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My Perfect OneTypology and Early Rabbinic Interpretation of Song of Songs$
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Jonathan Kaplan

Print publication date: 2015

Print ISBN-13: 9780199359332

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: August 2015

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199359332.001.0001

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Female Beauty and the Affective Nature of Rabbinic Piety

Female Beauty and the Affective Nature of Rabbinic Piety

(p.95) 3 Female Beauty and the Affective Nature of Rabbinic Piety
My Perfect One

Jonathan Kaplan

Oxford University Press

Chapter 3 examines how the tannaitic midrashim painted an idealized picture of Israel and her practices and piety through the descriptions of the female protagonist’s appearance in Song of Songs. In particular, it focuses on the interpretations of the longer descriptive songs, or waṣfs. After it explores the ways in which Song of Songs was interpreted in this corpus, it turns to the question of how the early rabbinic sages dealt with the erotic tenor of these passages. While the interpretations found in the tannaitic midrashim of the descriptions of the female protagonist lack the erotic tone of the original text, it argues that they do infuse the affection present in the relationship in Song of Songs into their conceptions of Israel’s relationship with God. This fusion helped shape rabbinic thought and practice characterized by intense, affectionate, and reciprocal devotion between model Israel and her beloved.

Keywords:   Song of Songs, midrash, rabbinic, piety, waṣf

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