Locating Psalm 30, Redux

In the divisions of psalms for weekly or monthly recitation of the book, the ring of psalms we’ve been exploring is split over two days. Neither recitation cycle is my practice, so I don’t know how the pause affects reading. (If any reader has a weekly or monthly recitation practice, please let us know your thoughts.) And I don’t know of meditations or other teachings that focus on the daily groupings. (Anyone have resources to share?) But I do spend time with the Raphael Abecassis paintings which divide daily readings in this Sefer Tehillim.

“Firmament Between the Waters” for Day Two divides Psalms 28 and 29 from Psalm 30.

Abecassis

from “Firmament Between the Waters,” by Raphael Abecassis

Apropos of the ring of connection between Psalms 28-30, this painting offers an interesting link between “The God of glory thunders” (Psalm 29:3) and “Therefore, Glory will sing praise to You, and will not be silent” (Psalm 30:13).

insetFirmament

detail: R. Abecassis, “Firmament Between the Waters”

More about Abecassis and his artwork.

28 of 30 on Psalm 30
No Longer National Novel Writing Month, but continuing the focus on Psalm 30 (“Thirty on Psalm 30”) begun as a NaNoWriMo-Rebel project. Whole series (so far).

NOTE:
Five Books
1-41, 42-72, 73-89, 90-106, and 107-150.
Weekly Recitation
Sunday: 1-29; Monday: 30-50; Tuesday: 51-72; Wednesday: 73-89; Thursday: 90-106; Friday: 107-119; Saturday: 120-150.
Monthly Recitation
…Day 4 of 30: 23-28; Day 5: 29-34….
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NOTE:
Psalms, Paintings: Raphael Abecassis, MOD.
(c) 2002. All rights reserved to the Ministry of Defense, Israel. ISBN 965-05-1179-2.
In addition to illustrated borders around psalms and prayers, the book has paintings to introduce each of the seven weekly divisions of psalms as well as a smattering of smaller illustrations and elaborate end papers.

MOD_Psalter

There is a larger, bilingual volume called “The Psalms of David” that appears to have similar illustrations.

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Eighteen (or 19) Names, Seven Voices

In the last post, we considered a ring of connection linking Psalms 28, 29, and 30. (See “Psalms Near 30.”) One of the key elements was the repetition of God’s voice in Psalm 29. The seven mentions of God’s voice, along with the repetition of God’s name, also extend this ring of connection to the Shabbat and weekday Amidah.

God’s Name in Psalms 29 and 30

In discussing the origins of the Standing Prayer, with its eighteen foundational blessings, the Rabbis offer several explanations, including this one based on Psalm 29:

Corresponding to what were these eighteen blessings instituted… Rabbi Hillel, son of Rabbi Shmuel bar Nahmani, said: Corresponding to the eighteen mentions of God’s name that King David said in the psalm: “Give unto the Lord, O you sons of might” (Psalm 29)….
— B. Berakhot 28b, Koren Steinsaltz commentary

With regard to the nineteenth, they add:

Corresponding to what was the nineteenth blessing instituted? Rabbi Levi said: According to Rabbi Hillel, son of Rabbi Shmuel bar Nahmani …the nineteenth blessing corresponds to a reference to God in that psalm, where a name other than the tetragrammaton was used: “The God of glory thunders” (Psalms 29:3)….
— B. Berakhot 28b

We saw early on in this series a tradition that Psalm 30 was added to the liturgy under the influence of Jewish mystics because the psalm “mentions the name of God ten times, and Jewish mystics saw in this a hint of the s’firot, the ten aspects of the Godhead” (Siddur Lev Shalem ). I still count only nine appearances of YHVH in Psalm 30, however, couldn’t find a source that detailed the ten mentions of God’s name, and wonder if maybe the tenth was hidden. (See “The Whole Nine Yards.”)

In a similar vein to the Talmud’s handling of the nineteenth blessing, here is one way to find ten mentions of God’s name in Psalm 30:

שְׁמַע-יְהוָה וְחָנֵּנִי; יְהוָה, הֱיֵה-עֹזֵר לִי
Hear, O Lord, and be gracious to me. O Lord, be my helper.

