“Now therefore why should we die? For this great fire will consume us; if we hear the voice of the Lord our God any more, then we shall die” Deuteronomy 5:21


The Song of Songs, a book of the Hebrew Bible which is noted for its description of intimate love, becomes, in the hands of the rabbis, a paean between God and his love, the people of Israel. It begins with the passionate desire by the lover requesting, “Let him kiss me with the kisses of his mouth, for your love is better than wine” (Song of Songs 1:2). 

A kiss conjures up many images from the gentle brushing of lips all the way to the fiery heat of love. The rabbis interpret this to be Israel, seeking God’s presence, for there to be not a single atom intervening between God and the Jew. We cannot see God’s face and live, yet here the rabbis imagine Israel seeks not just to see but to taste, to feel, to receive directly, perhaps even to become one.

In the Midrash, in Song of Songs Rabbah, this desire for God’s kiss is imagined to be at the time of Sinai. The Israelites heard God’s voice, experienced the words of the Decalogue “I am the Lord your God” and, we are told, the Torah was fixed in their hearts and not forgotten. 
Yet, then fearful that they will die if they continue to hear God’s revelation, the Israelites ask Moses to be their intermediary. At that moment, intimacy is lost and Torah is forgotten. They beg it to be restored, “Kiss me with the kisses of his mouth” but they are told “not now, in days to come”.

As such, the kiss is a yearning for a love that was once fully requited and now is distant, on hold and waiting for intimacy once again. The Midrash teaches that pristine revelation is impossible now and today we desire no prophetic intermediary.We therefore have a great responsibility to interpret wisely, compassionately and with mercy.

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