The endeavor and the difficulty
The difficulty in formulating an interpretive approach to Shir Hashirim is both substantial and well known. Two immediate problems are encountered. 1. Does Shir Hashirim have a "pshat", i.e. an explanation that treats the characters and events as having happened, or at least as having significance as described? If there is no "p’shuto shel mikrah", and the entire work should be read as a parable, then what is the moral, and what is represented? 2. Does Shir HaShirim have a systematized structure, with connections between the sections? Is there a chronology, or "plot" within Shir Hashirim, or do the verses and sections follow one another arbitrarily without order, or at least without clear narrative logic.
Shir Hashirim may be seen as a series of shorter love songs, whether allegorical or not, and in fact the name "Song of Songs" may mean a song composed of many shorter songs, which combine to create a "meta-song". 1
In this presentation, we will try to develop an approach to the characters and events which suggests an integrated structure which encompasses the entirety of Shir Hashirim, based on an interpretation of the development or progression in the nature and quality of the relationships and desires treated in the text. Although a verse by verse analysis is beyond the scope of this study, I hope to present readings of many passages in a way that suggests an integrated reading of the entire work. However, there are phrases, verses, and even sections that will remain mysterious. The poetic nature of Shir Hashirim defies easy methodology. Subtleties of meaning together with drastic contrast of perspectives make a wondrous song of love as elusive as the love described therein.
I am always mindful of the spiritual aspect of Shir Hashirim. I am not taking the high road of midrashic interpretation, which would guarantee that we do not stray from the prophetic nature and message of this work. Nevertheless, I am fully aware that an interpretation that relies mainly on the text runs the compounded risk of reducing our protagonists to seekers of carnal pleasures, while foundering in a sea of literary symbolism, without the ballast and anchor of a more traditional approach. The conviction expressed in this study is that Shir Hashirim is an allegory, but that like most parables, the literal meaning of story must be uncovered before the figurative significance can be grasped. (footnote Ramban Emunah u’Bitchon 3) II. Opening comments
A few preliminary remarks are in place. In the first three chapters, the woman ("hara’aya") is dominant. She initiates and closes each dialogue. Her speeches are longer than those of the man, and include reference to more outside elements (e.g. daughters of Jerusalem, King Shlomo). In chapter two, she presents her beloved’s response ("My beloved replied…" 2;10), and chapter three is entirely hers. Chapter four and one verse of chapter five belong to the man ("hadod"). The remainder of chapter five is the ra’aya. (The chapter break, of course, seems to more properly belong after verse 1.) The next three chapters contain speeches and responses of both lovers, the ra’aya becoming more dominant in each, until the last (chapter eight) is again almost completely hers.
Mention is made of King Shlomo several times, sometimes with apparent admiration, but the references shift to an almost satirical vein. In 3;6 the dod is a free spirit, fragrantly emerging from the desert, while Shlomo cringes on his bed, protected by mighty warriors, frightened of nocturnal uncertainty. In the last chapter, Shlomo’s huge vineyards, which he has no time to personally cultivate or enjoy, are contrasted to the small but accessible vineyard of the ra’aya, which she vastly prefers.
A thread which seems to run through the entirety of Shir Hashirim is the longing of the ra’aya to spend time with her beloved, and her attempts to find him. In this regard she enlists the aid of other characters, the chaverim (apparently friends of the dod), the daughters of Jerusalem, and the guardians of the walls. We will consider the developments of these relationships throughout our analysis. III. Chapters One-Three – Searching for the dod – seeking out the daughters.
