תהלים כז | Psalms 27, translated by Isaac Gantwerk Mayer

Source (Hebrew) Translation (English)

לְדָוִ֨ד ׀
David’s.

יְהוָ֤ה ׀ אוֹרִ֣י וְ֭יִשְׁעִי
מִמִּ֣י אִירָ֑א
יְהוָ֥ה מָֽעוֹז־חַ֝יַּ֗י
מִמִּ֥י אֶפְחָֽד׃
The All-Cause – my Light and Safety;
from whom I fear?
The All-Cause – my Life-Stronghold;
from whom I dread?

בִּקְרֹ֤ב עָלַ֨י ׀ מְרֵעִים֮
לֶאֱכֹ֪ל אֶת־בְּשָׂ֫רִ֥י
צָרַ֣י
וְאֹיְבַ֣י לִ֑י הֵ֖מָּה
כָשְׁל֣וּ וְנָפָֽלוּ׃
When the evil ones come near me,
to eat my flesh;
My stressors,
my aggressors they may be,
yet they stumble and fall.

אִם־תַּחֲנֶ֬ה עָלַ֨י ׀ מַחֲנֶה֮
לֹֽא־יִירָ֪א לִ֫בִּ֥י
אִם־תָּק֣וּם עָ֭לַי מִלְחָמָ֑ה
בְּ֝זֹ֗את אֲנִ֣י בוֹטֵֽחַ׃
If a whole encampment encamps against me,
my heart will not fear;
If it comes against me in war,
in this I will trust.

אַחַ֤ת ׀ שָׁאַ֣לְתִּי מֵֽאֵת־יְהוָה֮
אוֹתָ֪הּ אֲבַ֫קֵּ֥שׁ
שִׁבְתִּ֣י בְּבֵית־יְ֭הוָה כָּל־יְמֵ֣י חַיַּ֑י
לַחֲז֥וֹת בְּנֹֽעַם־יְ֝הוָ֗ה
וּלְבַקֵּ֥ר בְּהֵיכָלֽוֹ׃
Only one thing I ask from the All-Cause,
for this I request –
that I dwell in the House of the All-Cause all the days of my life;
To envision the kindness of the All-Cause
and to reflect in Their Palace.

כִּ֤י יִצְפְּנֵ֨נִי ׀ בְּסֻכֹּה֮ בְּי֪וֹם רָ֫עָ֥ה
יַ֭סְתִּרֵנִי בְּסֵ֣תֶר אָהֳל֑וֹ
For They will hide me in Their lean-to on a bad day;
Conceal me in the secret-place of Their tent;

בְּ֝צ֗וּר יְרוֹמְמֵֽנִי׃
וְעַתָּ֨ה יָר֪וּם רֹאשִׁ֡י עַ֤ל אֹֽיְבַ֬י סְֽבִיבוֹתַ֗י
Raise me up on a crag.
And now, my head is lifted over my surrounding enemies;

וְאֶזְבְּחָ֣ה בְ֭אָהֳלוֹ זִבְחֵ֣י תְרוּעָ֑ה
אָשִׁ֥ירָה וַ֝אֲזַמְּרָ֗ה לַיהוָֽה׃
May I offer in Their tent shout-offerings;
May I sing and hymn to the All-Cause.

שְׁמַע־יְהוָ֖ה
קוֹלִ֥י אֶקְרָ֗א
וְחָנֵּ֥נִי
וַעֲנֵֽנִי׃
Listen, All-Cause!
My voice calls out!
Have mercy on me!
Answer me!

לְךָ֤ ׀ אָמַ֣ר לִ֭בִּי בַּקְּשׁ֣וּ פָנָ֑י
אֶת־פָּנֶ֖יךָ יְהוָ֣ה אֲבַקֵּֽשׁ׃
אַל־תַּסְתֵּ֬ר פָּנֶ֨יךָ ׀ מִמֶּנִּי֮
אַֽל־תַּט־בְּאַ֗ף עַ֫בְדֶּ֥ךָ
עֶזְרָתִ֥י הָיִ֑יתָ
To You, my heart says, “seek out my face” –
but Your face, All-Cause, I seek out!
Do not hide Your face from me!
Do not turn Your nose at Your servant!
You have been my Helper before!

