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Song of Songs Rabbah

SONG OF SONGS RABBAH, aggadic Midrash on the Song of *Songs, the product of Palestinian amoraim. In geonic and medieval rabbinic literature Song of Songs Rabbah is also referred to as Midrash Ḥazita or Aggadat Ḥazita, the name deriving from its opening passage: "This is what Scripture states in the words of Solomon (Prov. 22:29): 'Seest thou (ḥazita) a man diligent in his business? He shall stand before kings.'" In the editio princeps of the work, it is called Shir ha-Shirim Rabbati and Midrash Shir ha-Shirim. (For the name Song of Songs Rabbah, see *Ruth Rabbah.)

It is an exegetical Midrash which expounds the *Song of Songs consecutively, chapter by chapter, verse by verse, and sometimes even word by word. In the editio princeps the work is divided into two sections, the first an exposition of Song of Songs 1:1–2:7; the second of 2:8 to the end. Later editions, however, are further subdivided into eight chapters corresponding to those of the biblical book. The Midrash begins with five proems characteristic of amoraic Midrashim, starting with an extraneous introductory verse which is subsequently connected with the opening verse of the biblical book expounded by the Midrash. Here the proems, most of which are anonymous, are introduced by verses from the Hagiographa (three from Proverbs and one from Ecclesiastes, both ascribed, as is the Song of Songs, to Solomon).

The language of the Midrash is mishnaic Hebrew with an admixture of Galilean Aramaic and with a liberal representation of Greek words.

Song of Songs Rabbah drew from tannaitic literature, the Jerusalem Talmud, Genesis Rabbah, and Leviticus Rabbah, as well as *Pesikta de-Rav Kahana in a recension somewhat different from its present form. There is no evidence, however, to support the suggestion that it also made use of Lamentations Rabbah, the greater likelihood being that both of these drew upon a common source. Conversely, Song of Songs Rabbah, even though in a recension other than that extant, served as a source for *Pesikta Rabbati. It is employed in the piyyutim of Meshullam b. Kalonymus and is referred to in Teshuvot ha-Ge'onim (ed. A. Harkavy (1887) 36). This Midrash contains much original tannaitic and amoraic material. It interprets Song of Songs as an allegory of the relationship between God and Israel. It also contains many aggadot dealing with the messianic redemption, as well as polemical expositions against Christianity. The work was apparently redacted in Ereẓ Israel about the middle of the sixth century C.E.

There are several later additions in the Midrash, some of them the work of copyists. On Song of Songs 1:2, for example, a copyist added an entreaty that his nephew might acquire a knowledge of the Torah.


Songs of Songs Rabbah was first published in Pesaro in 1519 together with the midrashim on the four other scrolls (although entirely unrelated to them) and has often been reprinted on the basis of this edition. There are several extant manuscripts of the Midrash, the earliest being the Parma manuscript, dated 1270, in which Song of Songs Rabbah occurs in the middle of Pesikta Rabbati between sections 18 and 19, associated with the festival of Passover, when the Song of Songs is customarily read. An English translation by Maurice Simon appeared in the Soncino Midrash (1939).


Zunz-Albeck, Derashot, 128; Theodor, in: MGWJ, 28 (1879), 97ff., 164ff., 271ff., 337ff., 408ff., 455ff.; 29 (1880), 19ff.; Urbach, in: Tarbiz, 30 (1960/61), 148–70; Sachs, in: JQR, 56 (1965/66), 225–39.

Sources: Encyclopaedia Judaica. © 2007 The Gale Group. All Rights Reserved.