There's a Baal HaTurim on Exodus 19:4:

ואביא אתכם אלי מה אשה נקנית בכסף ובשטר ובביאה אף ישראל כן. ... בביאה זהו שנא' ואפרוש כנפי עליך וגו' ואבא בברית אתך לכן אמר הושע ג''פ וארשתיך לי: ואביא בגימ' בביאה

I found this quite surprising, as while there are many references to God and Israel being married, I don't recall seeing intimacy referenced before. That's in line with how Chazal generally avoid ascribing such intensely physical things to God, even as an anthropomorphism (e.g. God smells our offerings, but does not taste them).

The Artscroll Baal HaTurim does not say this is based on any prior source. Is there any place in which intimacy with the Jewish People is described in Tanach or Chazal?

  • 2
    I don't think it's referring to actual intimacy. ביאה in the context of marriage is intimacy, but in this context he's just drawing a comparison between this and the wording of the verse (ואביא אתכם אלי)
    – b a
    Feb 11 '18 at 16:44


Aside from Shir haShirim (see R' Al Berko's answer), there is another example in Tanakh that would more famous -- if people paid more attention to what they're saying in tefillah.

Yeshaiah 62:5 is explicit:

כִּֽי־יִבְעַ֤ל בָּחוּר֙ בְּתוּלָ֔ה, יִבְעָל֖וּךְ בָּנָ֑יִךְ; וּמְשׂ֤וֹשׂ חָתָן֙ עַל־כַּלָּ֔ה, יָשִׂ֥ישׂ עָלַ֖יִךְ אֱלֹקיִךְ׃

For as a young man consummates his marriage with a maiden, so shall You consummate your marriage with us; and as a groom rejoices on his bride, so shall your G-d Rejoice upon you.

The "על" in the second half of the verse could have been taken to mean "about", figuratively "over" -- meaning "as a groom rejoices about his bride". But is pretty clear from the context of the first clause talking about בעילה (marital intimacy) that the clause means "on", literally.

From which Rav Shelomo haLevi al-Qabetz (16th cent Tzefat) paraphrases in Lekha Dodi:

יָשיש עָלַיִךְ אֱלקיִךְ. כִּמְשוש חָתָן עַל כַּלָּה.

Your G-d should rejoice on you the way a groom rejoices on a bride.

Most siddurim translate it "rejoice over", with a figurative connotation. Ignoring the scriptural source, or perhaps aware that siddurim have younger readers. But given that the author of the poem was one of the leading Qabbalists of Tzefas, erotic imagery is far more likely. And in any case, R Shlomo al-Qabetz's familiarity with the pasuq in Yeshaiah is a given.

However, the songwriters who put melodies to this line of Lekha Dodi couldn't possibly be aware of the original in Yeshaiah. Because as a song to sing at weddings, these words are incredibly inappropriate.

  • 1
    Let the downvotes begin! Feb 12 '18 at 17:44
  • וְהָיָה כַּאֲשֶׁר-שָׂשׂ יְהוָה עֲלֵיכֶם, לְהֵיטִיב אֶתְכֶם וּלְהַרְבּוֹת אֶתְכֶם--כֵּן יָשִׂישׂ יְהוָה עֲלֵיכֶם, לְהַאֲבִיד אֶתְכֶם וּלְהַשְׁמִיד אֶתְכֶם; וְנִסַּחְתֶּם מֵעַל הָאֲדָמָה, אֲשֶׁר-אַתָּה בָא-שָׁמָּה לְרִשְׁתָּהּ ?????
    – Double AA
    Feb 12 '18 at 17:46
  • See Radak and TY there, as it is certainly not Peshat in Yeshaya (or anywhere else in tanach), mg.alhatorah.org/Full/Yeshayahu/62.5#e0n7. Think of "Vayaamod Haam al Moshe", DoubleAA's reference above, and many other places where Al is not literally "on". However, your comment, "But given that the author of the poem was one of the leading Qabbalists of Tzefas, erotic imagery is far more likely. " is bang-on. +1. Feb 12 '18 at 20:01
  • @רבותמחשבות My reference isn't just על. It's ישיש על.
    – Double AA
    Feb 12 '18 at 20:25
  • 1
    @MichaBerger I have TY saying וּכְמָא דְחָדֵי חֲתָנָא עִם כַּלְתָא יֶחְדֵי עֲלָךְ אֱלָהָיִךְ, which is not word for word, and does not "apply to Al in both". But credit to you again, you make an excellent point about poetic doubling. The first part of the Passuk certainly answers the question, I just think the second part actually meaning that may be a bit of a stretch, although I now at least think it is a possibility. Shkoyach, no need to make others squeamish (although I would like to see which mitzvah you refer to). Feb 12 '18 at 22:32

The most straightforward book is Shir Hashirim with all its allegories and interpretations.

Between 3 types of intimacy b/w Hashem and Am Israel (Slaves, Sons, Spouse), this topic is not referenced or discussed by the mainstream (non-Hassidic) Meforshim, as it is very delicate. If you dig deeper in Hassidic and Kabbalic sources, you will find a lot of such allegories and metaphors.

  • 1
    I was thinking that, but didn't recall anything that specific. Never learned it in depth, though. How deep do you have to dig? Feb 11 '18 at 22:26
  • 1
    @Arithmomaniac AriZ"L and his followers explain numerous historical events, especially events sequences by comparing them to different (usually 4) stages of intimacy bw a man and his loved woman as outlined in Halachah, i.g. Shidduch, Kiddushin, Chupah and physical intimacy. THis is especially true for the Exodus also. Many Meforshim that are familiar with those ideas but are not strict followers of Ariz"l's bring fragments here and there.
    – Al Berko
    Feb 12 '18 at 15:26
  • Excellent Answer! +1 Feb 12 '18 at 19:57

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .