Spirituality & Practice - Frederic and Mary Ann Brussat
In her foreword to this paperback, Cynthia Bourgeault points out that for centuries rabbis and celibate monks saw the sexual imagery of the Song of Songs as allegorical. She has long had an interest in exploring this text further with an emphasis on its erotic and mystical meanings. She lauds Rami Shapiro's new translations and concludes:
"The Song of Songs, in its own voice, is something so universally true and spiritually luminous that it eventually wins over all but the most puritanically repressed to its own elusive charm."
In his notes to the text, the prolific and multitalented Rami Shapiro discusses the author of the Song of Songs, the use of the text's imagery of physical love and sexual union to express spiritual awakening, why the Bible needs the Song of Songs, and the message of seeing God through our flesh. He writes:
"I am reading the Song of Songs as an allegory of love between Wisdom and the seeker of Wisdom, a celebration of the psychosexual-spiritual awakening to the unity of God, woman, man, and nature when a seeker of Wisdom embraces and is embraced by Wisdom herself. As such, the sexual union at the heart of the Song is vitally important."
Shapiro's commentary is rich with multifaith insights and his own Jewish perspective. Most intriguing of all is an end-piece title "The Path of Ecstasy: How to Use the Song of Songs." Here he melds body, mind, and soul in a quest for erotic pleasure and ecstasy.
Association of Jewish Libraries - Chava Pinchuck
Shir HaShirim, the Song of Songs by King Solomon, has been interpreted as an allegory of God's lovefor the Jewish people (and Jesus' love for the church). Rabbi Shapiro asserts that "the Song of Songsis about the realization of Wisdom through the unification of the spiritual (feminine) and the physical(masculine). The woman in the Song isn’t Israel or the church but Lady Wisdom, and the man in theSong isn’t God but you, the seeker of Wisdom." After several introductory chapters that discuss theorigins of the text (which may have been authored by someone who ascribed the Song to King Solomon),the feminine in Biblical texts, and love poems from ancient India, Shapiro provides his translation linedup next to his interpretation of the text. For example, although the Hebrew word tapuach translates to"apple," Shapiro deems “apricot” a better fit for fruit native to Israel and representative of the poet’sintent. In a chapter after the text, “The Path of Ecstasy: How to Use theSong of Songs,” the author outlinesways to unify the spiritual and the physical. Notes and a bibliography are included in the back matter.
A prolific author, Rabbi Shapiro received ordination from Hebrew Union College and is also initiatedinto the Ramakrishna Order of Vedanta Hinduism. With a Foreword by Rev. Cynthia Bourgeault, anEpiscopal Priest, numerous references to the Divine Feminine in Eastern practices, and comparisonsto Christian ideas with quotes from the New Testament, the author embraces the publisher’s mottosof “Walking Together, Finding the Way” and “For People of All Faiths, All Backgrounds.” With Rabbi Shapiro’s bold disagreement with Rashi’s allegorical interpretation and suggestions for “a fullerecstasy” practice with a partner, this book is not for traditional Jews. It will have a place in librariesthat collect feminist-oriented literature and novel interpretations of Judaic texts, and whose patrons areinterested in comparative religion and creating their own rituals.