The formulation “O Lord, be my helper,” alludes to the meaning of the Tetragrammaton: “For I will be with you” (see Exodus 3:12-15, and Onkelos, according to Ramban‘s reading in his commentary on the words: אֶהְיֶה אֲשֶׁר אֶהְיֶה eHyeh asher eHyeh). At all events, the combination הי הֱיֵה, Hashem heyeh, “O Lord, be,” is a play on the spelling of the two words.”
The Jerusalem Commentary, p.226

In this way, verse 11 suggests the tenth mention of God’s name in Psalm 30 without spelling it out directly. Hinting at the Name seems quite fitting with many themes of the psalm and with musical and chant settings for this verse in particular.

God’s Voice

Continuing their discussion of the Amida, the Rabbis touch on the seven blessings of the Shabbat Standing Prayer: 

Corresponding to what were these seven blessings of the Shabbat Amida prayer instituted?… Rabbi Halafta ben Shaul said: Corresponding to the seven “voices” which David mentioned on the waters; in other words, the seven times that “the voice of God” is mentioned in Psalms 29, which served as the source for the weekday prayer.
— B. Berakhot 29a

In the previous post, outlining a ring of connection between Psalms 28, 29, and 30, I suggested that Psalm 29’s focus on God’s voice can be read as a response to Psalm 28’s fears of God’s silence or idleness. And then Psalm 30 loops us back to Psalm 28’s themes of supplication, crying out, rescue from the pit, and God as strength and help.

As noted also in “Psalms Near 30,” the powerful, majestic, etal. voices of God — especially if considered in response to a personal plea for connection and rescue — seem reminiscent of God’s speeches in The Book of Job, chapters 38ff…

….Except that in Psalm 29 it’s the human speaker who is extolling God’s voices. And, based on the passages in Berakhot, the psalm is somehow the source of the Amida. So, God’s voice in all its shattering, shake-inducing fire in some sense prompts our Standing Prayer.

Is it that standing before God that eventually turns lament into dancing, undoes the sackcloth, and dresses us in joy? It’s a long way from “the pit” to a place where one’s “whole being might sing hymns to [God] endlessly.” The changes expressed in Psalm 30, which follows on the ring from Psalm 28 to 29 — and into the prayers Psalm 29 inspires — are huge and visceral. A little bit like Job, post-whirlwind, saying: “I had heard You with my ears, But now I see You with my eyes” (Job 42:5).


27 of 30 on Psalm 30
No Longer National Novel Writing Month, but continuing the focus on Psalm 30 (“Thirty on Psalm 30”) begun as a NaNoWriMo-Rebel project. Whole series (so far).


NOTE:
Koren Talmud Bavli. Volume 1: Tractate Berakhot. Jerusalem: Koren, 2012.
This English in this bilingual edition combines translation, in bold type, with additional narration from Rabbi Adin Steinsaltz in ordinary font. The English-opening section also offers English notes, complete with illustrations, and full Hebrew text. The Hebrew-opening section provides traditional layout without translation. The 42-volume set is still being released. In addition to print editions, PDFs — which include the illustrations and all — are available for $9.95/each. Visit Koren for more information.

If you’re looking for a free, accessible English-only versions, visit Halakhah.com.

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NOTE:
Onkelos translates Exodus 3:14 without attempting to render key phrases into Aramaic:

Then the Lord said to Moses, “Ehyeh Asher Ehyeh.” And He said, “Thus shall you say to the Israelites, ‘Ehyeh sent you to me.'”
Onkelos: On the Torah (Jerusalem: Geffen, 2006)

An additional note says that “Ibn Ezra regards Ehyeh as God’s name and asher ehyeh as a description of God’s nature.”

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Psalms Near 30

The last post discussed various divisions of the Book of Psalms, for study and recitation, as well as arrangement by “juxtaposition.”