After imagining the wine-sweet kisses and fragrant aromas of the dod, and before addressing the dod directly, our lovesick maiden turns to the daughters of Jerusalem. "Don’t consider me a black woman," my darkness stems from the burning sting of the sun, not from any inner failing, for I am beautiful "like the curtains of Shlomo." The ra’aya seems intent on convincing her potential friends that she is worthy of their company. She apologizes not only for her appearance, but also for her lack of means. She was exploited as a child, unable to develop her own potential, but she is really a fine soul. "My mother’s sons were angry with me" – not my father’s sons. Does this indicate that the ra’aya was raised by half brothers, who took advantage of her orphan status? 2
The b’not Yerushalayim don’t respond to these advances. Is it because they sense the clingy nature of the ra’aya? Are they put off by her petulance, or impressed by her openness? There is no indication at this point that the overtures to these maidens are acknowledged or accepted. Later in the narrative, they do react.
The ra’aya, expresses her desire to tryst with her dod, to find a safe haven, as it were, in the house, the room, within the walls. The dod, however, a shepherd by vocation and inclination, proves difficult to locate. The ra’aya asks the dod to reveal his grazing place, "Where do you graze, where do you lie down in the afternoon, for why should I be as a mourner 3
at the herds of your comrades?" The dod will have none of this whining. "If you do not know, the loveliest of women, follow the footsteps of the sheep, and graze your ewes in the dwelling places of the shepherds." "If you do not know", implying you should know, you should be aware of my habits and whims, of my passion for freedom and wandering. I am not to be found in a stationary place, for I am dynamic and impetuous. The best you can do is participate in my life style, associate with my fellow shepherds; surely you will run into me that way.
The opening speeches of the ra’aya reveal her as an inexperienced young lady, attracted to the mature independence of the dod, yet unable to appreciate the strain that such a relationship might place upon her. The extent of her romantic imagination takes her to a room cut off from the intrusions of the outside world. In contrast to the dod, whose praise of his beloved is explicitly personal and physical from the outset, the ra'aya’talks more about the circumstances of the encounter than about the lover himself.
The ra’aya longs for social contact with maidens who’s company has been denied to her, but her deprived childhood presumably makes her a less desirable companion than she might imagine. In chapter 2 (verse 7) and again in chapter 3, she imposes an oath on the daughters of Yerushalayim, that they will not awaken the love. Again, there is no response, the maidens don’t even provide the re’aya with the satisfaction of an answer.
In the opening verses of chapter 3 the ra’aya describes her wandering searches "on my bed, in the nights". She seems to be dreaming, engaging in fantasies but unable to realize her love in the light of day. The oath may be one forbidding the b’not Yerushalayim from awakening her and disturbing the tempestuous passions which she allows expression only in sleep. Her searches are still in her mind; she has not committed herself to leaving the confines of her cozy enclosure and risking the perils of freedom. IV. The dod’s rejoinder – a call for independence
Where is the dod, the beloved shepherd? As we have seen, he initially challenges the ra’aya to seek him out, but apparently she makes no attempt to do so. He then suggests that "To a horse of the Pharo’s chariot, I have likened you, my beloved" (1:9), the then goes on to praise his beloved’s beauty. What is the meaning of that strange compliment. Truly, Pharo’s horses must have been noble and proud, tall and strong. Yet, is that the beauty that is consistent with the images in our song? Might there not be a note of sarcasm in this verse. Surely the dod was aware that the horses of Egypt represented a forbidden treasure! 4
Does he know that King Shlomo’s downfall was brought about because of his liaison with Pharo’s daughter? The horses of Pharo are another pitfall that a king is enjoined to avoid. Possibly the dod is suggesting that a relationship with the ra’aya, though tempting and inviting, may create obligations and restraints that would ultimately destroy him. Another approach is that Pharo’s horses, though beautiful and noble, are tame and obedient. They are trained for battle, loyal to their masters, yet have no free spirit. Glorious legends may be told of them, yet ultimately they drown in the waves of the sea. The dod may be cautioning his beloved, and admonishing her for her lack of imagination.
In chapter 2 the ra’aya acknowledges the dod’s freewheeling wanderings. He is like the antelope and the deer, skipping over the mountaintops, standing near, watching from afar. The dod, for his part, invites the ra’aya to join him, for it is springtime. She should come out of hiding, show her face and make her voice heard. The world is regenerating. The blooming trees and the song of the dove beckon the lovers to the outdoors.
