chapter 11 Father’s Child: Fatherhood in the Rabbinic Parables of Song of Songs Rabbah

In: The Power of Parables
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Tamar Kadari
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This article seeks to examine the relationship between father and son as reflected in rabbinic parables. It focuses on midrash Song of Songs Rabbah, an aggadic midrash from the land of Israel redacted at the end of the sixth or the beginning of the seventh century CE. Song of Songs Rabbah is an exegetical midrash that cites midrashim on each and every verse of the Song of Songs. It is the longest, earliest, and most comprehensive midrash on the Song of Songs.1 Song of Songs Rabbah contains eighty-three parables, twenty-two of which deal with the parent-child relationship.2 In all of these parables the father is also a king, a phenomenon consistent with David Stern’s findings about parables in the Amoraic period.3

Our discussion of the relationship between father and son in the parables raises several methodological questions. As many scholars have demonstrated, the role of rabbinic parables is first and foremost exegetical.4 Lieve Teugels has convincingly argued that even if rabbinic parables had an oral or narrative pre-history, most of them have been deliberately adapted to a midrashic context and play a major role in biblical interpretation.5 Thus we must ask whether the parable accurately reflects the nature of father-son relationships in the rabbinic period, or whether the primary role of the parable is to interpret the biblical event it describes.6

Another question relates to the way in which children are depicted in literature written by adults. In her book Jewish Childhood in the Roman World, Hagith Sivan studies a series of episodes about Rabbi Joshua bar Hananiah confronting children (Lam. Rab. 1.19).7 She questions whether these rabbinic stories tell us about the genuine experiences of children, or whether they speak more to the ways in which adults constructed childhood. A similar question ought to be asked about the father-child parables that appear in rabbinic literature composed and redacted by adults.

Alon Goshen-Gottstein’s work raises a third methodological question. In his doctoral dissertation entitled God and Israel as Father and Son in Tannaitic Literature, Goshen-Gottstein analyses Tannaitic parables about father-son relationships. He highlights eight fixed and recurrent archetypes in these parables: Parables about anger and reconciliation, competition between brothers, education and instruction, the king issuing decrees, the king’s son and his pedagogue, the king giving gifts, the king’s son and the king’s slave, protection and rescue.8 Against this backdrop we must ask whether the relationships depicted in parables reflect actual relationships or rather patterns of behaviour dictated by literary conventions. We will consider these methodological questions in our discussion of parables about father and son in Song of Songs Rabbah.

1 Two Types of Parables in Song of Songs Rabbah

A close analysis of the parables in Song of Songs Rabbah shows that one should distinguish between two types of exegetical parables. The first type of parables appears alongside verses from the Song of Songs, but does not in fact interpret them. These parables were woven into Song of Songs Rabbah by the redactor for various reasons, but are actually commentary on verses from other biblical books. The second type is based on verses from the Song of Songs, and they serve to interpret the verse anew.

We will begin with a close examination of a parable that appears in Song of Songs Rabbah, but actually serves as an exegetical commentary on a verse from Genesis. Then we will turn to the second type of parables, those that are centred around verses from the Song of Songs. A comparison of the two types of parables in Song of Songs Rabbah will serve to highlight a unique phenomenon that has not yet been noted in the academic literature.

2 First Type: Parables in Song of Songs Rabbah that Interpret Verses from Other Biblical Books

The following parable, about a king and his young son, appears in Song of Songs Rabbah as commentary on the verse “With all powders of the merchant” (Song 3:6). Though it is integrated in Song of Songs Rabbah, its purpose is to interpret the story of the struggle between Jacob and the angel in Gen 32:24–28.

This parable is about education and the raising of princes in the palace. The king prepares his son for the dangers that he anticipates in the future. But he does not want his son to be harmed, so he sets before him a tame lion (Gk. ἥμερος, ον; Heb. אימירון), and not a wild dog (Gk. ἄγριος; Heb. אגריון).11 This confrontation strengthens the son’s self-confidence, which in turn serves to intimidate the dog. But we know that it is in fact an illusion, because the lion does not present a real threat. The father ultimately wishes to protect his son, and so he does not confront him with a savage dog.

