Today is our 11th anniversary. As I have prepared to write this, I have struggled to find the words to describe my love for you. I have written and rewritten each part of this letter. I was discouraged by my lack of ability to describe how I feel about you when, rather suddenly, I remembered a piece of poetry, of sacred literature, that, perhaps, might convey the depth of my love for you.
This particular passage, although familiar to all modern Christians, comes from the Jewish mystical traditions of the Kabbalah. The goal of mystical writing, particularly in the Abrahamic tradition, is to help both the writer and the reader to experience some small part of the indescribable, the ineffable Divine.
“The Kabbalah, as much as poetry, is the study of and submission to the mysteries of the world. The language used by Kabbalists is so intricately dimensional that it is all almost impossible to fully convey the simultaneous layers of meaning revealed in the simplest of words. It is said that one word is the seed of a particular universe, a system of interactions and realities as complex as the birth and death of a sun” .
For the Jewish mystic, the various texts that comprise the Kabbalah, and by extension, the very universe we live in, have one goal: to describe the indescribable, couched in layers of meaning and metaphor that can be uncovered through careful study. To Latter-day Saints, this use of layered metaphor should feel familiar to us, after all, we make use of similar literary structure in our own religious texts, including in sacred temple ceremony . And so, this particular passage, is, on its surface no more than a sensual description of Beloved by her lover-author, its inclusion in sacred writing controversial among both Jews and Christians, , is, by definition, multi-layered and capable of holding “the seed of a particular universe” in a single word.
There is much in the Kabbalah that relies on sensual or erotic metaphor. It’s as if the writers believed that true love, like the Divine, is entirely indescribable to the common man or woman. One commentator, describes the power of sensual metaphor.
“…there were great saints so absorbed in the Object of their longings that they did not feel any distraction besetting them. He who longs and yearns destroys all thought in himself which excludes the object of his desire; he is alive only to the fire burning within him. So full of longing that he eats, drinks and sleeps totally absorbed in his beloved” .
Perhaps there is a reason that man yearns for connection with Beloved. Maybe there is something just as ineffable in true romance as there is in the Divine. Perhaps the Kabbalist is on to something.
And so, we come finally to the poem, the Song of Songs, the Canticle, the Song of Solomon. Unbeknownst to many a reader, the most widely read of any Kaballist writing. The author, lost to time. The sentiment timeless, ineffable, Divine.
I love you.
Song of Songs
How beautiful you are, my darling!
Oh, how beautiful!
Your eyes behind your veil are doves.
Your hair is like a flock of goats
descending from the hills of Gilead.
Your teeth are like a flock of sheep just shorn,
coming up from the washing.
Each has its twin;
not one of them is alone.
Your lips are like a scarlet ribbon;
your mouth is lovely.
Your temples behind your veil
are like the halves of a pomegranate.
Your neck is like the tower of David,
built with courses of stone;
on it hang a thousand shields,
all of them shields of warriors.
Your breasts are like two fawns,
like twin fawns of a gazelle
that browse among the lilies.
Until the day breaks
and the shadows flee,
will go to the mountain of myrrh
and to the hill of incense.
You are altogether beautiful, my darling;
there is no flaw in you.
Come with me from Lebanon, my bride,
come with me from Lebanon.
Descend from the crest of Amana,
from the top of Senir, the summit of Hermon,
from the lions’ dens
and the mountain haunts of leopards.
You have stolen my heart, my sister, my bride;
you have stolen my heart
with one glance of your eyes,
with one jewel of your necklace.
How delightful is your love, my sister, my bride!
How much more pleasing is your love than wine,
and the fragrance of your perfume
more than any spice!
Your lips drop sweetness as the honeycomb, my bride;
milk and honey are under your tongue.
The fragrance of your garments
is like the fragrance of Lebanon.
You are a garden locked up, my sister, my bride;
you are a spring enclosed, a sealed fountain.
Your plants are an orchard of pomegranates
with choice fruits,
with henna and nard,
nard and saffron,
calamus and cinnamon,
with every kind of incense tree,
with myrrh and aloes
and all the finest spices.
You are a garden fountain,
a well of flowing water
streaming down from Lebanon.
Awake, north wind,
and come, south wind!
Blow on my garden,
that its fragrance may spread everywhere.
Let my beloved come into his garden
and taste its choice fruits.
I have come into my garden, my sister, my bride;
I have gathered my myrrh with my spice.
I have eaten my honeycomb and my honey;
I have drunk my wine and my milk (Song of Solomon 4:1-5:1) .Due to limitations in the way my reference manager and the blog software work, sometimes these in-text references don’t format correctly. Perhaps someday they will.
Notes [ + ]
|1.||↑||Due to limitations in the way my reference manager and the blog software work, sometimes these in-text references don’t format correctly. Perhaps someday they will.|