A friend sent me two Yemmenite Midrashim that say the same thing in slightly different versions. According to the editor’s notes on both Midrashim, one by Professor Toby, an expert on Yemmenite Jewry, it is an accepted and well-known popular story in
וְהָיָה כִּי-תִמְצֶאןָ אֹתוֹ רָעוֹת רַבּוֹת, וְצָרוֹת,
וְעָנְתָה הַשִּׁירָה הַזֹּאת לְפָנָיו לְעֵד, כִּי לֹא תִשָּׁכַח מִפִּי
21 then it shall come to pass, when many evils and troubles are come upon them, that this song shall testify before them as a witness; for it shall not be forgotten out of the mouths of their seed;
For it shall not be forgotten out of the mouths of their seed: He promised them that the Torah will not betaken from them nor will it disappear. There is a tradition that the Jews did not have the Torah during the First Exile. Ezra Hasofer wrote down from memory all the 24 books and could not remember the first part of this sentence in Shir Hashirim -
יב לֹא יָדַעְתִּי--נַפְשִׁי שָׂמַתְנִי, מַרְכְּבוֹת עַמִּי נָדִיב.
12 Before I was aware, my soul set me upon the chariots of my princely people. (Shir Hashirim 6:12)
He asked an Am Ha’aretz (an unlearned man) if he remembered the beginning of the verse in Shir Hashirim that ends with מַרְכְּבוֹת עַמִּי נָדִיב. To which the man said לֹא יָדַעְתִּי-- - I don’t know! That jolted Ezra’s memory and he remembered the missing words. The Midrash continues that this is why the Mesora has עה on this verse, the acronym for Am Ha’aretz, to remind us that Ezra needed the help of one. (Unfortunately, I do not have Shir Hashirim with the Mesora so I could not check it. I would appreciate it if someone that has access to it would check it out and let me know.)
I have very little to say about this Midrash other than that it triggers a great many thoughts about how some of our rabbis understood Ezra’s role in writing down Tanach. The fact that it was an accepted traditional story in the Jewish community in
1. For a short overview of the Yemmenite Midrashim, see Torah Shleima Vol. 1 in the introduction note 11.