The parable suggests that God intentionally orchestrated the struggle between Jacob and the angel so as to prepare Jacob for the anticipated confrontation with Esau the next day. Perhaps Jacob is convinced that he overcame an angel, but he does not know that it is in fact an angel that is subject to God’s authority. Jacob’s artificial victory prepares him for the confrontation with his brother by bolstering his confidence. Moreover, Esau, who hears that Jacob has prevailed against an angel, is intimidated and wary of clashing with him.

The exegetical role of this parable is reflected in the way it interprets the verse from Genesis anew: “When he saw that he could not overpower him” (Gen 32:26, וירא כי לא יכול לו). The angel “could not overpower” Jacob, and he is defeated in the struggle against him. The Hebrew word for “when he saw” (vayar, וַיַּרְא) is understood by the parable as referring not to the angel but to Esau, and it is interpreted as referring to both seeing and fearing (vayira, וַיִּרָא), since the two words are spelled identically in Hebrew.12 When Esau hears that Jacob has defeated an angel, he grows fearful and decides that he cannot fight against Jacob.

The parable carries a relevant message for Jews living under Roman rule. The victory of the Jews against their enemies is not a result of their superior strength or their military prowess, but is due to God’s ongoing providence.13 Contemporary psychologists are critical of “helicopter parenting,” in which parents overprotect their children.14 In a sense that is the role God plays here. But as the parable was composed from the perspective of the son, it looks quite different. The son in the parable is essentially saying that even when his father is no longer present, he feels as if he is still around to help him. In this way the rabbis are trying to reconcile themselves to God’s hiddenness and to the absence of revelation during a difficult period of struggle against other nations.

With regard to the methodological questions, we should note that this parable deals with palace life,15 and so we can assume that it does not reflect Jewish children’s experience of childhood during the rabbinic period. Nonetheless, it reflects an experience of parenting that was familiar to the author of the parable, namely the unresolved tension between the need to prepare a child for the challenges of real life and the desire to protect him from harm.

We have seen that the parable about the king’s son and the tame lion is essentially a commentary on the verse from Gen 32:26: “When he saw that he could not overpower him.” Therefore, as expected, it also appears in midrash Genesis Rabbah in the context of the struggle between Jacob and the angel as an interpretation of this verse.16 Midrash Genesis Rabbah was redacted in the fifth century CE, prior to the redaction of Song of Songs Rabbah. If so, what is this parable doing in Song of Songs Rabbah?

In his article about the composition of the aggadic midrashim, Julius (Yehudah) Theodor demonstrated that the redactor of Song of Songs Rabbah incorporated large sections of material from earlier midrashic collections, sometimes motivated by common words or phrases.17 In the case of the parable above, as Theodor demonstrates, the incorporation of the parable from Genesis Rabbah is motivated by the similar word used in the verse “And there wrestled (va-yeʾavek, ויאבק) a man with him” in Genesis and “with all powders (avkat, אבקת) of the merchant” in Song of Songs. Although the parable is almost seamlessly incorporated into its new context, it is still evident that it primarily serves as exegesis on a verse from Genesis, and its connection to Song of Songs is merely secondary.

3 Second Type: Parables in Song of Songs Rabbah That Interpret Verses from Song of Songs

The second type of parables in Song of Songs Rabbah serves as exegesis on verses from the Song of Songs. The following parable, dealing with the relationship between a father (the king) and his young son, illustrates the revelation on Mount Sinai.

