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ילקוט מזמורים לבן סירא פרק נ״א | An Appendix of Psalms of Ben Sira chapter 51, vocalized, cantillated, and translated by Isaac Gantwerk Mayer

Like the ends of the books of Proverbs and Samuel, the end of the apocryphal Book of Ben Sira is a sort of appendix, a collection of poems and tidbits outside of the larger structure of the book but important enough to be preserved. And thank God for that! The passages in the final chapter of Ben Sira are fascinating for multiple reasons. First of all we find a traditional psalm of thanksgiving. This is followed by, in the Cairo Geniza Hebrew manuscript alone, a fifteen-verse litany of celebration modeled on but substantially different from Psalm 136. And finally, an almost erotically charged acrostic hymn to the personification of wisdom. Over the generations, much of the acrostic form of this concluding poem was lost, especially in the opening sections. Luckily, this acrostic poem’s first ten lines are preserved in the Dead Sea Scrolls’ famed 11Q5 Great Psalms Scroll, and the remainder of the acrostic can be emended with very little alteration from the Cairo text. These are a fascinating snapshot into the history of psalmodic works, which was far from over upon the completion of the psalter itself.

Note: “The CAUSE” is used to translate the Divine Name YHVH, 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.” To translate the Divine Name YAH, “the SOURCE” is used.

Source (Hebrew) Translation (English)

אֲהַלְלֶ֤ךָּ ׀ אֱלֹהֵ֬י יִשְׁעִ֗י.
אוֹדְךָ֣ אֱ֭לֹהֵי אָבִ֑י
אֲסַפְּרָ֣ה שִׁ֝מְךָ֗ מָע֣וֹז חַיַּֽי׃
כִּ֡י ׀ פָדִ֨יתָ מִמָּוֶ֤ת ׀ נַפְשִׁ֗י.
חָשַׂ֤כְתָּ בְשָׂרִ֨י ׀ מִשַּׁ֗חַת.
וּמִיַּד֘ שְׁא֢וֹל מֻצֶּ֫לֶת רַגְלִ֥י.
פִּצִּיתַ֤נִי ׀ מִדִּבַּ֬ת עָ֗ם.
מִשּׁ֣וֹט דִּבַּ֣ת לָ֭שׁוֹן וּמִשְּׂפַ֣ת שָׂטֵי־כָזָ֑ב.
נֶ֣גֶד קָ֝מַ֗י הָיִֽיתָה־לִּֽי׃
1 I praise You, my God, my rescue,
I thank You, God of my father,
Let me tell Your name, my life stronghold.
2 For You ransomed my spirit from death,
Held back my body from the pit,
from the hand of the underworld my foot saved;
you freed me from the people’s slander,
from the lash, tongue’s slander, and lie-mad lips;
against those opposing me You were with me.

עֲזַרְתַּ֗נִי ׀ כְּר֬וֹב חַסְדֶּ֗ךָ.
מִ֭מּוֹקֵש צ֣וֹפֵי סָ֑לַע.
וּמִּיַד־מְבַקְשֵׁ֣י נַ֝פְשִׁ֗י.
מֵרַבּ֣וֹת צָר֣וֹת הוֹשַׁעְתָּֽנִי׃
וּמִמְּצוּק֣וֹת שַׁלְהָ֑בֶת.
מְכַבּ֣וֹת אֵ֣שׁ לְאֵין־פֶּחָֽה׃
מֵרֶ֣חֶם תְּה֣וֹם לְאִמִּ֑י.
מִשִׂפְתֵ֣י זִמָּ֖ה וְטֹפְלֵ֣י שָֽׁקֶר׃
וְחִצֵּ֨י ׀ לְש֘וֹן מִ֫רְמָ֥ה.
3 You helped me by Your great kindness;
from hurdles, those watching me for a limp,
and from the hand of those who desired my spirit;
from many stressors You rescued me.
4 And from flame-suffocating;
fiery hammers inextinguishable.
5 From the depths’ womb as my mothers’;
From lips of cunning and weavers of lies.
6 And arrows of a deceitful tongue;

