Glory versus Silence

As noted previously, one of the key aspects of “kavod,” however it and the rest of Ps. 30:13 is translated, is its opposition to silence. We looked at Rabbi Shefa Gold’s practice about “finding the glory inside,” by examining whatever might be silencing us/our glory, and “pouring it out to God” (Gold’s teaching).

Returning to an idea from a few posts back, “I Called, We Called: –chanting separately and together, as we call out in Psalm 30, we offer and receive some of the human connection that Rabbi Polen sees as part of the way prayer is answered — raises the question of if/how we can find our own glory, if others are silenced. Our liberation — and our joy — is bound up together.


17 of 30 on Psalm 30
As a National Novel Writing Month Rebel, I write each day of November while not aiming to produce a novel. This year I focus on Psalm 30 (“Thirty on Psalm 30”) in the hope that its powerful language will help us through these days of turmoil and toward something new, stronger and more joyful, as individuals and as community. Whole series (so far)…. apologies to anyone who finds multiple-post days too much.

There’s Glory for You! — Part 2

In “The Spirit of Prayer,” Abraham Joshua Heschel warned:

It is not enough to know how to translate Hebrew into English; it is not enough to have met a word in the dictionary and to have experienced unpleasant adventures with it in the study of grammar. A word has soul and we must learn how to attain insight into its life.
— see previous post for citation

Translation alone may not be enough, but it can give us some insight into the life of a word or a phrase.

In the previous look at “kavod” in Psalm 30, we saw the word translated in Jewish versions as “glory,” “depths,” “soul,” “whole being,” and just plain “I.” Here, for additional perspectives, are some Christian translations and notes for verse 13 (or 12 — NOTE: Christian scholars generally do not count superscriptions as verses in psalms, so the numbering differs by one from Jewish sources) of the psalm.

More Translations

The book of psalms from the original Hebrew with various readings and notes by the late Alexander Geddes, LL. D (1807):

Therefore I will praise thee, my glory!
Never will I be silent in thy praise
[“f” — as in “filent in thy praife” — changed to “s” for readability]

The Greek interpreters read another word, the English of which is honour; as if the psalmist had said, thou hadst so firmly established mine honour; and this reading by some late translators. The other I think more poetical and expressive – Ver. 12. I will praise thee, my glory!

The present Hebrew runs thus: Glory will praise thee, and will not be silent. But the Syriac translator read both verbs in the first person; and I have no doubt of his being the original lection.

— Geddes, p.46 (London: printed for J. Johnson in St. Paul’s Courtyard by Richard Taylor & Co, Shoe-Lane)

Bay Psalm Book being the earliest New England Version (1862):

That sing to thee my glory may
and may not silent be
Lord my God I will give thanks
evermore to thee

The Psalms: A historical and spiritual commentary offers two readings:

  • many, with the Septuagint (LXXX), “my glory” for “that my glory should make music to you and not be silent,” taken as a reference to “his soul restored in royal glory.”
  • others “change the vowels to give ‘my liver’ and then render ‘my heart,’”
    — J.H. Eaton, The Psalms: A historical and spiritual commentary
    (T&T Clark, A Continuum Imprint 2003), p.143

NIV Study Bible (1985) gives us, “that my heart may sing to you and not be silent,” with the following footnotes:

[30:12] heart. Lit. “glory (see note on 7:5)

[7:5] me. Lit. “my glory,” a way of referring to the core of one’s being (see 16:9; 30:12; 57:8; 108:1 and notes).

Most of the 50+ translations available through “Bible Gateway” similarly use “heart” or “soul,” a few “glory” or “whole being.” But there are also more interpretive offerings:

  • To the end that my tongue and my heart and everything glorious within me may sing praise to You and not be silent.
    Amplified Bible (1965-1987)
  • You have restored my honor. My heart is ready to explode, erupt in new songs! It’s impossible to keep quiet!
    The VOICE (2012)
  • How could I be silent when it’s time to praise you?
    Now my heart sings out loud, bursting with joy—
    a bliss inside that keeps me singing,
    “I can never thank you enough!”
    Passion Translation (2017)


Beyond Translation

“…There’s glory for you!”