The parable begins with a description of a dialogue between father and son. The phrase “who spoke before his son” (שדיבר כנגד בנו) means that the father addressed him from an authoritative distance.18 This kind of relationship is based on fear and hierarchy. The son is so terrified that he nearly dies. The father grows frightened: “When the king saw that his soul fled, he began to embrace and kiss him, and spoke gently to him.” Another aspect of the father’s personality is now revealed. The physical distance is replaced by the physical intimacy of kissing and embracing. Instead of speaking words that intimidate his son, he speaks affectionately so as to revive him: “What ails you? Are you not my only son? Am I not your father?”

This parable is meant to illustrate the revelation of God to Israel on Mount Sinai, shedding new light on the biblical story. According to the parable, when the Holy One Blessed Be He spoke the first words of the first commandment, “I am the Lord” (Exod 20:2), the souls of the children of Israel fled their bodies and they died. God then changed His tone: He made His Word sweet in their mouths and the angels embraced and kissed them, until they were revived.

Returning to the methodological questions we raised, it seems at first blush as if this parable functions as exegesis on the biblical account of the revelation at Sinai and cannot teach us anything about father-son relationships. However, this is not the case. The author of the parable is able to capture the complexity of parenthood. He highlights the tension between the father’s need to educate his son and safeguard parental authority, and the need for love and affection, a deep experience that draws on the real world of the sages.

It is evident that this parable originated as exegesis on the Song of Songs. In Song 5:6 the beloved describes her encounter with her lover using the words, “My soul fled when he spoke,” which suggests a longing so powerful that it leads her to lose her senses. However, in the parable this metaphor is taken literally. The souls of the Israelites actually fled their bodies on account of fear and panic. They heard God’s Word and they died. In the parable, verses 5:6–16 in Song of Songs are read as a narrative, unfolding sequentially in time. After the people of Israel’s terrible reaction in which their souls fled, God changed his tone and revealed to Israel that “his mouth is sweet and he is altogether lovely” (Song 5:16). Here the one God reveals His various aspects to His beloved people.

I wish now to go one step further and point to a unique and unusual feature of this type of rabbinic parable. Over the course of the parable it becomes clear that it is not just the verse from Song of Songs that is being interpreted, but also the verse from Exodus, “I am the Lord Your God” (Exod 20:2). According to the parable, the first commandment was not said all at once. Rather, the Holy One Blessed Be He began saying “I am the Lord” (אנכי י׳י),—words that express God’s power and esteem. After hearing the beginning of this commandment, the people of Israel died from fright.19 In response, God changed His tone, and continued with “Your God” (אלהיך). The word for “Your God” (אלהיך) emphasizes the connection, the warmth, and the love, and the shift from first to second person is understood as an indication of this change in tone.

This is a unique phenomenon.20 The parable essentially serves a double exegetical function, interpreting both a verse from the Song of Songs and a verse from Exodus. This doubled exegesis is based on the layer of allegorical meaning that accompanies the verses from Song of Songs. The word for “when he spoke” (bʾdabbro, בְדַבְּרוֹ Song 5:6) is understood allegorically as referring to a particular utterance—the first commandment (dibber, דִּבֵּר) spoken by God on Sinai.21

The double exegetical function of the parables on Song of Songs can be demonstrated by other examples. The following parable serves as a commentary on Song 2:5: “Sustain me with raisin cakes, refresh me with apples. For I am sick with love.” Its allegorical meaning applies to the situation of the Israelites when they left Egypt:

This is one of several parables that use the recurrent archetype of a father, son and pedagogue.22 The pedagogue was a private teacher or tutor whom wealthy aristocratic parents hired to educate their children. According to Catherine Hezser, the Greek loanword paedagogue (παιδαγωγός) appears in rabbinic literature only in the context of king parables. Since these tutors were considered a luxury of the upper class, the rabbis imagined gentile kings to have hired a pedagogue for their son.23 In rabbinic parables the pedagogue is a mediator figure involved in the power dynamics of the emperor’s family. He is supposed to watch over the child, but sometimes he does the exact opposite.24

In the parable above, the pedagogue is depicted as a foil to the king. The prince has been sick for a long time and hence absent from school. After he recovers, the pedagogue wishes for him to return to his studies. But the father thinks otherwise. He maintains that his son is still not strong enough to return to school, and thus he would like to keep him home for an additional three months. The pedagogue represents what is fitting and acceptable, as per strict rule. In contrast, the father is attentive to his beloved son and concerned for his welfare. His familiarity with his son and love for him are evident in his ability to read the colour on his son’s face and know when he has truly regained sufficient strength to return to his studies.