Verses 7 to 11 in chapter 3 present a special challenge. They first refer to King Shlomo, whose bed is guarded by sixty courageous armed guards, defending the king from the perils of nighttime. There follows an ode to the glorious palace that Shlomo built, and the great love that Shlomo awakens in the hearts of Jerusalem’s maidens. The section ends with a call to the ladies to witness the splendor of Shlomo’s wedding day. Clearly Shlomo is set up as a model of magnificence for all to admire and emulate. Some commentaries see the reference to the heroes surrounding the king as an indication of his exalted status. The phrase "terrors of the night" indicates fear of the mysterious, even when it is not really harmful. A touch of sarcasm or irony is suggested.
There is a paragraph break between verse 8 and verse 9. The significance of paragraph breaks in Shir Hashirim (and indeed in all of TaNaK) is a subject for further study elsewhere. In this case, we should consider the notion that verses 7 and 8 are said by the Dod, while the next three verses are the ra’aya’s response. The dod has heard his beloved liken him to the king, and he knows that she, like all the daughters of Jerusalem, considers Shlomo the paradigm of masculine virtue and excellence. However, what good is the royal status if he still requires bodyguards to allay his nocturnal fears. Isn’t it better to be without the trappings of royalty, but to enjoy the excitement of freedom?
The ra’aya’s rejoinder in verses 9 to 11 is: truly, the king is the finest example of human perfection. He is the greatest of men, the model of love. In praise of the royal excellence, the ra’aya, as mentioned, cites three matters:
1. The palace built of cedars imported from Lebanon.
2. The admiration for the workmanship and loving care taken to build this glorious edifice
3. A call to the daughters of Tzion to witness the King’s crown on his joyous wedding day.
There follows the longest speech of the dod. He begins by passionate praise of his beloved’s physical beauty. This is his answer to the praise for the workmanship and beauty of the palace. The greatest beauty is natural. Do not be impressed by the splendor of man made works; your own splendor is even greater. Your neck is like the Tower of David; on its turrets hang the shields of the mighty warriors. Shlomo may have an army with great military prowess, but all the mighty ones pay obeisance to your beauty.
As for the cedars of Lebanon, the dod cries (4;8) "Come with me from Lebanon, my bride, from Lebanon, look out from the peaks of Amana, from the tops of Senir and Hermon." Not the cedars brought from Lebanon, but the experience of the wonders of Lebanon, is the key to fulfillment. No pillars and furnishings can compete with the towering mountains, or with the caves of lions and the dens of leopards. You are the bride, and we do not invite our friends to observe us from afar but rather to join with us in feasting and song. The speech concludes "Eat, dear friends, and drink, drink heartily our loving companions.
Property, structures, wealth and titles cannot provide fulfillment and happiness. These are to be sought in the open spaces, in the village and field, on the mountains and in the dessert. The succulent fruits and fragrant spices of the fields are the greatest wealth. To walk unfettered through forest and over mountain trails, to wander with the flocks and share friendship with the shepherds are gifts more valuable than the loftiest tower in the greatest palace. V. Chapter 5 – Crisis and transition
In chapter 3 the ra’aya searched for her beloved in her dreams; in chapter 5 she looks for him in stark reality. The dod knocks at the ra’aya’s abode as she lies sleepily on her bed. She hears his tapping, but tarries, languidly considering the pros and cons of her situation. After preparing to retire, she cannot find the strength to run to the dod’s embrace. She rationalizes her listlessness. She has neatly folded her clothing, how can she arise and get dressed. She has bathed, how can she soil her feet. Her musings are short lived; the dod retreats and disappears. All dreams are shattered and hopes are smashed.