“I don’t know what you mean by ‘glory,'” Alice said.

Humpty Dumpty smiled contemptuously. “Of course you don’t—till I tell you….”
more on “glory” Through the Looking Glass

Whatever English is chosen to translate “kavod,” or however we relate to the Hebrew directly, one aspect of its life seems to be that it is antithetical to silence. All the tribulations in the psalm — enemy triumph, the underworld or the pit, God’s anger and hiding of God’s face, mourning and sackcloth — cannot keep it from singing.

Rabbi Shefa Gold teaches a practice to help in “finding the glory inside and pouring it out to God.” She asks us to “examine what it is that silences that glory,” and then “look beneath the obstacle” for the “glory that wants to be acknowledged and celebrated.” Here’s her chanting practice for this verse.

In that sense, we’re all part Alice, waiting for Humpty Dumpty to tell us what “kavod” means in the context of the psalm, and part Humpty Dumpty, knowing that it’s up to us to identify whatever obstacles are blocking our own glory in this particular instance.


16 of 30 on Psalm 30
As a National Novel Writing Month Rebel, I write each day of November while not aiming to produce a novel. This year I focus on Psalm 30 (“Thirty on Psalm 30”) in the hope that its powerful language will help us through these days of turmoil and toward something new, stronger and more joyful, as individuals and as community. Whole series (so far)…. apologies to anyone who finds multiple-post days too much.

There’s Glory for You! – Part 1

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Rabbi Diane Elliot noted, a few posts back, her practice of taking “the time to work with a word or a phrase” from the prayers and then using that “backstory” when returning to the same prayer in other settings (“Wordless Verses“). Abraham Joshua Heschel also wrote, addressing fellow rabbis in 1953, about the importance of spending time with individual words in the prayers:

We must learn how to study the inner life of the words that fill the world of our prayerbook….A word has a soul, and we must learn how to attain insight into its life….We forgot how to find the way to the word, how to be on intimate terms with a few passages in the prayerbook. Familiar with all the words, we are intimate with none.
— “The Spirit of Prayer” (citation)

One of the many words and phrases worth pausing to consider in Psalm 30 is “glory” —

לְמַעַן, יְזַמֶּרְךָ כָבוֹד– וְלֹא יִדֹּם
יְהוָה אֱלֹהַי, לְעוֹלָם אוֹדֶךָּ
So that my glory may sing praise to Thee, and not be silent;
O LORD my God, I will give thanks unto Thee for ever.
— Ps. 30:13 (1917 JPS translation; others below)

 

Translating “Glory,” Part 1

To begin, it is usually instructive to notice where translators vary in rendering a particular phrase. Verse 13 yields a lot of variety. Here is a selection of Jewish translations, offered in reverse chronological order:

  1. that I might sing of Your glory and not be silent:
    ADONAI my God, I thank You, always
    — Rabbinical Assembly, Siddur Lev Shalem, 2016
  2. that my soul may sing Your praises and never cease.
    I will acknowledge You forever, LORD my God.
    — R. Eli Cashdan, Koren Tehillim, 2015
  3. So that my depths might sing out to you and never be stilled,
    God, my Help, I will spill out gratitude to you forever.
    — Pamela Greenberg, The Complete Psalms, 2010
  4. Therefore my glory will sing praise to You, and will not be silent.
    O Lord, my God, I will give thanks to You forever.
    The Jerusalem Commentary, Mosad Harav Kook, 2003 (see note)
  5. that I might sing praise to You. I will not be silent!
    Adonai my God, I will laud you forever!
    My People’s Prayer Book, Lawrence Hoffman (ed) 2001
  6. That I might sing Your praises unceasingly,
    that I might thank You, Adonai my God, forever
    — R. Jules Harlow 1985 trans, adapted for Or Hadash 1998
  7. that [my] whole being might sing hymns to You endlessly;
    O LORD my God, I will praise You forever.
    — JPS 1985 (via Sefaria); 1917 JPS (via Mechon-Mamre) is above

