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מַה־טֹּבוּ | Mah Tovu, a paraliturgical reflection by Rabbi Shoshana Meira Friedman

Source (Hebrew) Paraliturgical Reflection (English)

מַה־טֹּבֽוּ אֹהָלֶֽיךָ יַעֲקֹב,
מִשְׁכְּנֹתֶֽיךָ, יִשְׂרָאֵל׃ (במדבר כד:ה)
וַֽאֲנִי, בְּרֹב חַסְדְּךָ, אָבֹא בֵיתֶֽךָ,
אֶשְׁתַּֽחֲוֶה אֶל־הֵיכַל קָדְשְׁךָ, בְּיִרְאָתֶֽךָ׃ (תהלים ה:ח)
יְהֹוָה, אָהַבְתִּי מְעוֹן בֵּיתֶֽךָ, וּמְקוֹם, מִשְׁכַּן
כְּבוֹדֶֽךָ׃ (תהלים כו:ח)
How good is this place I am right now.
Even though I wrestle with its goodness, I affirm it nonetheless.[1]cf. Numbers 24:5.
I enter this place with abundant loving-kindness.
I bow in the holy space, in awe.[2]cf. Psalms 5:8.
Holy One, I love Your home, where You so intimately dwell.
No matter who I am, or how I am feeling, I trust I am welcomed here.[3]cf. Psalms 26:8.

וַֽאֲנִי אֶשְׁתַּחֲוֶה וְאֶכְרָֽעָה,
אֶבְרְכָה לִפְנֵי־יְהֹוָה
עֹשִׂי׃ (תהלים צה:ו)
וַֽאֲנִי תְפִילָתִי־לְךָ ׀ יְהֹוָה עֵת רָצוֹן.
אֱלֹהִים, בְּרָב־חַסְדֶּךָ,
עֲנֵֽנִי בֶּאֱמֶת
יִשְׁעֶֽךָ׃ (תהלים סט:יד)
I bow, I bend, I kneel to honor my own nature
As an Earthling, a formed being, yet made of Spirit.
Let my presence here be my prayer,
It is an offering to You.
I offer my ego to Your great Presence[4]cf. Psalms 95:6.
And in this moment, You receive me with ease.
God, in your abundant loving-kindness
Help me feel You present with me in the all, the A-Z truth of existence.
This is what saves me from myself.[5]cf. Psalms 69:14.

Rabbi Shoshana Meira’s paraliturgical interpretation of Mah Tovu, the prayer for entering sacred communal spaces, is published in her Siddur v’lo Nevosh (2014). Linear correspondence between the Hebrew source and the English by Aharon Varady.




Notes[ + ]

1.  cf. Numbers 24:5.
2.  cf. Psalms 5:8.
3.  cf. Psalms 26:8.
4.  cf. Psalms 95:6.
5.  cf. Psalms 69:14.

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