Shirata Workshop for Jewish Praying, Singing & Being
 
Sha'alu sh'lom Yerushalayim - Pray for the peace of Jerusaelm
 
Number 10 - 1 Adar 5766 - March 1, 2006
 
 
The 40-Day Song of Songs Segula Practice
 
4 of Adar, 5765, March 3, 2006
through
Erev Pesach, 14 of Nissan, 5766, April 11, 2005
 
During the forty days before the Passover Seder
each of us recites the Song of Songs daily
 
Please download an English translation of the Song of Songs here.
 
What is a Segula?

Segula is the potential to be great. The Jews are called 'am segula, which means that they were endowed with the ability to be great through Torah and its commandments. The vowel segol and the cantillation mark segol or segolta each constitutes of three dots in a triangle, representing the peace that comes through joining the left and the right columns. The term segula also refers at times to an amulet, talisman or other objects that hold the power of transforming potential into actual.

Why Forty Days?

Forty days represents the period in which nothing becomes something, e.g., an embryo, according to our sages, forms in forty days. Moses ascended to Mount Sinai to receive Torah and stayed there for forty days twice (some commentators say three times). The Jews were in the desert for forty years. Elijah the prophet spent forty days in the desert.

The Song of Songs

There is a Jewish folk tradition that reciting the Song of Songs is a segula for finding love. There is also a folk tradition that reciting the Song of Songs for forty days is a segula for making real your deepest desires.

The Song of Songs works as a segula by opening the heart. It is the story of redemption. It is at once a love song between two lovers, the history of all past and future redemption of the Jews, and the song of redemption of the soul captivated by the body and by material existence. All the blessings already exit. The softening of the heart, the circumcision of the heart, enables blessings to move from potential to actual. Our practice is an act of atonement from love.

How did our practice start?

I have been using 40-day segula practices for several years. Specifically, I have used the Song of Songs in times of difficulties in love; Parashat Haman, the story of the giving of manna and Shabbat, Exodus 16, in times of financial strife; and the struggle of Jacob with the angel, Genesis 32, at times of emotional distress.

Last Summer, Diana Afari asked me for a Biblical passage for one of her patients who was struggling. I did not have an answer at first, but then realized that the story of Jacob's struggle with the angel could work. It then came to me that it would be wonderful if our entire Song of Songs study Group could recite the Song together. The group agreed, and we were blessed with the awesome experiences as individuals and as a group.

This year we decided to practice the segula at the more appropriate time in the yearly cycle: between Purim and Pesach. Some traditions, such as the Hassidim and Sephardim, recite the Song of Songs before Shabbat. All Jews recite the Song of Songs on the Shabbat of Pesach. Pesach is the month of the first and, according to our tradition, the last redemption. Our practice coincides with the end of winter and the coming of springtime.

What God wants

Last year, our focus was on the Song of Songs as a prayer for the refinement of will. What do we really want? What are we praying for? On the personal, family, community, national and global levels, what do we desire?

Given that all prayers are answered, at their right time, we practiced faith that the "check book" was open, and that everything you ask for would be granted. The intention of our practice was to refine and purify our desires in passionate yearning for truth.

This year, we reverse the angle, asking: What does God really want from me? What does God really want from us? What is God praying for me? What is God praying for us?

Teachings of our Fathers 2:4 says: "He [Rabban Gamliel, son of Judah HaNassi], used to say: Treat His will as if it were your own will, so that He will treat your will as if it were His will. Nullify your will before His will, so that He will nullify the will of others before your will."

This is a major shift in perspectie, that requires a fine and slow adjustment from the ego-centered vision, to a projected God-centered vision. Remebmer that our existence exists of three layers: the body (nefesh),)the spirit (ru'ach) and the soul (neshama). Our will is a associated with the body and spirit, while the will of God is associated with the soul. While everything that is exits by virtue of its divine life, the soul is more connected to its root. We ask God to direct us, so that the highest will associates with our lowest will, to form only One.

Our will is expressed with words and intention, but the will of God might have other ways of expression. We pray for guidance and grace, so that we vehicles of the Holiest.

Difficulties during practice

At times during the practice, things change. It is not always fun. At first, you might feel that you increasingly understand the Song better and better, but as the practice continues, this clarity might evaporate. You might become confused, depressed, or agitated on some days, to be followed by days of calm, bliss, joy or indifference.

It is good to continue the practice even through difficulties, to keep moving. If you are really changing, there might be a need to mourn over your old self, even if you didn't like aspects of your old self. If you miss a day or two, please make up for it the following day or days.

Reciting Practice

It is good to set up a particular time and place, if possible. The practice takes around 20 minutes. Please spend some meditation or quiet time before and after. Silence and rest are essential. Try reading aloud, softly, with a melody, without, alone or with others. If you can read a little Hebrew, read just a few verses per day. If you can read the whole song in its original Hebrew, the power of the Song is infinite.

Some of us keep a journal to document the journey.

When you finish reciting, listen: you might hear us all say "Amen" to your deepest being. "We" are all the members of the group, everyone who has ever recited the Song, as well as everyone who will ever recite the Song in the future. On blessed days, the entire creation, past, present and future, will thank you for leading its prayer of salvation.

We'd love to hear from you

Please remember that you are not alone. Our Song of Songs Group, which meets every Wednesday, is around 15-18 strong. There are some 70 people on our mailing list. Some 15 have told us that they will be joining us. Everyone is welcome.

The Song says: "Hashmi'eenee"--let me hear your voice. You are welcome to share the journey with the group by sending an email message to the entire group at shir_hashirim_class@lists.shirata.com. Subsription information below.

Learning The Song of Songs

The following file contains our translation, Malbim commentary and creative verse commentary on Song of Songs 1:1-2:9. The file size is about 450Kb.

Love,

Ronnie Serr

 


 

Email Subscription Information

To subscribe to the group's email list, please write to ronnie@alphabethouse.com

 
Archive

Shirata 20, 29 Av 5771 - August 19, 2011
Shirata 19, 17 Adar A 5771 - February 21, 2011
Shirata 18, 29 Av 5770 - August 8, 2010
Shirata 17, 1 Adar 5770 - February 15, 2010
Shirata 16,1 Elul 5769 - October 28, 2009
Shirata 15, 4 of Adar Sheni 5769 - February 28, 2009
Shirata 14, 25 Av 5768 - August 26, 2008
Shirata 13, 1 Adar Rishon 5768 - February 6, 2008
Shirata 12, 1 Elul 5767 - August 14, 2007
Shirata 11, 20 Sh′vat 5767 - February 8, 2007
Shirata 10, 4 of Adar, 5765, March 3, 2006
Shirata 9, 1 Elul 5765 - September 6, 2005
Shirata 8, 3 Second Adar 5765 - March 14, 2005
Shirata 7, First Adar 5765 - Feburary 2, 2005
Shirata 6, 22 Shevat 5765 - January 31, 2005
Shirata 5, Shevat 5765, Jan 2005
Shirata 4, 23 of Kislev 5765, Dec 6, 2004
Shirata 3, 17 of Kislev 5765, Nov 29, 2004
Shirata 2, 9 of Kislev 5765, Nov 22, 2004
Shirata 1, 2 of Kislev 5765, Nov 15, 2004