NOTES from The Jerusalem Commentary (source #4 above):
“The expression ‘glory will sing, praise to You, and will not be silent,’ implies that the silence of grief will be turned into a song of gladness, and thus this verse is a continuation of what was stated in the previous verse, ‘You loosened my sackcloth…’

“Some commentaries explain the word כָּבוֹד, kavod, to mean ‘I myself,’ like כְּבוֹדִי, k’vodi.” [cf. commentary on 7:6 where note explains that “my glory” or “my honor,” like “my soul,” means just plain, “me.”]

So, we have kavod translated as:

  • glory,
  • depths,
  • soul,
  • whole being, and
  • just plain “I.”

More soon…


15 of 30 on Psalm 30
As a National Novel Writing Month Rebel, I write each day of November while not aiming to produce a novel. This year I focus on Psalm 30 (“Thirty on Psalm 30”) in the hope that its powerful language will help us through these days of turmoil and toward something new, stronger and more joyful, as individuals and as community. Whole series (so far)…. apologies to anyone who finds multiple-post days too much.

NOTE:
“The Spirit of Prayer” was published in the Proceedings of the Rabbinical Assembly of America [Conservative], Vol. XVII, 1953, and reprinted as a pamphlet. Eventually (1996), the lecture was included in Moral Grandeur and Spiritual Audacity (See Source Materials)
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I Called; We Called

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Returning to the music of “Wordless Verses,” the melody Benshimon shares is one of those created by Rabbi Shlomo Carlebach for the psalm.

There is a straightforward rendering of the chant posted on Zemirot Database. Its melody, used in many congregations and other settings, focuses on two lines of Psalm 30, verses 9 and 11, usually translated as something like “To you, God, I call, and to God I will plead. Hear, O God, and have mercy on me, be a help to me!”

This translation, from Siddur Eit Ratzon, is intended to be “sung to the same melody” — no information about which melody that is, but the translation does seem to scan with this particular, popular tune:

אֵלֶיךָ יְהוָה אֶקְרָא; וְאֶל-אֲדֹנָי, אֶתְחַנָּן
Elecha HASHEM ekra; v’el adonai et-chanan
It is to You that I cried out,
it is to You I did appeal — v.9
שְׁמַע-יְהוָה וְחָנֵּנִי; יְהוָה, הֱיֵה-עֹזֵר לִי.
Sh’ma HASHEM v’choneini; HASHEM heyeih ozer li
Hear me, HASHEM, show me Your light, [be gracious]
please help me draw from Your strength — v.11

Note: “Show me Your light,” although it works with the chant, is an unusual interpretation of what is more commonly rendered, “be gracious to me.”

Calling and Response

“Three Israelis in Phoenix Arizona” recorded at this version at Fiddler’s Dream Coffeehouse. You can hear a little of the call-and-response that many congregations employ with this chant.

In Making Prayer Real, Rabbi Nehemia Polen writes:

…The Baal Shem Tov taught his students that every prayer is answered immediately. It’s reported that his students raised their eyebrows, so it’s not as if people are crazy or stupid, but he insisted, yes, every prayer is answered the instant it is uttered. That is the moment.

What we really want always is intimacy–with God, however I understand God; with other human beings; with the universe; with my own deep self. And when I do this, I feel that intimacy immediately, and that’s “yes.” That’s “yes.”
–p.89 (full citation at Source Materials)

By allowing us to “cry out,” and so be answered, the chant, “Elecha HASHEM Ekra — It is to You that I cried out,” is one way that the Baal Shem Tov’s teaching comes to life.