Book One
In his introduction to The Jerusalem Commentary on Psalms, Amos Hakham writes:

The question about the order of the psalms was attributed in the Talmud to a heretic….But the conclusion stands regarding the system behind the arrangement of the psalms and it shows us the right way to examine the relationships between them” (p.XXXIV; see also previous post)

Juxtaposed Expressions
Hakham notes that “many psalms were juxtaposed because they contain similar expressions,” offering an example of the shared expressions — עֹז or מָעוֹז of strength, refuge, or stronghold — in Psalms 27-31:

  • Psalm 27:1 — יְהוָה מָעוֹז-חַיַּי
    The Lord is the refuge of my life
  • Psalm 28:8 — יְהוָה עֹז-לָמוֹ; וּמָעוֹז
    The Lord is their strength and refuge…
  • 29:11 — יְהוָה–עֹז, לְעַמּוֹ יִתֵּן
    The Lord will give strength to His people
  • 30:8 — בִּרְצוֹנְךָ, הֶעֱמַדְתָּה לְהַרְרִי-עֹז
    O Lord, by Your favor You made my mountain stand strong
  • 31:3 — הֱיֵה לִי, לְצוּר-מָעוֹז
    Be for me a fortified rock
  • 31:5 — כִּי-אַתָּה, מָעוּזִּי
    …For You are my stronghold
    The Jerusalem Commentary, p.XXXIV

Moreover, Hakham says, “Three consecutive psalms may be connected to each other in a ring (a-b, b-c, c-a).” In that spirit….

Ring of Connection

A>>B
Psalm 28 opens with a plea and a worry:

אַל-תֶּחֱרַשׁ מִמֶּנִּי
פֶּן-תֶּחֱשֶׁה מִמֶּנִּי

  1. be not Thou deaf unto me; lest if Thou be silent unto me
  2. do not disregard me, for if You hold aloof from me
  3. be not deaf to me, lest You remain idle regarding me
    — respectively: JPS 1917, JPS 1985, Jerusalem Commentary

Then criticizes those who

  1. give no heed to the works of the LORD, nor to the operation of His hands do not
  2. consider the LORD’s deeds, the work of His hands
  3. do not pay heed to the deeds of the Lord and to the work of His hands
    — respectively: JPS 1917, JPS 1985, Jerusalem Commentary

Psalm 28:6 uses the expression “שְׁמַע קוֹל תַּחֲנוּנַי — Hear the voice of my supplications.” Then, as if in response to fears of God’s silence or idleness, Psalm 29 extols God’s voice [קוֹל] seven times: upon the waters, powerful; majestic; breaking cedars; hewing flames of fire; shaking the wilderness; causing hinds to tremble and stripping forests bare.

None of this is a direct answer to the psalmist’s personal plea, of course. In fact, it is powerfully reminiscent of God’s outsize response to Job. But Psalm 29 is the antithesis of silence, surely, as well as a proclamation of the work of God’s hands.

B>>C
As Psalm 29 concludes, the scene is “His Temple” (v.9) — with images of God on the throne, giving “strength to His people” and blessing them with peace (vv.10-11) — while Psalm 30 is associated with the bringing of First Fruits.

The term “כָּבוֹד [glory]” appears four times in Psalm 29: “Ascribe to the Lord the glory and strength” (v.1), “Ascribe to the Lord the glory of His name” (v.2), “The God of glory thunders” (v.3), and “…His Temple all say: Glory.” (v.9). Psalm 30 concludes with “כָּבוֹד [glory]” singing praise to God. In addition

C>>A
Images in Psalm 30 draw back toward Psalm 28: God as strength and help, crying out to God, and “those who go down into the pit” (30:4 and 28:1).

Moreover, Psalm 30:9 uses the expression “אֶתְחַנָּן — I made supplication,” while, as noted above, Psalm 28:6 uses the expression “שְׁמַע קוֹל תַּחֲנוּנַי — Hear the voice of my supplications.”

Thus, it seems to me, Psalms 28-30 form the kind of ring — A>>B>>C>>A — Hakham describes. I think perhaps the loop is also more complex, leading us to weave in other texts…. (more to come).


26 of 30 on Psalm 30
No Longer National Novel Writing Month, but continuing the focus on Psalm 30 (“Thirty on Psalm 30”) begun as a NaNoWriMo-Rebel project. Whole series (so far).

NOTE:
Five Books:
1-41, 42-72, 73-89, 90-106, and 107-150.
Weekly Recitation:
Sunday: 1-29; Monday: 30-50; Tuesday: 51-72; Wednesday: 73-89; Thursday: 90-106; Friday: 107-119; Saturday: 120-150.
Monthly Recitation:
…Day 4 of 30: 23-28; Day 5: 29-34….
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