וַתִּ֣גַּע לַמָּ֣וֶת נַפְשִׁ֑י.
וְ֝חַיָּתִ֗י לִשְׁא֣וֹל תַּחְתִּיּֽוֹת׃
וָאֶפְנֶ֣ה סָ֭בִיב וְאֵין־עֽוֹזֵר־לִ֑י.
וַאֲצַפֶּ֣ה סוֹמֵ֣ךְ וְאָֽיִן׃
וָ֭אֶזְכְּרָה אֶת־רַחֲמֵ֣י יְהֹוָ֑ה.
וַ֝חֲסָדָ֗יו אֲשֶׁ֣ר מֵעֹלָֽם.
הַמַּצִּ֣יל אֶת־ח֣וֹסֵי־ב֑וֹ.
וַ֝יִּגְאָלֵ֗ם מִכׇּל־רָֽע׃
And my spirit drew near to death;
and my life to the deepest underworld.
7 And I turned around, and none to help me,
and I looked for support, and nothing.
8 And I remembered the mercy of the CAUSE,
and God’s compassion that has always been;
Who delivers those who trust in God,
and redeems them from all evil.

וְאָרִ֣ים מֵ֭אֶֽרֶץ קוֹלִ֑י.
וּמִּשַּׁעֲרֵ֣י שְׁ֝א֗וֹל שִׁוַּֽעְתִּי׃
וַאֲרוֹמֵ֨ם יְהֹוָ֤ה ׀ אָבִ֬י אָ֗תָּה ׀
כִּי־אַתָּה֘ גִּבּ֢וֹר יִ֫שְׁעִ֥י.
אַל־תַּ֭רְפֵּֽנִי בְּי֣וֹם צָרָ֑ה.
בְּ֝י֗וֹם שׁוֹאָ֣ה וּמְשׁוֹאָֽה׃
אֲהַלְלָ֣ה שִׁמְךָ֣ תָּמִ֑יד.
וְאֶזְכׇּרְךָ֣ בִּתְפִלָּֽה׃
9 And I raised my voice from earth,
and from the gates of the underworld my plea.
10 And exalted the CAUSE:
“You are my Parent, for You are the Mighty Rescuer.
11 Do not leave me on a day of stress,
on a day of chaos and calamity.
12 I will praise Your name always;
and I will remember You in prayer.”

אָ֡ז ׀ שָׁמַ֣ע ק֭וֹלִי יְהֹוָ֑ה.
וַ֝יַּאֲזִ֗ין אֶל־תַּחֲנוּנָֽי׃
וַיִּפְדֵּ֣נִי מִכׇּל־רָ֑ע.
וַ֝יְמַלְּטֵ֗נִי בְּי֣וֹם צָרָֽה׃
עַל־כֵּ֣ן הוֹדֵ֣יתִי וַאֲהַלֶ֑לָה.
וַ֝אֲבָרְכָ֗ה אֶת־שֵׁ֣ם יְהֹוָֽה׃
13 Thus, the CAUSE heard my voice,
and hearkened to my petition.
14 And ransomed me from all evil,
and liberated me on a day of stress.
15 Therefore I have thanked and will praise,
that I may bless the name of the CAUSE.

הוֹד֣וּ לַיהֹוָ֣ה כִּי־ט֑וֹב
כִּ֖י לְעוֹלָ֣ם חַסְדּֽוֹ׃
ה֭וֹדוּ לְאֵ֣ל הַתִּשְׁבָּח֑וֹת.
כִּ֖י לְעוֹלָ֣ם חַסְדּֽוֹ׃
ה֭וֹדוּ לְשׁוֹמֵ֣ר יִשְׂרָאֵ֑ל.
כִּ֖י לְעוֹלָ֣ם חַסְדּֽוֹ׃
ה֭וֹדוּ לְיוֹצֵ֣ר הַכֹּ֑ל
כִּ֖י לְעוֹלָ֣ם חַסְדּֽוֹ׃
16[1]The following fifteen verses, similar to Psalms 136 and quoting Psalm 148, are not found in the Septuagint text, but solely in the Cairo manuscript. From here on, the numbering system for verses is unrelated to the legacy one. Thank the CAUSE who is good,
for eternal is Divine kindness!
17 Thank the God of praises,
for eternal is Divine kindness!
18 Thank the Guardian of Israel,
for eternal is Divine kindness!
19 Thank the Crafter of All,
for eternal is Divine kindness!

