Wednesday, April 27, 2016

I get it!

An epiphany, as I prepare my shiurim on the closing chapters of Iyov -

Iyov = Shir haShirim!

Not exactly, of course. The roles and dynamics of the relationship at the core of each book are different. But fundamentally, both are books about:
1. a passionate desire for a relationship between the protagonist and G-d/King,
2. then launched into conflict,
3. addressed by outsiders who do not understand, and
4. brought to a resolution which is not a resolution.

Shir haShirim uses the model of two human beings pursuing a loving relationship (אהבה). One may be a king and the other a peasant, but the two are relatively accessible to each other. The conflict arises when the woman/reader falters, she then encounters people who attack her and malign her beloved, she defends her beloved. She returns to the relationship - but the book does not present a full reunion with her Beloved.

Iyov uses the model of King and citizen, with the citizen pursuing a relationship of reverence and fear (יראה). The King is not accessible, but the citizen/reader persists in the relationship. The conflict arises when the King fails to carry out justice, alienating the citizen. The citizen encounters visitors who attack him and misrepresent G-d; he defends G-d to them, even as he demands that G-d communicate with him. G-d ultimately communicates, but only to explain that true communication is not possible. Nonetheless, G-d presents the citizen with gifts, demonstrating that there is some form of relationship.

Two different religious experiences and outlooks.

It's beautiful.

There is much more here; this is going to be fun to write up for Tuesday's shiur.


  1. Really interesting insight! Iyov is one of my favourite books of Tanakh.

  2. "The conflict arises when the King fails to carry out justice, alienating the citizen"

    Justice as such, or justice the citizen understands or can understand? Aren't there aspects of Divine justice we can't fathom?

  3. Daniel-

    The conflict arises because the citizen feels it is unjust. And part of the relationship's resolution is in the demonstration that the King and the citizen are operating on entirely different levels.

  4. Great. Now we have to do is wait for an Artscroll translation of Iyov that bears no resemblance to the actual text but rather, we will be assured, brings out its approved meaning.

    1. Hate to break it to you, Garnel, but no translation of Iyov bears any resemblance to the actual text...