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Shir ha-Shirim XI: Part Three: Refining: Sefirah 2

We have learned: Rabbi Akiva said: “Far be it from anyone in Israel to dispute that the Song of Songs renders the hands unclean (the Rabbis ruled that scrolls of the Bible should render the hands unclean, so as to prevent them being handled disrespectfully. With respect to the Song of Songs, however, some hold that there was a dispute), for the whole world only existed, so to speak, for the day on which the Song of Songs was given to it. Why so? Because all of the Writings are Holy, and this is Holy of Holies.


On what was there a difference of opinion? On Kohelet. Rabbi Yochanan bar Rabbi Yehoshua son of the father-in-law of Rabbi Akiva said: It is as the words of Ben Azzai: on this they differed and on this they made their decision. (He teaches that both Kohelet and the Song of Songs were ruled to defile the hands.)

Rabbi Elazar ben Azariah illustrated its holiness by a comparison with the man who took a large measure of wheat to a baker and said to him: “Turn it into fine flour for me and produce from it a cake of the best.” So too, of all the wisdom of Solomon, the fine flour is only the Song of Songs. This is to say, the best of songs, the most excellent of songs, the finest of songs. Let us recite songs and praises to Him who has made us a theme of song in the world, as it says, “And they shall shout aloud the songs of the Temple (Amos 8:3),” that is, the praises of the Temple. (Shir Hashirim Rabbah 1.1:11, part two)

This midrash is teaching us that when we learn to sing Torah, our song becomes part of creation, which is in itself, a song of praise to God. Our song must go through the same process of the wheat being turned, or refined into flour and then into a spectacular cake. We must constantly refine our song of Torah, perfecting it so that all our studies reflect the song of creation.

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