The “Three Israelis” — identified as “Oren, Ronen, and Ari” in the video — demonstrate another way the chant works in terms of the teaching above: A leader, often with more voices joining in support, calls out, and then others in the room call out, too, separately —

Voice set 1: Elecha — It is to You
Voice set 2: Elecha — It is to You

This is repeated with the second phrase of the verse —

Voice set 1: HASHEM ekra — I cried out
Voice set 1: HASHEM ekra — I cried out

Finally all join together in closing out the verse —

Together: V’el Adonai et-chanan — it is to You I did appeal

Similarly with verse 11:

Voice set 1: Sh’ma HASHEM — Hear me, O God
Voice set 2: Sh’ma HASHEM — Hear me, O God
Voice set 1: v’choneini — Show me Your Light (be gracious to me)
Voice set 2: v’choneini — Show me Your Light (be gracious to me)
Together: HASHEM heyeih ozer li — please help me draw from Your strength

Chanting separately and together, we offer and receive some of the human connection Rabbi Polen suggests is part of the way prayer is answered.


14 of 30 on Psalm 30
As a National Novel Writing Month Rebel, I write each day of November while not aiming to produce a novel. This year I focus on Psalm 30 (“Thirty on Psalm 30”) in the hope that its powerful language will help us through these days of turmoil and toward something new, stronger and more joyful, as individuals and as community. Whole series (so far)…. apologies to anyone who finds multiple-post days too much.

NOTE
Wikipedia has a nice summary of Shlomo Carlebach’s life and work, including controversy about his approach to outreach as well as accusations of sexual impropriety. A quotation from the rabbi’s daughter, Neshama Carlebach, says: “I accept the fullness of who my father was, flaws and all. I am angry with him. And I refuse to see his faults as the totality of who he was.” (“My Sisters I Hear You,” in Times of Israel January 2018).

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SHIYR Psalm 30

A few posts back, I shared a thought from Making Prayer Real on the idea of music as “prayer in itself, without the words attached” (Wordless Verses“) along with a largely instrumental piece based on a tune for few verses from Psalm 30. More on that specific tune to come. Meanwhile, here is a contrasting approach, seeking to render every word and the sound of the psalm.

The SHIYR Poets (pronounced “Sheer” not “Shire”)” have been working together for several years to “render the Psalms as sung English poetry.” They are Brian Doerksen, Calum Rees, Brian Thiessen and Teresa Trask.

This is how The SHIYR Poets describe their enterprise:

Using all the translations available (including Robert Alter’s more poetic translation) and seeking counsel from Hebrew scholars, the SHIYR Poets are paraphrasing the Psalms and setting them to modern folk-rock tunes.

Choosing not to censor the difficult verses of lament and anger, the SHIYR Poets render each psalm in its entirety, singing in solidarity with all who suffer. The result is raw yet meditative music, at times unconventional in its form, yet deeply comforting because every generation has prayed and pondered the words of these Psalms.

Taken as a whole, the Psalms are perhaps the most emotionally healthy comprehensive expression of spirituality ever written. These are songs of desire and desperation…songs that demand justice for the oppressed…songs that honour the innocent praise of children…songs about everyday things like sleep.

Their version of Psalm 30 adds a chorus and includes interesting poetic versions of some verses. One favorite:

When you looked away; I fell apart
Broken into pieces; I crumbled into pieces
When you turned away, I fell apart

— Just listen, above, or click through to YouTube to see The SHIYR Poets’ translation

13 of 30 on Psalm 30
As a National Novel Writing Month Rebel, I write each day of November while not aiming to produce a novel. This year I focus on Psalm 30 (“Thirty on Psalm 30”) in the hope that its powerful language will help us through these days of turmoil and toward something new, stronger and more joyful, as individuals and as community. Whole series (so far).

Dedication

The previous post looked at some of the “bridge” concepts employed to explain Psalm 30’s function in its regular liturgical spot, at the close of the morning blessings, and before the psalms/verses of song. Another explanation for the placement of Psalm 30 is that it was the “psalm of the day” for the holiday of Chanukah and then crept, perhaps by printer’s error, into daily prayers. But how is it connected to Chanukah in the first place?