ה֭וֹדוּ לְגוֹאֵ֣ל יִשְׂרָאֵ֑ל.
כִּ֖י לְעוֹלָ֣ם חַסְדּֽוֹ׃
ה֘וֹד֤וּ לִמְקַבֵּ֣ץ נִדְחֵ֣י יִשְׂרָאֵ֑ל.
כִּ֖י לְעוֹלָ֣ם חַסְדּֽוֹ׃
ה֘וֹד֤וּ לְבוֹנֶ֣ה עִיר֣וֹ וּמִקְדָּשׁ֑וֹ.
כִּ֖י לְעוֹלָ֣ם חַסְדּֽוֹ׃
ה֘וֹד֤וּ לַמַּצְמִ֣יחַ קֶ֣רֶן לְבֵית־דָּוִ֑ד.
כִּ֖י לְעוֹלָ֣ם חַסְדּֽוֹ׃
20 Thank the Redeemer of Israel,
for eternal is Divine kindness!
21 Thank the Ingatherer of the Exiles of Israel,
for eternal is Divine kindness!
22 Thank the Builder of God’s City and Temple,
for eternal is Divine kindness!
23 Thank the Raiser of the Horn of David’s House,
for eternal is Divine kindness!

ה֘וֹד֤וּ לְ֭בוֹחֵר בִּבְנֵ֣י צָד֣וֹק לְכֹהֵ֑ן.
כִּ֖י לְעוֹלָ֣ם חַסְדּֽוֹ׃
24 Thank the Chooser of the Sons of Tsadok the Priest,
for eternal is Divine kindness!

ה֭וֹדוּ לְמָגֵ֣ן אַבְרָהָ֑ם.
כִּ֖י לְעוֹלָ֣ם חַסְדּֽוֹ׃
ה֭וֹדוּ לְצ֣וּר יִצְחָ֑ק.
כִּ֖י לְעוֹלָ֣ם חַסְדּֽוֹ׃
ה֭וֹדוּ לְאַבִּ֣יר יַעֲקֹ֑ב.
כִּ֖י לְעוֹלָ֣ם חַסְדּֽוֹ׃
ה֭וֹדוּ לְבוֹחֵ֣ר בְּצִיּ֑וֹן.
כִּ֖י לְעוֹלָ֣ם חַסְדּֽוֹ׃
25 Thank the Shield of Avraham,
for eternal is Divine kindness!
26 Thank the Rock of Yitsḥaq,
for eternal is Divine kindness!
27 Thank the Mighty One of Yaʿaqov,
for eternal is Divine kindness!
28 Thank the Chooser of Tsiyon,
for eternal is Divine kindness!

ה֣וֹדוּ לְ֭מֶלֶךְ מַלְכֵ֣י מְלָכִ֑ים.
כִּ֖י לְעוֹלָ֣ם חַסְדּֽוֹ׃
וַיָּ֤רֶם קֶ֨רֶן ׀ לְעַמּ֡וֹ
תְּהִלָּ֤ה לְֽכׇל־חֲסִידָ֗יו
לִבְנֵ֣י יִ֭שְׂרָאֵל עַ֥ם קְרֹב֗וֹ
הַֽלְלוּ־יָֽהּ׃
29 Thank the Sovereign, Sovereign of Sovereigns,
for eternal is Divine kindness!
30 Who raises the horn of God’s people,
praise for all the pious,
of the children of Israel, a people close to God,
praise the SOURCE![2]Psalm 148:14