This parable is brought as commentary on Song 2:5: “Sustain me with raisin cakes, refresh me with apples. For I am sick with love.” The parable interprets the verse from the Song of Songs anew. The sick one are the Israelites, who are described as “sick with love.” Strictly speaking the people are already healed, but on account of God’s love for them they are still considered sick. Thus they are deemed worthy of pampering: “Sustain me with raisin cakes, refresh me with apples.”

In addition to the exegesis on the biblical verse from the Song of Songs, there is also the allegorical layer. The verse is understood as describing the situation of the Jewish people when they left Egypt. The parable questions why God waited three months between the exodus from Egypt and the revelation on Sinai.25 Strictly speaking, the children of Israel are no longer slaves, and so they should be ready to receive the Torah immediately. However, the parable explains that God is a compassionate and caring father. For three months he pampers Israel with the well, the manna, and the quail so that they will regain their strength, and only then does he give them the Torah: “In the third month after the Israelites left Egypt—on that very day—they came to the Desert of Sinai” (Exod 19:1).

4 The Song of Songs: Lock or Key

We have pointed out the significant difference between two types of parables in Song of Songs Rabbah. One type of parable appears alongside verses from the Song of Songs, but does not in fact interpret them; the other type of parable is based on verses from the Song of Songs, and the verse is interpreted anew by means of the parable. We have also noted a unique phenomenon characteristic of the second type of parable, in which the parables serve a double exegetical function—both as commentary on the verse from the Song of Songs and as commentary on the allegorical layer of meaning.

In his chapter entitled “The Song of Songs: Lock or Key,” Daniel Boyarin considers the intertextuality of rabbinic exegesis on Song of Songs. He writes:

The rabbis of the midrash regarded the holy song as a mashal, a hermeneutic key to the unlocking of the Torah … The mashal is a story whose meaning by itself is perfectly clear and simple, and because of its simplicity enables one to interpret by analogy a more complex, difficult or hermetic text … By reading Song of Songs, Proverbs, and Ecclesiastes as meshalim, then, the midrash is claiming that they are not hermetic texts, “locks to which the key has been lost,” but hermeneutic keys to the unlocking of the hermetic Torah … I would suggest that the rabbis read the Song of Songs as a mashal written by Solomon to be a hermeneutic key to the unlocking of the book of Exodus.26

Boyarin’s description does not properly encapsulate rabbinic interpretation on the Song of Songs as we have seen above. The rabbis did not regard the Song of Songs as a clear and simple text but rather as one that requires exegesis. They used parables in order to interpret verses of the Song of Songs. We have seen how the parable on the verse “My soul fled when he spoke” literalizes the metaphor and reads Song 5:6–16 as a chronological narrative revealing God’s various characteristics to His beloved people. And the parable on Song 2:5 “For I am sick with love” considers the people of Israel still sick on account of God’s love for them. According to Boyarin, the rabbis read the Song of Songs as a mashal (parable) that interprets the Torah, whereas we have demonstrated that the rabbis created new parables, about fathers and their sons, in order to explain the verses of the Song. The interpretive role of the parable is used first and foremost in order to interpret the verses of Song of Songs itself. Boyarin concludes:

The Rabbis of the midrash who understood that the Writings as a whole are a reading of the Torah did not perceive the Song of Songs as being at all like a lock to which the key has been lost.27 They understood it rather as a hermeneutic key to the interpretation of Torah. The way in which the Writings were comprehended as interpretation was by relating the more or less vague situations of various poetic texts to specific parts of the Torah. The reading method was accordingly not allegorical—relating signifier to signified—but intertextual—relating signifier to signifier.28

In light of our study the description above needs some fine-tuning. The rabbis understood all Writings, including the Song of Songs, as complex and hermetic. They saw all verses of Holy Scripture as locks and used all of them as hermeneutic keys to unlock each other.

