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Shir ha-Shirim XVII Part Three: Sefirah 33

“For Your loved ones Dodecha, are better than wine.” Rabbi Shimon bar Abba said in the name of Rabbi Yochanan: The injunctions of the Scribes are as beloved as the injunctions of the written Torah.


What is the proof? “And the roof of the mouth like the best wine.” (Shir Hashirim Rabbah 1.2.2:1)

The roof of the mouth is a symbol for the Oral Torah, the “injunctions of the Scribes,” and wine is a symbol of the Written Torah: Judah and Chezkiah, the sons of Rabbi Chiya, once sat at table with Rebbi and uttered not a word.

Whereupon he said: Give the young men plenty of strong wine, so that they may say something.

When the wine took effect, they began by saying: The son of David cannot appear before the two ruling houses in Israel shall have come to an end, viz., the Exilarchate, in Babylon and the Patriarchate in Israel, for it is written, “And he shall be for a Sanctuary, for a stone of stumbling and for a rock of offense to both houses of Israel (Isaiah 8:14).” Thereupon he [Rebbi] exclaimed: You throw thorns in my eyes, my children!

At this, Rabbi Chiya [his disciple] remarked: Master, be not angered, for the numerical value of the letters of yayin is seventy, and likewise the letters of sod: When yayin [wine] goes in, sod [secrets] comes out. (Sanhedrin 38a)

We are instructed to not approach the injunctions as restrictions, but as beautiful and sweet lessons in Torah. We approach each decree of the Sages as a teaching, a way to discover how they applied the Torah’s wisdom.

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