אֲנִ֣י נָ֣עַר בְּטֶ֑רֶם.
תָּ֝עִיתִ֗י וּבִקַּשְׁתִּֽיהָ׃
בָּאָ֣ה לִ֭י [בתרה] בְּתׇאֳרָ֑הּ.
וְעַ֥ד ס֝וֹפָ֗ה אֶדְרְשֶֽׁנָּה׃
גַּ֡ם ׀ גָּרַ֤ע ׀ נֵ֗ץ ׀
בְּבִשּׁ֬וּל עֲנָבִ֗ים יִשְׂמְח֣וּ לֵֽב׃
31[3]Here the Septuagint text continues, and the passage from Qumran begins. The next twenty-two lines are an alphabetical acrostic, with the letters marked. The verse numbering system is based on the acrostic rather than the Septuagint divisions.  I was young then,
I strayed and searched for Her.
32 She came to me in her beauty,[4]The Qumran passage reads בתרה, which is probably a dialectal abbreviation of בתארה = in her beauty. This is in the Hebrew marked as a qere/ketiv split.
and to the end I would seek Her.
33 As a blossom diminishes,
when grapes ripen, rejoicing the heart.

דָּ֭רְכָה רַגְלִ֣י בַּמִּישׁ֑וֹר.
כִּ֖י מִ֝נְּעוּרַ֗י יְדַעְתִּֽיהָ׃
הִ֭טִּֽיתִי כִּמְעַ֣ט אׇזְנַ֑י.
וְ֝הַרְבֵּ֗ה מָצָ֣אתִי לָֽקַח׃
וְעָלָ֣ה הָ֣יְתָה לִ֑י.
לִ֝מְלַמְּדַ֗י אֶתֵּ֣ן הוֹדִֽי׃
34 My foot walked in uprightness,
for from my youth I knew Her.
35 I turned my ear a little,
and so much teaching I found.
36 And a lift She was to me;
to my teacher I give my splendor.

זַמֹּ֣תִי וְאֶשְׁחָ֑קָה.
קִ֣נֵּאתִי בְּט֖וּב וְלֹ֣א אָשֽׁוּב׃
חָרִ֣יתִי נַפְשִׁי־בָ֑הּ.
וּ֝פָנַ֗י לֹא־הֲשִׁיבוֹתִֽי׃
טָרַ֣דְתִּי [טרתי] נַפְשִׁי־בָ֑הּ.
וּ֝בְרוֹמֶ֗יהָ לֹ֥א אֶשָּׁלֶֽה׃
37 I resolved that I would have fun;
I was zealous for good and did not relent.
38 My spirit burned in Her,
and my face did not turn away.
39 My spirit was occupied[5]The Qumran passage reads טרתי, which is probably a dialectal abbreviation of טרדתי = I was occupied. This is in the Hebrew marked as a qere/ketiv split. in Her,
and in Her heights I did not slack.

יָדַ֣י פְּתַחְתִּ֑יהָ.
וּ֝מֵעֲרֻמֶ֗יהָ אֶתְבּוֹנֵֽן׃
כַּ֭פַּי הֲבֵר֣וֹתִי אֵלֶ֑יהָ.
וּבְטׇהֳרָ֣ה מְצָאתִֽיהָ׃
לֵ֗ב ׀ קָנִֽיתִי־לָ֭הּ מִתְּחִלָּתָ֑הּ.
בַּעֲבוּר־כֵּ֖ן לֹ֣א אֶעֱזֹבֶֽיהָ׃
40 My hands opened Her,
and from Her nakedness I understood.
41 My palms I cleansed[6]Here the Qumran passage ends. to Her,
and in purity I found Her.
42 A heart[7]The Cairo manuscript here reads ולב = and a heart. This has been emended to לב = a heart to reveal the acrostic. I got for Her from the start,
and thus I will not leave Her.