In dreams, no impediments block the path of love, and all obstacles are overcome. In the real world, the trivial and banal common incidents of daily life often interfere with the loftiest endeavors and obscure the purest ideals. However, it may be that more was at stake than a wrinkled piece of clothing or dirty feet, when the ra’aya failed to realize her heartfelt desire and deepest longings. Her lover’s abortive attempt to come to his dearest may have been thwarted by the ra’aya’s comprehension that by opening the door she would claim the success of her entreaties, but would compromise her lover’s soul. Did she come to understand that by harnessing her wild stallion, she would also clip the wings of freedom that had made him so desirable to her in the first place? By allowing her dod to flee, she was also giving herself another chance to achieve his expectation that she would join him an a life of natural freedom.
Now that the dod has turned away and fled, the true test of the ra’aya’s devation begins. She searches high and low; her cries echo through the city streets. But reality is no dream. Where before the city watchmen allowed the beautiful ra’aya to continue her search, now they pummel and wound her. The watchmen represent the forces of obedience and servitude, loyalty to the king and social order. The ra’aya is breaking out of her role and upsetting the values of society by aligning herself with an independent spirit who shows sarcastic disregard of the king and his values.
The ra’aya seeks the aid of the daughters of Jerusalem. Several times in Shir Hashirim she has sought their company and companionship, but not once have they responded. But now, when they see the ra’aya commit herself to the search for her lover, they ask what makes him different. When the ra’aya sings his praises, they offer to seek him with her. "Where has your beloved gone, fairest of maidens, where has he turned that we may seek him with you?" Previously the bnot Yerushalayim treated the ra’aya as an outsider, a commoner, a stranger in their midst. Now she electrifies them with her praise of the dod.
And what praise it is! Finally she sees his essential being, and loves him for himself, rather than for the sense of safety and wellbeing he will provide. "His thighs are pillars of marble set in pure gold; his countenance is like Lebanon, as the choicest of the cedars. Where previously she had thought that King Shlomo was magnificent for building his palace with the cedars of Lebanon, now her beloved embodies the glory of those cedars in his own body, in his own soul.
The dod responds in kind. His ode to the ra’aya in chapter 6 is more than a glorification of her physical attributes. Not only is she more beautiful than Jerusalem and Tirzah. She is also "as awesome as the battalions", a phrase repeated (6:4, 6:11). Whether the battalions are the military might of the king or the heavenly hosts, the message is that the ra’aya, when aroused and on the march, is a presence with which to be reckoned. No longer does she entreat the maidens to gaze upon the glory of the king. "The daughters saw her and attest to her joy, queens and concubines as well sing her praises." (6,10) If previously the ra’aya was beseeched to show her face and make her voice heard, now those her see her will gaze upon a sight like the dance of Machanayim. No more the reticent, frightened young maiden, but a young woman aware of her love and value, feeling at last her potential and marching towards her destiny. Together in natural freedom – the ra’aya comes of age
It is time, at last, for the lovers to wander through the countryside, crossing fields and gardens, inspecting the vineyards, finding lodging in the village. In this rural habitat, the blossoms of spring emphasize the renewal of life and the infinite possibilities of love. "We will arise early to the vineyards, and see if the vine has flowered, if the grape blossoms have opened, if the pomegranates are flowering; there I will give my love to you." The blossoms of the natural world are the models for the blossoming of the lovers’ bliss.
Our amorous couple can roam openly. No city guards undermine their tryst; no young maidens chaperone their movements. "Oh that you were like my brother that nursed at my mother’s breast, I would find you outside and kiss you, and no one would scorn me." The love of Adam and Chava in Eden is recalled, the lovers find their garden, the dream has become reality and there is no need to fear awakening.
