Today starts a new book, Song of Songs. I’ve definitely read excerpts from this book before, but I don’t think I’ve ever fully read through the whole thing, so I’m looking forward to exploring it. I’ve seen that the poetry-based books that don’t really have a plot aren’t always my favorites, but this one is short enough that hopefully it’ll be a nice interlude. The book starts by identifying it as being of King Solomon, and it’s known for being a love poem. There are plenty of interpretations of how this can be read as allegorical, but as I’m not going deep into commentaries, I’m sticking with what I find from the surface-level text itself.
“A cluster of henna-flowers is my beloved to me, in the vineyards of Ein Gedi (Song of Songs 1:14).” I remember the first time I went to Ein Gedi, when I was in high school. I’d been to Israel many times before, but it wasn’t somewhere on my family’s radar, so I hadn’t been to that particular site. I was with a teen tour, and we hiked up to the waterfalls, and as we were climbing, our tour guide pointed out the caves where King Saul and King David pursued each other, and took out a Tanakh and read from the Song of Songs. Despite all the time I had spent in Jerusalem previously, this was the first time that it really hit home for me that I was walking where all of these events happened, that my steps were on the same paths as mythical characters. I’m not sure if Jerusalem was too familiar or too overwhelming, but that idea never hit home as much as it did in Ein Gedi, so it’s nice to have a flashback to that moment through this reading.
With this chapter, we’re at the end of the book of Job. I have to confess, I’m not unhappy about this. I haven’t loved Job. It’s been repetitive, long-winded, and I truly had no idea how long of a book this is. The story has always seemed like it’s pretty well wrapped up within the first two chapters, so the weeks of reflection and speeches have been a less than stellar surprise. I’m looking forward to starting a new book next week, and moving on from this one.
So, my final verse for Job. He’s finally back in favor with God, and is rewarded twofold what he lost. “Now the Lord blessed Job’s end more than his beginning, and he had fourteen thousand flocks and six thousand camels and a thousand yoke of cattle and a thousand she-donkeys. And he had fourteen sons and three daughters (Job 42:12-13).” It’s great that Job finally gets what’s coming to him, but I imagine none of the blessings that he receives now can in any way fully make up for what he lost during his cursed period. Just because good eventually happens doesn’t negate the tragedy that someone already went through. Those are the things that shape us, in one way or another. The book ends with Job dying at the age of 140. And with that, this saga closes, and we’re on to the next. On Sunday I start Song of Songs, with 790 chapters down and 139 to go!
“They are so close to each other that no air comes between them. One adheres to the other; they stick together and cannot be separated (Job 41:8-9).” I’m thinking about this text through the lens of relationships, and particularly what makes them healthy. The first verse doesn’t really resonate with me. I think closeness is great, of course, but am also a proponent of healthy separations and spaces. My husband and I don’t do everything together, which I think is a positive aspect of our relationship. We’re able to share and intersect pieces of our lives, while not being limited in our individual pursuits. But the second clause really resonated with me, because it emphasizes to me the importance of sticking together and being bound to your partner, no matter what. While interests may change and evolve over time, that core tenant of a relationship can be the very foundation that it’s built on.
“Bedeck yourself now with pride and excellence, and clothe yourself with glory and beauty (Job 40:10).” God is speaking right now, addressing Job directly. And I like the idea that despite everything Job has suffered, he can still maintain a degree of dignity by the way he carries himself and the attitude with which he approaches the world. It’s a fake it ’til you make it strategy. While in some ways this may be seen as condescending depending on the situation that someone is in, in this case I think it’s an important reminder that our attitude impacts so much of how others see us, how we see ourselves, and ultimately how we feel.
“Do you know the time for the mountain goats to give birth? Do you wait for the hinds to calve (Job 39:1)?” On the surface level, the answer to this question, at least for me, is an obvious no. I’m a decidedly less than outdoorsy person, and my experience with farm animals, or really any kind of wildlife, is zero. But on a deeper level, I think the question posed is more about understanding the rhythms of nature more than the specific life cycle of certain animals. It’s sad that we’re all removed from the cycles of time, seasons, and even fertility that so many generations understood and had wisdom of. In a small way, by pledging to spend more time outside this year, I hope to regain some of this knowledge, by paying more attention to the seasons and the realities of nature.
Readers, yesterday marked an important milestone in this project. Yesterday was officially three years to the day since I started this endeavor of reading a chapter of Tanakh every day, and it’s been an incredible journey so far. It’s crazy to think that by this time next year, this project will be over. I’ve actually already started thinking about what the next project I want to embark on is – is it more Tanakh? Talmud? Something else? I’ve discovered that I love the discipline that comes with this practice, and I appreciate the journey of finding a piece of meaning in every day’s journey. So, in honor of the three year mark, I was thrilled to find a piece that seemed to resonate with the whole adventure that this project has been for me. “Do you understand [everything] until the breadths of the earth? Tell if you know it all (Job 38:18).” I love this verse because the more I learn, the more I realize that the answer is no. But it’s no in the best way. It’s great to know that there’s always something new to delve into, a deeper level of understanding or a new adventure beyond the surface level. I hope to be able to continue to enjoy that this year. Here’s to another year!
And, for those who are keeping track, at the three year mark, we’re at 786 chapters down, 143 to go!
“For He says to the snow, ‘Be upon the earth’; likewise to the shower of rain and to the showers of His mighty rain (Job 37:6).” I guess it’s a positive for weathermen and women that weather is apparently subject to God’s power and whims. That justifies why it’s so hard to predict accurately. And for those of us who are running around in whatever weather patterns seem to pop up, often unpredictably thanks to climate change, it often seems totally random. We’re going into a long weekend, and I have lots of plans to be outdoors, so I’m hoping for good weather to be in the works for the next few days!
“Behold God is great and we do not know; the number of His years is unfathomable (Job 36:26).” Elihu is speaking once again, and in this verse, I’m very content with what he has to say. A few years ago I was in a class where we were given the assignment to articulate our personal theologies as they pertained to our understandings of God. The opening line of my presentation was something to the effect of “I’m content to not have a full understanding of God and my feelings towards Him, and am comfortable with the inconsistencies of the various facets of His being because that to me contributes to His other-worldly greatness.” I still very much stand by that whole thought process, so this verse resonated with me because it seems to mirror my personal theology. In a world where we require answers and justifications for everything, it’s ok to leave something as a mystery, and in this case, God fulfills that role.
“Gaze at the heavens and see, and view the skies, which are higher than you (Job 35:5).” Lately, I’ve been spending a lot more time outside than I have in the past. In an attempt to work on my health, I’ve been doing a great deal of walking, and while I still have some pretty lazy tendencies, on the whole it’s been an extremely positive experience. In particular, the simple act of being outside, of breathing in the fresh air and enjoying the changing sky overhead, has been truly therapeutic. In terms of priorities, it’s very easy to fall back on claims of how busy and overworked I am. And it’s definitely true that I (like many of us) have a lot on my plate. But having tasted the benefits of time outside, I want to commit myself to reprioritizing things and making sure that I make time for this kind of simple pleasure.
“For the ear tests words, as the palate tastes food (Job 34:3).” As young children, we learn about the five senses, and as we grow up, we use them to explain things about ourselves (ex. I’m a more visual learner, I need to touch things, I have a great palate). So it’s nice to see this verse and to think about how each of these facets of the human experience relates to each other, and yet stands alone as unique as well. Of course, they tend to work best in tandem with one another, so it’s in our best interest to try to apply these multiple senses to various scenarios in order to get the most comprehensive look at how the world around us works.