Isaac Heinemann, in his classic book Darkhei ha-aggadah, demonstrates how the rabbis spun subtle threads through Scripture, linking different biblical events and characters, connecting fathers and sons, and tying action and retribution.29 As Heinemann wrote: “For the ancient rabbis, although Scripture was multifaceted, it was nonetheless a single work, and at each stage they tried to prove its unity … by emphasizing the interconnectedness of all of its parts.”30 Yonah Fraenkel, in commenting on the unity of the biblical text, writes that “the ancient rabbis regarded the entire Bible as a single living body, with all its limbs nourished as a single entity, such that each limb contained recognizable elements of the body as a whole, and each limb could affect even those at a considerable distance.”31 The idea of biblical unity pervades rabbinic literature, especially Song of Songs Rabbah.

Parables usually serve as exegesis on one biblical verse (or part of it).32 Yet our analysis pointed to a unique and unusual feature of the parables in Song of Songs Rabbah, namely their double exegetical role. They interpret not just the verse from Song of Songs, but also the layer of allegorical meaning that accompanies it. We saw how the verse “when he spoke” (bʾdabbro, בדברו Song 5:6) is understood allegorically as referring to a particular utterance (dibber, דיבר, commandment) spoken by God on Sinai. The verse “For I am sick with love” (Song 2:5) served as an explanation of the reason why Torah was given to Israel “in the third month after the Israelites left Egypt” (Exod 19:1). This phenomenon can be understood as an intertextual reading method as Boyarin contends, yet it works in both directions: The verses of the Torah are used as hermeneutic keys to unlock the abstruse poetic texts of Song of Songs, and the verses of the Song of Songs are used allegorically as hermeneutic keys to explain historical narratives described in the Torah.33

5 Conclusion

Our analysis has shown that there are elements of the parable that are dictated by literary archetypes and exegetical constraints. Yet the educational dilemmas and moral considerations raised by these parables also reflect the rabbis’ contemporary concerns. Should a child be sheltered and protected, or should he have to struggle with the dangers that come his way? Should the parent assert his authority by instilling fear in the child, or should the parent envelop the child in love and pamper him with sweets? Should the child be sent to school, or be permitted to remain at home?

We might have expected that parables about verses from Song of Songs would deal with relationships between men and women. The decision to present the history of Israel’s covenant with God as a parental bond furnished the sages with a sense of security. This is not a contract that can be violated, but a longstanding blood tie that cannot be severed. It poses its own dilemmas, and those dilemmas are not easy, but there is no doubt that it is a relationship built on a firm foundation of concern, warmth, and love.

Bibliography

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1

On Song of Songs Rabbah see Tamar Kadari, “The Amoraic Aggadic Midrashim,” in The Classic Rabbinic Literature of Eretz Israel, vol. 1, An Introduction to Rabbinic Literature, ed. Menahem Kahana, Vered Noam, Menahem Kister, and David Rosenthal (Jerusalem: Yad Ben-Zvi, 2018), 319–325 (Hebrew); Günter Stemberger and Hermann Strack, Introduction to the Talmud and Midrash, trans. and ed. Markus Bockmuehl (Edinburgh: T&T Clark, 1996), 315–316.

2

These parables can be divided as follows: eleven parables about father and son; nine parables about father and daughter and two about mother and son.

3

David Stern, Parables in Midrash: Narrative and Exegesis in Rabbinic Literature, 2nd ed. (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1994), 19–21, 93.

