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Shir ha-Shirim IX: Part Three: Asking for Wisdom

Rabbi Simón said in the name of Rabbi Shimon ben Chalafta: Solomon resembled a nobleman who was a great favorite at the King’s court, and to whom the King once said, “Ask me for anything you want.” The nobleman said to himself: If I ask for silver and gold, he will give it to me. I had better ask for his daughter for that includes everything.” So too, “in Giveon, God appeared to Solomon in a dream by night, and the Lord said: Ask what I shall give you (I Kings 3:5).” Solomon said to himself: “If I ask for silver and gold and precious stones and pearls, He will give it to me. But what I will do is ask for wisdom, and that will include everything.” So it says, “Give Your servant therefore an understanding heart (Verse nine).” The Holy One, Blessed is He, said to him: “Solomon, you have asked for wisdom and have not asked for wealth and possession in the life of your enemies. As you live, wisdom and knowledge are granted to you, and thereby I will give you riches and possessions.” Immediately, “Solomon awoke and behold, it was a dream (Verse 15).”


Rabbi Yitzchak said: this means that the dream stood upon its foundation; as soon as Solomon awoke he realized the truth of the dream. If a donkey brayed, Solomon knew what it meant; if a bird chirped, he knew what it meant. Immediately, “he came to Jerusalem and stood before the Ark of the Covenant of God and offered up burnt offerings and offered peace offerings and made a feast to all his servants.”

Rabbi Elazar said: From this we learn that a feast is made to celebrate the conclusion of the reading of the Torah.

Rabbi Yudan said: “This is to show that whoever teaches Torah in public merits that  Divine Inspiration should rest on him. From whom do you learn this? From Solomon; for because he taught Torah in public, he earned the privilege that  Divine Inspiration rested on him and he composed three books, Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, and The Song of Songs. (Shir haShirim Rabbah 1.1:9, part two)

It is not enough to search for wisdom as one would search for gold and silver. One must seek wisdom with the understanding that it alone is the key to acquiring everything he needs and desires. This means that where a person to stand in the same position as did Solomon, with God offering what ever he wants; he must understand that there is only one thing he must request; the one thing that includes all others: Wisdom. He understands that Wisdom is a gift from God. A gift that will allow him access to everything in the world, all that he desires.

This is why we make a party when we complete a course of Torah study: it is a celebration of the value of wisdom. The first does not say that Solomon made his party when he completed the Torah. He made his party to celebrate the gift of wisdom. He shared the joy of acquiring the key that grants access to everything.

This would mean that we can approach the Pesach Seder as a Siyum celebrating completing the Torah, over the gift of receiving wisdom. It is a celebratory meal; not just a celebration of the redemption from Egypt, by a celebration of how the redemption prepared us to receive the gift of wisdom at Sinai. This is why we mention the gift of Torah in middle of the Haggadah, before we begin the discussion of the Four Sons: “Blessed is the One, Who gave the Torah to His nation, Israel.” We introduce the Pesach story to our children as a celebration of the gift of Wisdom that grants us access to everything.

This then, is the meaning of “teaching Torah in public,” on Pesach night: we convey the joy of wisdom as a gift from God, a gift that can grant us access to all we need and desire. Such a message merits an even greater gift; the gift of Divine Inspiration, which allows us to sing along with God in the Song of Songs, the Song of Creation, the Song of Torah.

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