Monday, May 21, 2007

"Let him kiss me with the kisses from his mouth!"

Song of Songs 1:2

todo se transfigura y es sagrado,
es el centro del mundo cada cuarto,
es la primera noche, el primer día,
el mundo nace cuando dos se besan,

all is transformed, all is sacred,
every room is the center of the world,

it's still the first night, and the first day,

the world is born when two people kiss,

(Octavio Paz)
Song of Songs (Shir ha-Shirim) Rabbah II:ii.1
A. Another interpretation of the verse, "O that you would kiss me with the kisses of your mouth!"
B. Said Rabbi Yohanan, "An angel would carry forth the Word from before the Holy One, blessed be He, word by word, going about to every Israelite and saying to him, 'Do you accept upon yourself the authority of this Word? There are so and so many rules that pertain to it, so and so many penalties that pertain to it, so and so many decrees that pertain to it, and so are the religious duties, the lenient aspects, the stringent aspects, that apply to it. There also is a reward that accruse in connection with it.'"
C. "And the Israelite would say, 'Yes.'"
D. "And the other would go and say to him again, 'Do you accept the divinity of the Holy One, blessed be He.'"
E. "And the Israelite would say, 'Yes, yes.'"
F. "Then he would kiss him on his mouth."
G. "That is in line with this verse: 'To you it has been shown, that you might know' (Deut. 4:25) - that is, by an angel."
H. Rabbis say, "It was the Word itself that made the rounds of the Israelites one by one, saying to each one, 'Do you accept me upon yourself? There are so and so many rules that pertain to it, so and so many penalties that pertain to it, so and so many decrees that pertain to it, and so are the religious duties, the lenient aspects, the stringent aspects, that apply to it. There also is a reward that accruse in connection with it.'"
I. "And the Israelite would say, 'Yes.'"
J. "So he taught him the Torah."
K. "That is in line with this verse: 'Lest you forget the things your eyes saw (Deut. 4:9)' - how the Word spoke with you."

An affirmation, "Yes, yes," and the Word of God kisses the Israelite on the mouth.
II:ii.4
B. "In the entire Torah there are six hundred thirteen commandments. The numerical value of the letters in the word 'Torah' is only six hundred eleven. These are the ones that Moses spoke to us."
C. "But 'I [am the Lord your God]' and 'You will not have [other gods besides Me]' (Exodus 20:1-2) we have heard not from the mouth of Moses but from the Mouth of the Holy One, blessed be He."
D. "That is in line with this verse: 'O that you would kiss me with the kisses of your mouth!'"
The two commandments of God, spoken from the mouth of God Himself, like kisses from His lips. It recalls this moment (Deut 4:10-12):
Remember the day you stood before the Lord your God at Horeb, when He said to me, "Assemble the people before Me to hear My Words so that they may learn to revere Me as long as they live in the land and may teach Them to their children." You came near and stood at the foot of the mountain while it blazed with fire to the very heavens, with black clouds and deep darkness. Then the Lord spoke to you out of the fire. You heard the sound of words but saw no form; there was only a voice.
And these verses (Proverbs 2:6; Proverbs 24:26):
For the Lord gives wisdom,
and from His mouth come knowledge and understanding.
He kisses the lips [and wins the hearts of men] who give a right answer.
But what does it mean to be kissed by the Word of God? What does it mean to be kissed? In Genesis 29, according to the rabbis, through the Spirit Jacob sees all of Israel: its history as a people, its Temple practices, its life in the synagogue (the field, the the well, the three flocks of sheep, the rock: all have symbolic meanings.) When he sees Rachel, his great strength moves the rock and he kisses her (Genesis 29:11):
Then Jacob kissed Rachel and began to weep aloud.
Rashi wrote that he wept because he saw that Rachel would not be buried with him (Genesis 48:7). But Jacob's weeping should also be read as the weeping for his people, the nation that he has foreseen that will arise out of his love for her. In a way, his own tears will be transferred to her, as she will weep for children (Genesis 30:1) and from her burial place will weep for the descendants of her husband and remind God of his promises to her husband, as Rashi writes [commentary on Genesis 48:7]:
and I buried her there And I did not take her even to Bethlehem to bring her into the Land (i.e., into the inhabited region of the Holy Land- [Sifthei Chachamim]), and I know that you hold it against me; but you should know that I buried her there by divine command, so that she would be of assistance to her children. When Nebuzaradan exiles them (the Israelites), and they pass by there, Rachel will emerge from her grave and weep and beg mercy for them, as it is said: “A voice is heard on high, [lamentation, bitter weeping, Rachel is weeping for her children]” (Jeremiah 31:14). And the Holy One, blessed be He, answers her, “‘There is reward for your work,’ says the Lord,… ‘and the children shall return to their own border.’”
When two people kiss, mouth to mouth, as Rambam wrote, they become one flesh. "No true companionship is possible unless a man dies to himself" (Oesterreicher, The Israel of God). As Adam fell into a deep sleep, a sleep like death, and then celebrated Eve as his flesh, so to does the kiss between Jacob and Rachel bind their flesh, at the pivotal turning point of salvation history - out of Jacob's love for Rachel will arise the people Israel - and they mourn the future struggles of their children. The world is re-born with Jacob's kiss, and is re-born again in the kisses of the Word of God on the mouths of the people Israel at Sinai.

The Incarnate God, the Word Made Flesh, kisses us at baptism, where we first hear the commandments of God; in the Eucharist, when we share in the flesh of God. Through kisses, we become one flesh with Him. We say Yes, die to ourselves, and He kisses us with the kisses from His Mouth, joining our flesh to His. And so the saints swoon at these moments.