אַֽל־תִּטְּשֵׁ֥נִי
וְאַל־תַּֽ֝עַזְבֵ֗נִי אֱלֹהֵ֥י יִשְׁעִֽי׃
כִּי־אָבִ֣י וְאִמִּ֣י עֲזָב֑וּנִי
וַֽיהוָ֣ה יַֽאַסְפֵֽנִי׃
Do not aggrieve me,
do not leave me, my God, my Safety!
For my father, my mother, they leave me,
yet the All-Cause receives me.

ה֤וֹרֵ֥נִי יְהוָ֗ה דַּ֫רְכֶּ֥ךָ
וּ֭נְחֵנִי בְּאֹ֣רַח מִישׁ֑וֹר
לְ֝מַ֗עַן שׁוֹרְרָֽי׃
אַֽל־תִּ֭תְּנֵנִי בְּנֶ֣פֶשׁ צָרָ֑י
כִּ֥י קָֽמוּ־בִ֥י עֵֽדֵי־שֶׁ֝֗קֶר וִיפֵ֥חַ חָמָֽס׃
Point Your path to me; All-Cause,
and lead me on a straight road,
lest my enemies gloat.
Do not let me into my stressors’ power;
for rising up against me are witnesses of lies puffing hate.

לׅׄוּלֵׅׄ֗אׅׄ הֶ֭אֱמַנְתִּי לִרְא֥וֹת בְּֽטוּב־יְהוָ֗ה בְּאֶ֣רֶץ חַיִּֽים׃
קַוֵּ֗ה אֶל־יְה֫וָ֥ה
חֲ֭זַק וְיַאֲמֵ֣ץ לִבֶּ֑ךָ
וְ֝קַוֵּ֗ה אֶל־יְהוָֽה׃
Ị̇ḟ̣ ọ̇ṇ̇ḷ̇ỵ̇ I could believe in seeing the goodness of the All-Cause in the land of life…
I must hope in the All-Cause!
Have strength and a courageous heart!
Hope in the All-Cause!

Isaac Gantwerk Mayer’s translation of Psalms 27 was first published in a Facebook post on his page. Pinchas Geller provides a citation for the use of Psalms 27 during the month of Elul, “Moshe Halamish says that the earliest plausible source (other people extol its virtues in a general way) is the Sefer Shem Tov Katan of R. Binyamin Beineish ha-Cohen (“the Ba’al Shem of Kratshin”) at the end of the 17th century, then it appears in Ḥemdat ha-Yamim, Yamim Noraim 4, 14d…See Ḥikrei Kabbalah u_Tefilah pp. 175-185.” –Aharon N. Varady

Notes

“The All-Cause” is used to translate the Divine Name, based on the philosophical idea of God as the Prime Mover and on the interpretation of the Name as a causative form of the copula – “causes to be.”

“They” and “Their” is used as a singular pronoun to refer to God. This is not just for anti-sexist reasons, but also because the standard word for “God” is אלהים, which looks like a plural. Just as a queen says “we” to refer to herself, the “plural of majesty” is appropriate when referring to the multitudes that stem from God.

In most Masoretic manuscripts לולא is written surrounded by dots – the only ‘dots below’ in the entire Tanakh. I personally feel like many translations completely miss the point by using phrases like “If I had not believed” (OJPS) or “Had I not the assurance” (NJPS) or “Had I not trusted” (Artscroll), making the verse into a blanket declaration of blind faith. It’s not that – it’s a declaration of doubt. לולא is grammatically always a counterfactual – “if only, but it isn’t true.” The psalmist, in a rare moment of doubt, admits he cannot be sure that God will do justice for him. He then comforts himself, telling himself to have hope, just as I might say “Calm down, Isaac,” when troubled. It’s one of the greatest moments of pathos in all 150 psalms.

Enjoy, and l’shanah tovah!

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