The last four verses express three ways in which our heroine has achieved self-realization and independence. The first way is her newfound understanding of wealth. Whereas earlier in the poem she decried her lowly status as the keeper of her brothers’ vines (1;6) and emulated King Shlomo’s wealth (3;9,10), now she comprehends that her own property, though small, is far more valuable then the wealth of a rich man who cannot enjoy it. "Shlomo had a vineyard in Ba’al Hamon; he gave the vineyard to caretakers, buyers would pay a thousand silver coins for its fruit. My own vineyard is in my own keeping; Oh, Shlomo, you can keep the thousand coins, and your caretakers can take two hundred." What good are the vineyards if they are not experienced and enjoyed, but only serve to increase silver money?
Next we find the ra’aya’s new relationship to the companions of the dod. Whereas she had complained that without her lover, she would be like a mourner, searching amongst the flocks of his comrades (1;7), now she is a honored part of their group, wise and respected. "She who sits in the gardens, the comrades listen to your voice, let it be heard." No longer need she beg the maidens to notice her existence; socially she has come into her own.
Finally, she is freed from her clingy dependence on another’s presence. "Flee my beloved, be like a gazelle or a young hart on the Spice Mountains." To truly possess her lover she must give up all rights of ownership. To truly realize her dream, she must forgo control over its fulfillment. Love is like the blossoms of the vine; it comes in its time, with its season. It requires nurturing and care, fertile soil and abundant irrigation. The caretaker of the vineyard can witness the miracle of the growing abundance of fruit, but the grapes will grow in their own natural pace and manner. Her love is a natural phenomenon, and it will be nurtured, and blossom, and bear fruit. Two summaries Daughters of Jerusalem
At this point we should review the place of the maidens of Jerusalem in Shir Hashirim. Six times our heroine speaks to the maidens. Five times she calls them the daughters of Jerusalem, once the daughters of Zion. As we have seen, the first approach, at the beginning of chapter 1, is from weakness. The ra’aya pleads with her friends to accept her, despite her apparent lack of graces and looks. Her skin is dark and rough, her background weak, her prospects bleak. The maidens do not respond.
In 3;11 we find a reference to the maidens, though it is the daughters of Zion that the ra’aya addresses. The daughters of Jerusalem are apparently acquaintances of the ra’aya, while the daughters of Zion represent all the young ladies of the realm. "Go out and gaze upon King Shlomo and the crown with which his mother crowned him on his wedding day, the day of the joy of his heart." The maidens are asked to share the admiration and express the veneration that the ra’aya showers upon the king, who at this point is the paragon of love and virtue.
Four times the ra’aya places an oath upon the maidens. These four oaths correspond to the four notions of love that are expressed in the poem:
1. Chapterr2;7 – We are still in the stage where the ra’aya seeks to entice her lover into her closed life, safe from the storms of the outside world. She charges the maidens not to awaken the love, but to let it slumber and grow, in a trance, away from the bitter realities of cruelty and heartlessness that have been her lot.
2. 3;5 – Love has become a dream, blotting out the obstacles that threaten to undermine the fulfillment of the lovers’ desires. Again the maidens must swear not to disturb or waken the perfect love. Though it be only the product of reverie and delusion, the delight of fantasy is attractive and seductive, preferable to the real world.
3. 5;8 – Truly awake, truly confronting the challenges of love, our heroine searches for her love, enduring physical wounds emotional turmoil. Now she bids her friends to find the dod and inform him of her trials and devotion. The maidens finally respond, asking her to reveal the matchless excellence of the dod.
4. 8;4 – Finally, emerging from the cocoon of self delusion and fear, the ra’aya shares her beloved’s zest for life and enjoys with him the boundless joy of the natural world. Again she charges the maidens with an oath not to awake her love, but this time there is a slight change. Not "Im to’iru" – "an oath not to wake her and interrupt the love, but rather "mah to’iru" – why awaken and disturb my love. Fear has been replaced by boldness; confidence has vanquished doubt. Love flourishes in freedom, and is nurtured by independence. It need not be disturbed. The vineyard
The kerem is another motif that accompanies us through the unfolding development of the ra’aya’s maturity. We have already considered the contrast between the early image of the ra’aya, a poor girl, exploited by her brothers. She tends their vineyards and not her own, but by the final chapter her own vineyard is before her, so she can enjoy its fruit and its beauty.
