Chapter

Entering the Holy of Holies: Rabbinic Midrash and the Language of Intimacy

Judith A. Kates

in Scrolls of Love

Published by Fordham University Press

Published in print December 2006 | ISBN: 9780823225712
Published online March 2011 | e-ISBN: 9780823237067 | DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.5422/fso/9780823225712.003.0015
Entering the Holy of Holies: Rabbinic Midrash and the Language of        Intimacy

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In the midst of a Mishnaic debate about the canonical status of the books of Ecclesiastes and Song of Songs—a debate couched in the Mishnah's halakhically technical terms of whether or not these books “render the hands ritually impure”—one hears an impassioned outcry from Rabbi Akiva. Two details of Rabbi Akiva's language here are crucial: the Song of Songs “was given” to Israel on a day, precisely the same language characteristically used by the rabbis for the revelation of the Torah. Second, through the morphological echoing of the phrase “song of songs” in his evaluation—song of songs; holy of holies—“Song of Songs” becomes more than a title. It is also a declaration of supreme worth, as can be heard in one midrashic explanation of the phrase.

Keywords: Ecclesiastes; Song of Songs; Rabbi Akiva; revelation; Torah; supreme worth

Chapter.  5799 words. 

Subjects: Biblical Studies

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