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תהלים קל״ז | Psalms 137 (Al Naharot Bavel :: By the Rivers of Babylon), translated by Isaac Gantwerk Mayer

Psalm 137 is traditionally recited before the Birkat Hamazon (the Blessing [after eating] the Meal) on a weekday. Psalms 137 (with Psalms 138:1) is read on the day of the Fast of Tishah b’Av.

The psalm is included in Isaac Mayer’s Psalms for Fast Days according to his order for yearly psalms and cantillation systems for Psalms and Job. Several parts, marked in blue, are meant to be read in Job cantillation, inspired by the system of switching to Lamentations cantillation during the Shabbat Ḥazon haftarah (Isaiah 1:1-27).

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.”


Source (Hebrew)Translation (English)
הַיּוֹם יוֹם צוֹם תִּשְׁעָה בְּאָב הוּא צוֹם הַחֲמִישִׁי וּבוֹ יֵשׁ אוֹמְרִים׃ תהלים קלז
Today is the fast day of the 9th of Av, the fast of the fifth month, and on it some say: Psalms 137
עַ֥ל נַהֲר֨וֹת ׀ בָּבֶ֗ל
שָׁ֣ם יָ֭שַׁבְנוּ גַּם־בָּכִ֑ינוּ
By the rivers of Babylon,
there we sat and also wept,
as we remembered
עַֽל־עֲרָבִ֥ים בְּתוֹכָ֑הּ
תָּ֝לִ֗ינוּ כִּנֹּרוֹתֵֽינוּ׃
כִּ֤י שָׁ֨ם שְֽׁאֵל֢וּנוּ שׁוֹבֵ֡ינוּ דִּבְרֵי־שִׁ֭יר
וְתוֹלָלֵ֣ינוּ שִׂמְחָ֑ה
שִׁ֥ירוּ לָ֗֝נוּ
מִשִּׁ֥יר צִיּֽוֹן׃
אֵ֗יךְ נָשִׁ֥יר אֶת־שִׁיר־יְהֹוָ֑ה
עַ֗֝ל אַדְמַ֥ת נֵכָֽר׃
Upon the willows there
we hung up our lyres.
For there our captors asked us for lyrics,
our tormentors joy,
“Sing for us,
from a song of Zion!”
How can we sing a song of the CAUSE
on outsiders’ soil?
אִֽם־אֶשְׁכָּחֵ֥ךְ יְֽרוּשָׁלָ֗‍ִם
תִּשְׁכַּ֥ח יְמִינִֽי׃
תִּדְבַּֽק־לְשׁוֹנִ֨י ׀ לְחִכִּי֮
אִם־לֹ֢א אֶ֫זְכְּרֵ֥כִי
אִם־לֹ֣א אַ֭עֲלֶה אֶת־יְרוּשָׁלַ֑‍ִם
עַ֗֝ל רֹ֣אשׁ שִׂמְחָתִֽי׃
If I forget you, Jerusalem,
let my right hand forget.
Let my tongue stick to my palate
if I do not remember you,
if I do not place Jerusalem
over the height of my joy.
זְכֹ֤ר יְהֹוָ֨ה ׀ לִבְנֵ֬י אֱד֗וֹם
אֵת֮ י֤וֹם יְֽרוּשָׁ֫לָ֥‍ִם
הָ֭אֹ֣מְרִים עָ֤רוּ ׀ עָ֑רוּ
עַ֗֝ד הַיְס֥וֹד בָּֽהּ׃
בַּת־בָּבֶ֗ל הַשְּׁד֫וּדָ֥ה
אַשְׁרֵ֥י שֶׁיְשַׁלֶּם־לָ֑ךְ
שֶׁגָּמַ֥לְתְּ לָֽנוּ׃
אַשְׁרֵ֤י ׀ שֶׁיֹּאחֵ֓ז
וְנִפֵּ֬ץ אֶֽת־עֹ֝לָלַ֗יִךְ
Remember, o CAUSE, the Edomites,
that day — Jerusalem! —
they said, “Strip her, strip her,
to her foundations!”
O you of Babylon, you despoiler,
happy is the one who pays you back,
who does to you
what you did to us!
Happy be the one who grabs
and smashes your babies
against the rocks!
תהלים קלח:א
Psalms 138:1
לְדָוִ֨ד ׀
אוֹדְךָ֥ בְכׇל־לִבִּ֑י
נֶ֖גֶד אֱלֹהִ֣ים אֲזַמְּרֶֽךָּ׃
I thank You with all my heart,
by God I sing to You.

This psalm is included in the psalms for fast days according to Isaac Mayer’s “Schedule for the Reading of Psalms corresponding to Festivals and Commemorative Days,” along with new translations and recordings based on Isaac Mayer’s cantillation system for Psalms.



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