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Shir ha-Shirim XI: Part One: Reasons & Proverbs

Rabbi Elazar bar Avinah in the name of Rabbi Acha, and the Rabbis debated. Rabbi Elazar said, “And he spoke 3000 Proverbs,” on each word that he spoke in order to explain it to those listening. “And his songs were a thousand and five,” he offered a thousand and five musical notes to make his teaching of wisdom more accessible. (Some commentaries say that he offered reasons, not musical notes.)


The Rabbis, however, say: “He spoke three thousand proverbs,” on each verse of his wisdom “ (or, each verse of the Torah [Eiruvin 21b]); “and his songs were thousand and five,” he offered 1005 reasons for each proverb. It is not written here, “and his proverbs were,” but only, “and his songs were.” The “Songs of the Proverb,” connotes the reason of each thing.

Rabbi Shmuel bar Nachman said: We have gone through the entire book of Proverbs, and we do not find written in it more than 915 verses, and you say 3000 proverbs? The fact is, however, that there is no verse with out two or three reflections. (Shir Hashirim Rabbah 1.1:11, part one)

How do we study Solomon’s proverbs and songs? Where the Proverbs simply tools to allow us to understand his teachings, where the songs intended to help us grasp the meaning of his Proverbs? Are we to understand that we can only seemed the wisdom of the Torah when we understand its reasons?

One thing is clear: that we must study all of his teachings in levels; the wisdom, the proverb that grants us access, and then the deeper understanding that allows us to seemed the wisdom we have learned. I suspect that the same is true of the about the Haggadah. We have to approach it in levels; the wisdom, reading the stories as Proverbs that grant us access to the lessons being taught, and eventually gaining the ability to sing all that we have learned. No wonder we seem Hallel at the conclusion of Maggid and of the Seder itself.

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