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Shir ha-Shirim IX: Part One: The Beginning of the Process

Rabbi Pinchas ben Yair opened his lecture on the Song of Songs with the verse, “If you seek her as silver (Proverbs 2:4).” If you seek after the words of Torah as you would after hidden treasures, the Holy One, Blessed is He, will not withhold your reward.


If a man loses a small coin in his house, he lights a lamp after Lent, week after week, till he finds it. Now does it not stand to reason: if for these things which are only ephemeral and of this world a man were like so many lamps and lights till he finds when they are hidden, for the words of the Torah, which are the life both of this world and of the next world, ought you not to search as for hidden treasures? Hence, “if you seek her as silver.”

Rabbi Elazar said: Never in my life has anyone been before me in the Beit Hamidrash, nor have I left leaving anyone behind me. Once, I rose early and found the carriers of manure and straw already awake. I said: it is written, “If you seek her as silver and search for her as for hidden treasures, then shall you understand the fear of God.” We do not seek it even like men were an straw! (We do not rise so early to seek it as the laborers do to seek manure and straw.)

Thus we have learned (similar to Avodah Zara 20b): Rabbi Pinchas ben Yair used to say: Zeal leads to cleanliness of the mind; cleanliness leads to purity; purity leads to holiness; holiness leads to unanimity; you merely leads to the fear of sin; the fear of sin leads to saintliness; saintliness leads to the Holy Spirit; the Holy Spirit leads to the resurrection of the dead; the resurrection of the dead leads to Elijah the prophet as Herald of the Day of Judgment. (Shir haShirim Rabbah 1.1:9, part one)

Rabbi Pinchas is focusing on the idea of Divine Inspiration which has been mentioned so many times as the force that empowered Solomon to teach the wisdom of the Song of Songs. He’s telling us that Solomon merited this Divine Inspiration because he approached his study with a zealous search for Wisdom, just as one would search for gold or silver. Solomon searched for wisdom the way a farmer would search for basic supplies, even nor in straw more practical for him than gold or silver. The farmer searches for what he needs to survive, what he needs in order to be successful, what he needs in order to produce. Solomon searched for the wisdom of Torah with the understanding that this is what he needed, this was the only way he would succeed, this was the only way he could produce something healthy and strong. It all begins with the search; the way we search.

This is why Pesach begins with a search: The Search for The Search for Chametz. The zeal with which we search for the Chametz in our homes will set the tone for the “Search” of the Seder night. We have to approach the Haggadah as searchers; searchers after that which they need to survive and to be successful, searchers after great treasure.

What is the difference between a searcher and an explorer? The Explorer is looking to see what he will find. The searcher is looking for that which he knows is there. That which he seeks is somewhere, he need only search with sufficient effort and zeal to find.

The zealous searcher is taking the first step in the process of achieving Divine Inspiration; he is taking the first step toward becoming a singer of the Song of Songs, the Song of Creation, the Song of Torah. To study with Divine Inspiration is to seeing you this Song with God.

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