מֵעַ֗י ׀ יֶהֱמ֣וּ כְּ֭תַנּוּר לְהַבִּֽיט־בָּ֑הּ.
בַּ֝עֲבוּר־כֵּ֗ן קְנִיתִ֣יהָ קִֽנְיָן־טֽוֹב׃
נָתַ֣ן יְהֹוָה־לִ֭י שְׂכַ֣ר שִׂפְתוֹתַ֑י.
וּבִלְשׁוֹנִ֣י [אהודינו] אוֹדֶֽנּוּ׃
סְ֭כָלִים פְּנ֣וּ אֵלַ֑י.
[ולינו] וְ֝לוּנ֗וּ בְּבֵ֣ית מִדְרָשִֽׁי׃
43 My innards shook like an oven to see Her,
and thus I got a good acquisition.
44 The CAUSE gave me the reward of my lips,
and with my tongue I will thank God.[8]The Cairo manuscript reads אהודינו I will support (?) Him, which is almost certainly a scribal error for אודנו = I will thank Him. This is in the Hebrew marked as a qere/ketiv split. The translation reads God instead of Him for gender neutrality purposes.
45 Fools, turn to me[9]The Cairo manuscript here reads פנו אלי סכלים = Turn to me, fools. This has been emended to סכלים פנו אלי = Fools, turn to me to reveal the acrostic.,
and lodge[10]The Cairo manuscript reads ולינו which is probably a non-standard form for ולונו = and lodge. This is in the Hebrew marked as a qere/ketiv split. in my study-hall.

עַ֨ד־מָתַ֤י ׀ תְּחַסְּר֗וּן מִ֣ן־אֵ֭ילוּ וְאֵיל֑וּ.
וְ֝נַפְשְׁכֶ֗ם צָמְאָ֣ה מְאֹ֣ד תִּהְיֶֽה׃
פִּ֣י פָּ֭תַֽחְתִּי וְדִבַּֽרְתִּי־בָ֑הּ.
קְ֝נוּ־לָכֶ֗ם חׇכְמָ֣ה בְּלֹא־כָֽסֶף׃
צַ֭וְּארֵיכֶם בְּעֻלָּ֣הּ הָבִ֑יאוּ.
וּ֝מַשְׁאָ֗הּ תִּשָּׂ֥א נַפְשְׁכֶֽם׃
46 How long will you lack one or the other,
when your spirits are very thirsty?
47 My mouth I opened and I spoke of Her:
Get yourselves priceless wisdom!
48 Place your necks[11]The Cairo manuscript here reads וצואריכם = and your necks. This has been emended to צואריכם = your necks to reveal the acrostic. under Her yoke,
and let your souls lift Her burden.

קְרוֹבָ֣ה הִ֣יא לִמְבַקְּשֶׁ֑יהָ.
וְנוֹתֵ֣ן נַפְשׁ֖וֹ מוֹצֵ֣א אֹתָֽהּ׃
רְא֣וּ בְ֭עֵינֵיכֶם כִּי־קָטַ֣ן הָיִ֑יתִי.
וְ֝עָמַֽדְתִּי־בָ֗הּ וּמְצָאתִֽיהָ׃
שִׁמְע֬וּ רַבִּ֗ים לְ֭מוּדַי בְּנַעֲרוֹתַ֑י.
וְכֶ֣סֶף וְזָהָ֣ב תִּֽקְנוּ־בִֽי׃
49 Close is She to those who search for Her,
and give their soul to find Her.
50 Look with your eyes, for I was small,
and I stood in Her and found Her.
51 Listen, many,[12]The Cairo manuscript here reads רבים שמעו = Many, listen. This has been emended to שמעו רבים = Listen, many to reveal the acrostic. to my youthful learning,
and through me you will get silver and gold.