We will consider three other mentions of the vineyard in Shir Hashirim:
1. 1;14 – "My beloved will be mine in the vineyards of Ein Gedi." At this point in the narrative the vineyard represents property and safety. Although the ra’aya has been abused, she recognizes the vineyard as a measure of value, and she knows that her experience and inclination make the vineyard the natural habitat for her love.
2. 2;15 – The dod begs his beloved to show hear face and allow her voice to be heard, but she demurs. "Little foxes spoil the vineyards, which are in early blossom." The ra’aya is ensnared by responsibility, trapped by the very context that she sees as conducive to realizing her dreams. She cannot give herself to the dod, for the foxes threaten the growing fruit, and her commitment to love cannot overcome her accountability for property.
3. 7;13 – "We will arise early to the vineyards, and see if the vine has flowered, if the grape blossoms have opened, if the pomegranates are flowering; there I will give my love to you." Here the vineyard represents the natural world in which love flourishes and grows. No longer is the vineyard a property that requires responsibility and discipline. It is also a blessing signaling the renewal of life and the impact of love. A parable of the love between man and G-d
In midrashic literature much ink has been spilt in attempts to ascertain the symbolic meanings of the physical descriptions in Shir Hashirim. Since it is a given that G-d has no body or physical manifestation, the passages here cannot refer to the image of G-d Himself, but rather to historical events and circumstances that are themselves merely external indications of the deep love between G-d and the People of Israel.
Such commentary is both valid and necessary. It gives spiritual import to the love poetry in Shir Hashirim, and frees us from the images and emotions associated with the simple translation of the verses. Nonetheless, we are concerned with another, perhaps deeper, aspect of the metaphor. Asve seen, Shir Hashirim describes different modes and stages of romantic love, some destructive and some liberating. There are also various forms of love for HaShem. Some may be detrimental to true service of the Almighty. Others are positive, and conducive to a higher level of worship. We will recapitulate some of the lessons of our study1. The nullification of acquisition
The first lesson of Shir Hashirim is that one may love, but should never long to possess the beloved. Love is not a form of acquisition; often it requires acts of self-denial. True love of HaShem must acknowledge His absolute freedom and separateness. The very hopelessness of truly comprehending G-d’s greatness may lead man to despair, and the perception of his own unworthiness makes the notion of engaging the Creator in a relationship of love seem ludicrous. How can the reciprocity of a loving relationship exist between lowly man and the ineffable Master of the universe. The notion that loving means possession of the beloved drives man to mitigate the absolute transcendence of the Divine. We tend to allow anthropomorphic descriptions of G-d to cloud notion of a Divinity totally removed from our ability to perceive and comprehend.
We affirm our conviction that all love, whether romantic, platonic, or religious, rejects the notion that the object of love is property. In Shir Hashirim the dod teaches the ra’aya to seek a love in which togetherness is a product of mutual respect, admiration, longing and effort. By accepting that she cannot possess her beloved the ra’aya realizes happiness she could never have imagined in her immature state.
After accepting that G-d is not our property, we understand that He owes us nothing, and that anything we receive from Him, even that which follows from our good deeds, is a gift of love. We come to realize a joy of worship that is far beyond the comfortable belief that our creed guarantees earthly bliss and everlasting reward. The mitzvah provides its own justification: the satisfaction of closeness to the Creator through conformity to His will.
In the tenth chapter of the Laws of Repentance, the RaMBaM expresses preference for worship of G-d from love rather than fear. The distinction that the RamBaM draws here is that fear implies desire to be saved from the punishments in this world and the next, or to acquire the blessings of the Torah. One who is motivated by love is oblivious to the rewards that will be gained, for the very involvement with fulfilling G-d’s will is sufficient reward.