But there are other kisses, most notably the kiss at the moment of death:
Song of Songs Rabbah II.ii.20

E. Rabbis say, "The souls of these are going to be taken with a kiss."
21 A. Said Rabbi Azariah, "We find that the soul of Aaron was taken away only with a kiss: 'And Aaron the priest went up to Mount Hor at the mouth of the Lord and died there' " (Numbers 33:38).
B. "How do we know the same in the case of the soul of Moses? 'So Moses the servant of the Lord died there ... according to the mouth of the Lord'" (Deut. 34:5).
C. "How do we know the same in the case of the soul of Miriam? 'And Miriam died there' (Numbers 30:1). And just as 'there' in the former passages means, 'by the mouth of the Lord,' so here too the fact is the same."
D. "But it would have been inappropriate to say it explicity."
E. "How do we know the same in the case of the soul of all the righteous? 'O that you would kiss me with the kisses of your mouth!' "
F. "[The sense is,] 'If you have occupied yourself with teachings of the Torah, so that your lips are well-armed with them, then, at the end, everyone will kiss you on your mouth.'"
And we also pray to St. Joseph that the Lord will kiss us as we draw our dying breath, that we will be enveloped in His Body at that moment.

In future posts, I will write about Jacob, the most dynamic person in the Old Testament. Jacob gives up his identity and his name, joins his flesh to Rachel's, struggles with God and still stands, and opens up a future where the Lord can kiss His people and lift and unite His creation back to Himself.

amar es combatir, si dos se besan
el mundo cambia, encarnan los deseos,
el pensamiento encarna, brotan alas
en las espaldas del esclavo, el mundo
es real y tangible, el vino es vino,
el pan vuelve a saber, el agua es agua,
amar es combatir, es abrir puertas,
dejar de ser fantasma con un número
a perpetua cadena condenado
por un amo sin rostro;
el mundo cambia
si dos se miran y se reconocen,
amar es desnudarse do los nombres...

to love is to battle, if two kiss
the world changes, desires take flesh,

thoughts take flesh, wings sprout

on the backs of the slave, the world is real

and tangible, wine is wine, bread

regains its savor, water is water,

to love is to battle, to open doors,

to cease to be a ghost with a number

forever in chains, forever condemned

by a faceless master;

the world changes

if two look at each other and see,

to love is to undress our names...


Octavio Paz, Piedra de Sol (Sunstone), 1957. Translated by Eliot Weinberger.

Translations of Song of Songs Rabbah by Jacob Neusner.

2 comments:

AG said...

Rashi's commentary on Song of Songs 1:1

The Song of Songs, which is Solomon’s Our Rabbis taught (Shevu. 35b): Every Solomon (for they were at a loss to explain why Scripture did not mention his father, as it did in Proverbs and Ecclesiastes) mentioned in the Song of Songs is sacred (refers to God), the King to Whom peace belongs. It is a song that is above all songs, which was recited to the Holy One, blessed be He, by His congregation and His people, the congregation of Israel. Rabbi Akiva said: The world was never as worthy as on the day that the Song of Songs was given to Israel, for all the Writings are holy, whereas the Song of Songs is the holiest of the holy. Rabbi Eleazar ben Azariah said: To what can this be compared? To a king who took a se’ah of wheat and gave it to a baker. He said to him, “Extract for me so much fine flour, so much bran, so much coarse bran, and you shall produce enough fine flour for one white loaf, sifted and superior.” So are all the Writings holy and the Song of Songs the holiest of the holy, for it is all comprised of fear of Heaven and the acceptance of the yoke of His kingdom.

Pseudo-Iamblichus said...

Esta mañana
Hay en le aire la increíble fragancia de las rosas del paraíso.
En la margen del Éufrates
Adán descubre la frescura del agua.
Una lluvia de oro cae del cielo;
Es el amor de Zeus.
Salta del mar un pez
Y un hombre de Agrigento recordará
Haber sido ese paz.
En la caverna cuyo nombre será Altamira
Una mano sin cara traza la curva
De un lomo de bisonte.
La lenta mano de Virgilio acaricia
la seda que trajeron
del reino del Emperador Amarillo
las caravanas y las naves.
El primer ruiseñor canta en Hungría.
Jesús ve en la moneda el perfil de Cesar.
Pitágoras revela a sus griegos
Que la forma del tiempo es la del círculo.
En una isla del Océano
Los lebreles de plata persiguen a los ciervos de oro.
En un yunque forjan la espada
Que será fiel a Sigurd.
Whitman canta en Manhattan.
Homero nace en siete ciudades.
Una doncella acaba de apresar
Al unicornio blanco
Todo el pasado vuelve como una ola
Y esas antiguas cosas recurren
Porque una mujer te ha besado.

-Jorge Luis Borges, del libro La Cifra

This morning
The incredible fragrance is in the air
Of the roses of Paradise.
On the banks of the Euphrates
Adam discovers the freshness of water.
A golden rain falls from the sky;
It is the love of Zeus.
Up from the sea jumps a fish
And an Agrigentian man will remember
That he was once that fish.
In the cave whose name will be Altamira,
A faceless hand traces the curve
Of a buffalo's loin.
The hand of Virgil slowly caresses
The silk that caravans and ships brought
From the kingdom of the Yellow Emperor.
The first nightingale sings in Hungary.
Jesus sees the profile of Ceasar on a coin.
Pithagoras reveals to the Greeks
That time is in the form of a circle.
On an island in the Ocean,
Silver harriers pursue hinds of gold.
On an anvil they forge a sword
That will be faithful to Sigurd.
Whitman sings in Manhattan.
Homer is born in seven cities.
A maiden has just caught
A white unicorn.
Like a wave the entire past returns
And those ancient things occur again
Because a woman has just kissed you.

(I posted this on my blog sometime back. I just wanted to make sure you saw it.)