תִּשְׂמַ֥ח נַפְשִׁ֣י בְּשֵׂיבָתִ֑י.
וְלֹ֥א תֵּ֝בֹ֗שׁוּ בְּשִׁירָתִֽי׃
מַעֲשֵׂיכֶ֥ם עָשׂ֣וּ בִּצְדָקָ֑ה.
וְה֣וּא נ֝וֹתֵן־לָכֶ֗ם שְׁכַרְכֶ֥ם בְּעִתּֽוֹ׃
בָּר֣וּךְ יְהֹוָ֣ה לְעֹלָ֑ם.
וּמְשֻׁבָּ֣ח שְׁמ֖וֹ לְדֹ֣ר וָדֽוֹר׃
52 My spirit rejoices in my old age,
and you will not be ashamed in my song.[13]Here the acrostic ends.
53 Do your deeds in justice,
and God will give you your reward in time.[14]Here ends the Septuagint text. The remaining verses are only found in the Cairo manuscript.
54 Blessed be the CAUSE forever;
and the Divine Name lauded from generation to generation.

עַ֬ד הֵנָּ֗ה ׀ דִּבְרֵ֣י שִׁמְע֣וֹן בֶּן־יֵשׁ֑וּעַ.
שֶׁנִּקְרָ֣א בֶּן־סִֽירָא׃
חׇכְמַ֨ת ׀ שִׁמְע֗וֹן ׀
בֶּן־יֵשׁ֣וּעַ בֶּן־אֶלְעָ֣זָר בֶּן־סִֽירָא׃
יְהִ֤י שֵׁ֣ם יְהֹוָ֣ה מְבֹרָ֑ךְ.
מֵ֝עַתָּ֗ה וְעַד־עוֹלָֽם׃
55 Until here are the words
of Shimʿon son of Yeshuaʿ, called Ben Sira.
56 The wisdom of Shimʿon
son of Yeshuaʿ son of Elʿazar ben Sira.
57 May the CAUSE’s name be blessed
from now until eternity.[15]Psalm 113:2.

The source material used for this reconstruction includes the Cairo Geniza fragment shelfmark: T-S 16 314, the Septuagint, and Plate 978, Frag 1: B-314640 of 11Q5 –  11Q Psa (taken September 2011 by Shai Halevi for the Dead Sea Scrolls Digital Library).

Source(s)

B_XIX_Recto (T-S 16 314)

B_XIX_Verso (T-S 16 314)

 

Notes   [ + ]

  1. The following fifteen verses, similar to Psalms 136 and quoting Psalm 148, are not found in the Septuagint text, but solely in the Cairo manuscript. From here on, the numbering system for verses is unrelated to the legacy one.
  2. Psalm 148:14
  3. Here the Septuagint text continues, and the passage from Qumran begins. The next twenty-two lines are an alphabetical acrostic, with the letters marked. The verse numbering system is based on the acrostic rather than the Septuagint divisions.
  4. The Qumran passage reads בתרה, which is probably a dialectal abbreviation of בתארה = in her beauty. This is in the Hebrew marked as a qere/ketiv split.
  5. The Qumran passage reads טרתי, which is probably a dialectal abbreviation of טרדתי = I was occupied. This is in the Hebrew marked as a qere/ketiv split.
  6. Here the Qumran passage ends.
  7. The Cairo manuscript here reads ולב = and a heart. This has been emended to לב = a heart to reveal the acrostic.
  8. The Cairo manuscript reads אהודינו I will support (?) Him, which is almost certainly a scribal error for אודנו = I will thank Him. This is in the Hebrew marked as a qere/ketiv split. The translation reads God instead of Him for gender neutrality purposes.
  9. The Cairo manuscript here reads פנו אלי סכלים = Turn to me, fools. This has been emended to סכלים פנו אלי = Fools, turn to me to reveal the acrostic.
  10. The Cairo manuscript reads ולינו which is probably a non-standard form for ולונו = and lodge. This is in the Hebrew marked as a qere/ketiv split.
  11. The Cairo manuscript here reads וצואריכם = and your necks. This has been emended to צואריכם = your necks to reveal the acrostic.
  12. The Cairo manuscript here reads רבים שמעו = Many, listen. This has been emended to שמעו רבים = Listen, many to reveal the acrostic.
  13. Here the acrostic ends.
  14. Here ends the Septuagint text. The remaining verses are only found in the Cairo manuscript.
  15. Psalm 113:2.

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