Rededication and Superscription

Marc Brettler, professor of Biblical Literature at Brandeis University and co-founder of Project TABS (Torah and Biblical Scholarship), notes that the expression “chasidim” — translated as “faithful ones,” “righteous” or “pious” — was used at the time of the Maccabean revolt for those loyal to the Hasmonean cause. Because of this word choice and the psalm’s focus on rescue from a desperate situation, he argues:

…someone (on the wining side) after the Hasmonean victory in 164 BCE could have read Psalm 30 and imagined: “David prophesized this about us!” The psalm, for that very reason, may even have been recited as part of the dedication ceremony on Chanukah in 164 BCE since it was seen as broadly appropriate—or even prophetic—to what had happened.
— Brettler, “Reciting Psalm 30 on Chanukah: A Biblical Custom?

Brettler hypothesizes a timeline that goes like this:

  1. The original superscription was מזמור לדוד, “a psalm of David,” with no particular association with the Temple;
  2. During the Maccabean revolt, the winners identified themselves as the “chasidim,” whose success was prophesized by David in this psalm;
  3. The psalm may have been incorporated into the Temple rededication;
  4. At this time, the words שיר חנכת הבית, “A song for the dedication of the House,” entered the margins of a manuscript, noting that Psalm 30 was recited at the rededication and “that, perhaps, Jews were supposed to recite each year during Chanukah”;
  5. Eventually, the words entered the Psalter, awkwardly placed between the words מזמור, “A psalm” and לדוד, “of David.”

— See article cited above for a much fuller explanation and argument


Superscription and Rededication

The Jerusalem Commentary assumes the converse of Brettler’s conjecture:

We do not find anywhere in rabbinic literature that a special psalm was recited by the Levites in the Temple on Hanukkah. The passages in [8th and 9th Century sources] refer to synagogue customs after the destruction of the Temple. If we assume that this psalm was recited on Hanukkah in the Temple, it would stand to reason that the Hasmoneans said it on Hanukkah because they interpreted the dedication, “a song at the dedication of the house,” as an allusion to their own rededication of the Temple.
The Jerusalem Commentary (Jerusalem: Mosad Harav Kook, 2003), p.228

The Jerusalem Commentary adds that assuming Psalm 30 was recited at the (re)dedication of the Temple is based on the belief “that the psalm is the prayer of the entire nation.” This means interpreting “healing” as “deliverance from enemies, for each dedication of the Temple was preceded by God’s deliverance of the people of Israel from their enemies” (p.229).

Many commentaries on Psalm 30 focus on an individual’s healing and rescue — that of the psalmist, the person reciting, or a person whose healing is sought. In Samuel Barth’s interpretation (cited in the previous post and linked again here), “rededication” of the “inner temple” can also apply to an individual.

Rabbi Folger’s study (quoted in the previous post and linked again here) offers an interesting sidebar: His review of older prayer books suggests that the opening line, “A song for the dedication of the House,” of Psalm 30 might have been recited only on Chanukah, while the body of the psalm, beginning with “I will extol…,” was regularly recited in the morning. Perhaps the psalm is read differently on different occasions.


12 of 30 on Psalm 30
As a National Novel Writing Month Rebel, I write each day of November while not aiming to produce a novel. This year I focus on Psalm 30 (“Thirty on Psalm 30”) in the hope that its powerful language will help us through these days of turmoil and toward something new, stronger and more joyful, as individuals and as community. Whole series (so far)…apologies, again,for multiple-post days; almost caught up.

