The Whole Nine Yards?

Following yesterday’s post about the hiddenness of God, alluded to in Psalm 30:8, here is a comment about prevalence of God’s name in the psalm:

Psalm 30 was added to the liturgy in the 17th century under the influence of Lurianic mysticism. It 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 (Rabbinical Assembly, 2016)

By my count, there are nine uses of the Name, YHVH, in Psalm 30 plus one “My Master” or “My Lord.” In Hebrew the common substitute for the four-letter Name of God [יְהוָה] (often written: ADONAI) and the expression “My Lord” [אֲדֹנָי] (Adonai) are homophones. Thus, e.g., this translation (1985 Jewish Publication Society) uses LORD and Lord:

אֵלֶ֣יךָ יְהוָ֣ה אֶקְרָ֑א וְאֶל־אֲ֝דֹנָ֗י אֶתְחַנָּֽן׃
I called to You, O LORD [יְהוָה]; to my Lord [אֲדֹנָי] I made appeal
— Psalm 30:9

The use of “Adonai” is aurally indistinguishable from the nine uses of “ADONAI.” Perhaps that’s what the Lurianic mystics — or Siddur Lev Shalem — see in Psalm 30. Or maybe the tenth is hidden. But I suspect I’m missing something…or maybe we all are and that’s just fine.

The Whole Nine Names

According to Snopes, the American-English expression, “the whole nine yards,” means that “every conceivable (and quite possibly inconceivable) length has been gone to in pursuit of a specific aim….nothing was missed or skipped over.”

According to Siddur Lev Shalem, ten mentions of God’s name suggest the ten s’firot or aspects of the Godhead. One sefira, Keter [Crown], represents the unknowable aspect of God, though. So maybe reciting Psalm 30 is in some sense going the whole nine yards with nine uses of the Name.

This reminded me a teaching about Psalm 150. Depending on how one reads, the psalm includes nine “instruments” for praising God:

  • horn;
  • harp and lyre;
  • timbrel and dance;
  • lute and pipe;
  • cymbals and clanging-cymbals

In order to make ten, a minyan of praise in its way, we include our voices or our souls to reach the whole nine yards.

image found years ago on Facebook. No photographer or subject info, except that it comes from Mozambique


Not Yet Awakened

One of the important aspects of starting the morning by reciting Psalm 30, as an individual, is the opportunity to ride its emotional roller coaster and figure out which highs or lows reflect where we are as the day begins. When we recite as a congregation, the psalm gives us a chance to recognize that we are all experiencing different sets of highs and lows in our own lives and in our responses to whatever is befalling the community as a whole, and helps us bring all of that awareness into our communal prayers.

So, perhaps, Psalm 30 is meant to be not quite complete in calling God’s Name, reflecting our not quite awakened state — as individuals and community. By the time we close out P’sukei D’zimrah with Psalm 150, though, we’re ready to add our own voices/souls in a more fully awake HalleluYAH.

5 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 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

I don’t have an original source; the siddur doesn’t include a citation, although I see Peri Etz Hayim, Sha’ar haMizmorim ch.4, cited elsewhere in reference to this teaching.