You Have Ravished My Heart, My Sister

Where in the Tanakh can we find a text for celebrating a lesbian wedding, and an interfaith one at that? Strange as it may seem, I have such confidence in our rich and flexible tradition, that when I posed the question, I started with the assumption that I would be able to find such a text to use as a song lyric for my friends Ella and Natasha.

I assembled the lyrics for this song from phrases in Song of Songs (Shir Hashirim 3:6, 4:1, 4:9).

Mi zot olah min hamidbar m’kuteret mor ul’vonah?
Hinach yafah rayati; hinach yafah.
Libavtini ahoti chalah.

Hinach yafah rayati; hinach yafah.
Einayich yonim mi ba’ad l’tzamateich.
Libavtini ahoti chalah.

Who is this who ascends from the wilderness, perfumed with myrrh and frankincense?
Behold, you are beautiful my love; behold, you are beautiful.
You have ravished my heart, my sister, my bride.

Behold, you are beautiful my love; behold, you are beautiful.
Your eyes are doves behind your veil.
You have ravished my heart, my sister, my bride.

I am delighted that I didn’t have to change any of the words from language that is, normatively in the Tanakh, orientated toward only heterosexual relationships. In this lyric, all of the pronouns, verbs, and adjectives are in the feminine. And, wonderfully, the words of the chorus refer to the bride as a “sister.” So the song is orientated toward a same-sex relationship of two women, and a relationship of equals. (It can, of course, also be sung at a heterosexual wedding, specifically for the bride.)

In Hebrew, the word for heart can be leiv or leivav—i.e., have either one letter beit/veit, or two of them. The word translated as “ravished” is libavtini (sometimes translated as “made my heart beat faster”). Libavtini is based on the “two veit’s” version of “heart.” This song is about two people—the person speaking and the person being addressed—two hearts, two worldviews. In the opening of the verse, the harmonies tilt back and forth strikingly and exotically between the two chords of A minor and G minor; the opening of the chorus tilts between the G major and D minor, first on the word libavtini itself, and then between the two words ahoti (my sister), and chalah (my bride). So the distinctness and balance of the two partners is embedded in the words, and in the structure of the music itself.

Libavtini ahoti chalah—”You have ravished my heart, my sister, my bride.” In the spirit of Martin Buber, these words are expressed in a deep, direct, mystical, I-Thou encounter of two souls, two brides.

Sometimes, when I know my heart is struggling with God, and yearning for God, I sing these words, hoping God will listen. To pray—to speak with God, to sing to God—takes boldness. But we must be bold, be radical, and step into the Presence. We must speak our hearts and minds, and expect to be heard. And the boldness does not end there. We must also dare to hear God singing these words back to us:

Behold, you are beautiful my love; behold, you are beautiful.
You have ravished my heart, my sister, my bride.

Sheet music is available for this song at:

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