4

David Flusser, Die rabbinischen Gleichnisse und der Gleichniserzaehler Jesus, vol. 1, Das Wesen der Gleichnisse, JudChr 4 (Bern: Lang, 1981), 21, 27–28. Flusser maintains that exegetical parables emerged at a later stage in the development of the parable, beginning at the turn of the second century CE, and are of lesser literary merit. This position was challenged by later scholars who point to the sophistication and highly literary design of exegetical parables. See Stern, Parables in Midrash, 17–19, 44–45, 66–74; Yonah Fraenkel, Darkhei ha-aggadah vehamidrash, 2 vols. (Givatayim: Yad Latalmud, 1991), 1:323–325, 1:327–329, 1:338–347 (Hebrew).

5

Lieve M. Teugels, The Meshalim in the Mekhiltot: An Annotated Edition and Translation of the Parables in Mekhilta de Rabbi Yishmael and Mekhilta de Rabbi Shimon bar Yochai, TSAJ 176 (Tübingen: Mohr Siebeck, 2019), 7–9.

6

See Alon Goshen-Gottstein, God and Israel as Father and Son in Tannaitic Literature (PhD diss., Hebrew University of Jerusalem, 1987), 79–80 (Hebrew).

7

Hagith Sivan, Jewish Childhood in the Roman World (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2018), xii–xiv.

8

Goshen-Gottstein, God and Israel, 88–185.

9

All Hebrew citations from Song of Songs Rabbah are according to the version of MS Vatican, Bibliotheca Apostolica Vaticana Cod. Ebr. 76.3.

10

All translations of Song of Songs Rabbah in this article have been taken from Harry Freedman, Midrash Rabbah, vol. 9 (London: Soncino, 1983), with some adjustments.

11

See Theodor’s interpretation in Julius (Yehuda) Theodor and Chanoch Albeck, eds., Midrash Bereshit Rabbah: Critical Edition with Notes and Commentary, 2nd rev. ed., 3 vols. (Jerusalem: Wahrmann, 1965), 2:913–914 (Hebrew).

12

On the importance of identifying the textual anchor of the parable, see Teugels, The Meshalim in the Mekhiltot, 8–9.

13

This stands in contrast with Neusner’s conclusion that the parable focuses on Jacob’s supernatural powers and projects his ancestors the legitimacy of violence. See Jacob Neusner, The Theology of the Oral Torah: Revealing the Justice of God (Montreal: McGill-Queen’s University Press, 1999), 351.

14

For example Madeline Levine, Ready or Not: Preparing Our Kids to Thrive in an Uncertain and Rapidly Changing World (New York: Harper, 2020), 53–74.

15

Ziegler proposed that the figure of the king in rabbinic parables was moulded on the figure of the Roman emperor. See Ignaz Ziegler, Die Königsleichnisse des Midrasch beleuchtet durch die römische Kaiserzeit (Breslau: Schottlaender, 1903). On the question of whether parables can serve as a source of Roman history and whether they reflect imperial events, see Alan Appelbaum, The Rabbis’ King-Parables: Midrash From the Third-Century Roman Empire, JC 7 (Piscataway, NJ: Gorgias, 2010), 223–270.

16

Gen. Rab. 77:3 (Theodor and Albeck, Midrash Bereshit Rabbah, 913–914).

17

Julius Theodor, “Zur Composition der agadischen Homilien,” MGWJ 28 (1879): 414, 461. For an annotated and updated edition of the article see: Tamar Kadari, Minkhah L’Yehudah: Julius Theodor and the Redaction of the Aggadic Midrashim of the Land of Israel (Jerusalem: Schechter Institute; Jerusalem: Leo Baeck Institute, 2017), 135, 143 (Hebrew).

18

On the meaning of the word כנגד as “before” and not “against,” see for example Sifre Deut. 35 (Finkelstein 64): “‘And these things shall be upon your heart’ (Deut. 6:6), a thing that is before your heart דבר שכנגד לבך, i.e., upon the upper arm.”

19

The notion of the people of Israel being frightened to death is based on Exod 20:15–16: “All the people witnessed the thunder and lightning, the blare of the horn and the mountain smoking; and when the people saw it, they fell back and stood at a distance. ‘You speak to us’, they said to Moses, ‘and we will obey; but let not God speak to us, lest we die.’”

20

Usually the mashal and nimshal constitute an interpretation of one base verse, or part of it, see Teugels, The Meshalim in the Mekhiltot, 12, 14–15.

21

See b. Shab. 88b and Song Rab. 5:16 (section 3). These parallels indicate that the parable was based on an ancient midrash that connected the verse “My soul fled when he spoke,” with the commandments given at Sinai.

22

For a partial collection of pedagogue parables see Ziegler, Die Königsleichnisse des Midrasch, 419–426, Anhang clix–clxi; Goshen-Gottstein, God and Israel, 131–148.

23

See Catherine Hezser, Jewish Literacy in Roman Palestine, TSAJ 81 (Tübingen: Mohr Siebeck, 2001), 48, 57–61. The Greek paidagogos was a slave who accompanied a boy from early childhood until his early adulthood to the various places where he received instruction. He was a supervisor rather than a teacher. On literary portraits of the late antique Jewish student and sage, see Marc Hirshman, The Stabilization of Rabbinic Culture, 100 CE–350 CE: Texts on Education and Their Late Antique Context (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2009), 127–132 (Appendix 2: Portraits of Jewish Sages Engaged in Study).

24

The pedagogue may even have criminal intentions. See Hezser, Jewish Literacy in Roman Palestine, 58. An opposite role of the pedagogue is serving as an executor of the king’s will. See Goshen-Gottstein, God and Israel, 131–148.

25

Teugels, The Meshalim in the Mekhiltot, 14–15, uses the term “issue,” for parables that answer larger questions that emerge from the verses.

26

Daniel Boyarin, Intertextuality and the Reading of Midrash (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1990), 105–107.

27

Boyarin, Intertextuality and the Reading of Midrash, 115, refers here to Pseudo-Saadya, an anonymous Jewish commentator of the tenth century CE, that characterized the Song of Songs as a lock to which the key has been lost. In a Hebrew article written twenty-five years earlier, Urbach parallels this saying to Origen’s statement in the name of “the Hebrew” (Origen, Philoc. 2.3 in Origène: Philocalie, 1–20 sur les Écritures, SC 302, ed., Marguerite Harl, (Paris: Les Éditions du Cerf. 1983), 244, that the Holy Scriptures are compared to many locked rooms in a single house, and in each room lies a key that does not belong to it. See Ephraim E. Urbach, “The Homiletical Interpretations of the Sages and the Exposition of Origen on Canticles and the Jewish-Christian Disputation,” in Studies in Aggadah and Folk-Literature, ScrHier 22 (Jerusalem: Magnes, 1971): 247n2.

28

Boyarin, Intertextuality and the Reading of Midrash, 115.

29

Isaac Heinemann, Darkhei ha-aggadah (Jerusalem: Magnes, 1949), 56–74 (Hebrew).

30

Heinemann, Darkhei ha-aggadah, 57.

31

Yonah Fraenkel, Midrash and Aggadah, 3 vols. (Tel Aviv: The Open University of Israel, 1996), 1:163 (Hebrew).

32

See Teugels, The Meshalim in the Mekhiltot, 12, 14–15.

33

One should add that Song of Songs Rabbah is a running commentary, offering a wide range of allegorical readings to each and every verse using parables and many other midrashic techniques. Some of them deal with past events, as Boyarin describes, but others suggest allegorical readings of the Song pertaining to contemporary and future occurrences.

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The Power of Parables

Essays on the Comparative Study of Jewish and Christian Parables

Series:  Jewish and Christian Perspectives Series, Volume: 39

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