Prayer Bridge

Many teachers characterize Psalm 30 as a “bridge” between the section of early morning blessings — which is concluded, in Ashkenazi prayer books, by Psalm 30 and the kaddish — and the next section of the liturgy, P’sukei D’zimrah [Verses of Song]. Given the placement, the concept is not surprising. What’s interesting, though, is how many different themes of Psalm 30 are identified as the bridging concept:

  • For some who see “the house” as the Temple, Psalm 30, with its associations to First Fruits, serves as a historical bridge from the sacrificial system (prominent in weekday Orthodox prayers) into the daily prayers;
  • For those using prayer books with non-sacrificial study passages in the early morning serivce, Psalm 30 is a bridge “from the formality of study to the reality of the joy that can be found in the presence of God” (Samuel Barth, of Jewish Theological Seminary);
  • For those who see “the house” of Psalm 30 as the human body, the psalm serves as a bridge from the body-focused blessings, and awakening or resurrection, of the early service into the verses of praise that follow;
  • For many, the key theme of Psalm 30 is joy in the morning after weeping at night, bridging basic gratitude for awakening and having ground under our feet to the next section of “warm-up” prayers;
  • Reading “the house” as “vessel,” Psalm 30 bridges the two services by dedicating the vessels we’ve just awakened to service of the divine: “are we dedicating ourselves, our words, our thoughts—even our doubts and fears—to becoming an ‘inner temple’ dedicated to the Divine?” (Barth, cited above)

In addition to, and often underlying, the question of how Psalm 30 can help us transition from one service to the next, is the question of why this particular psalm sits where it does in the prayer book. There is some evidence that the psalm entered the regular morning prayers by mistake, and the JTSA blog (Barth, cited above) declares: “we have no record of who championed this text or why.”

Kabbalists Will Understand

As noted in earlier posts, Siddur Lev Shalem says that the position of Psalm 30 is linked to Lurianic Kabbalah. (See “Whole Nine Yards” and “Soul’s Abode.”) A 19th Century prayer book cites the Four Worlds view of the liturgy, saying Psalm 30 “provides the transition between Olam Ha-Assiyah and Olam Ha-Yetzirah. Kabbalists will understand what that means.”

Psalm 30 does appear to encompass language that reflects both the physical world (Olam Ha-Assiyah) and the world of emotions and relationship (Olam Ha-Yetzirah). How, exactly, kabbalists understand the transition is another matter, however. As is the question of whether this teaching is really what prompted inclusion of Psalm 30 in the morning prayers.

Psalm 30 may have been added to the prayer book on account of kabbalist teaching, by printers’ error, or for some reason(s) lost to history. The plethora of “bridge” themes suggest Jews struggling to explain its presence. But they also provide an interesting variety in approaches to explore in study and prayer.


11 of 30 on Psalm 30
As a National Novel Writing Month Rebel, I write each day of November while not aiming to produce a novel. This year I focus on Psalm 30 (“Thirty on Psalm 30”) in the hope that its powerful language will help us through these days of turmoil and toward something new, stronger and more joyful, as individuals and as community. Whole series (so far)…apologies, again,for multiple-post days; almost caught up


The Four Worlds are: Assiyah, action or physical world; Yetzirah, world of emotion and relationship; Briyah, world of intellect; and Atzilut, world of spirit or essence. See, e.g., Your Bayit, a relatively new, and still-building resource.

The “kabbalists will understand” remark comes from Abe Katz, of Beurei Hatefila Institute. You can visit his old-school, resource-filled website or read the pertinent PDF here: “Mizmor Shir Chanukas Ha-Bayis.” Katz is referencing Siddur Tzelotah deAvraham of Menachem Mendel Landau, (1789-1875):

What prompted the Ari [Isaac Luria] to institute the practice to recite [Psalm 30] before Baruch She’amar [the start of P’sukei D’Zimrah]? The Siddur Tzelotah deAvraham opines that it was based on the Kabbalistic idea that the psalm provides the transition between Olam Ha-Assiyah [world of action] and Olam Ha-Yetzirah [world of emotion, relationship]. Kabbalists will understand what that means.

See also Rabbi Arie Folger’s “How did Psalm 30 Land in the Morning Service,” also cited above.
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