He who worships from love is occupied with Torah and good deeds, and walks in the paths of wisdom for no ulterior motive. Neither from fear of punishment nor desire to attain reward, but rather because it is truth, and ultimately good will come forth on its account. This attribute is a great one, and not every scholar achieves it. It is the attribute of our father Abraham, whom G-d called his lover because he worshipped only from love. This is the attribute that G-d commanded us through his prophet Moshe, as it is written "And you shall love HaShem, your L-rd, with all your heart". And when one loves G-d with proper love, immediately he will perform all the commandments with love.
Love is that which motivates us to give, rather than that which makes us long to receive. The clingy dependence of the ra’aya in the first stage of Shir Hashirim represents the weakness of the man who seeks comfort in religion, and uses devotion to justify flight from the challenges of living independently in G-d’s world.2. Love is a segment of the wonder of creation
A second lesson we should learn is that love is part of the natural world. We live in a world of beauty and grace, and our love, if allowed to grow and flourish, will blossom with the flowers and sweeten with the fruits. Renewal of life in the springtime after a dark and dismal winter gives hope to renewal of love turned cold and lifeless. The graceful leap of the antelope, the flight of the dove, the colorful wonderland of forest and mountainside, renew within us the conviction that love is not lost, and gives us the confidence to seek new goals and dare to express our emotions and desires. So too must we love G-d, with the message of renewal and creativity, courage and independence, all following from G-d’s own creations in the natural world.
The RambaM, close to the very beginning of his Code, sets forth the commandments to love and fear G-d. In Chapter two of the Laws of the Foundations of Torah he writes:
And what is the path to his love and fear. At the time when one considers His acts and wondrous creations, and perceives in them His wisdom that has no measure or termination, immediately, he loves and praises and glorifies [Him} and desires, with a colossal desire, to know the great G-d. As David said, "My soul thirsts for the L-rd, for the living G-d." And when one considers these very matters, he is immediately stunned, and becomes afraid, realizing he is a tiny creature, lowly and ignorant, standing with insubstantial understanding before He of Perfect Knowledge."
In the next chapters, the RaMBaM outlines the fundamental aspects of the physical and metaphysical components of the universe, as a steppingstone to love and fear of G-d. In Shir HaShirim, the natural world is both the context of love and the stimulant of love. Although the RamBaM discusses the path to love in intellectual terms more than experiential ones, the connection between nature and love is crucial.
A third aspect of love revealed in Shir HaSirim is its intensity. As the RaMBaM writes in the Laws of Repentance:
And what is the nature of proper love? One should love G-d with an exceedingly great and powerful love, until his soul is bound to the love of G-d and he is constantly possessed of it. It is similar to a lovesick man who is unable to take his mind off a woman, constantly beset with her whether he is inactive or active, eating or drinking. Greater than this should be the love of G-d in the hearts of those who love him. They are occupied in it always, as we are commanded, "with all your heart and with all your soul." This is what Shlomo said allegorically "for I am lovesick", and the entirety of Shir HaShirim is an allegory concerning this matter.
The words of the RaMBaM make clear that romantic love is the model for the passion, intensity, and degree of commitment of love of G-d. Nevertheless, the motivating factor in romantic love is earthly fulfillment, while the consummation of love for G-d is spiritual and intellectual. In both case man is obsessed by thoughts of his beloved.
Finally, we must realize that love is not a means of retreat from society, but rather makes us fuller and healthier participants in the community. One who loves must learn empathy and compassion, independence and wisdom. "The comrades listen to your voice." For in deep compassion is deep understanding, and its voice should be heard.
See Rashi, who interprets the mother’s sons as the Egyptians who raised the Jewish nation in a foreign home. Da’at Mikrah sees "mother’s sons" as a closer relationship than father’s sons.
one who is wrapped. The mourner covers his face, as does the harlot. òåèéä
see Devarim 17;16,17