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תהלים קל״ט | Psalms 139, interpretive translation by Rabbi Zalman Schachter-Shalomi

Source (Hebrew) Translation (English)

א לַ֭מְנַצֵּחַ לְדָוִ֣ד
מִזְמ֑וֹר

1 Conductor —
David’s prayer set to music.

יְהוָ֥ה חֲ֝קַרְתַּ֗נִי
וַתֵּדָֽע׃
ב אַתָּ֣ה יָ֭דַעְתָּ שִׁבְתִּ֣י
וְקוּמִ֑י
בַּ֥נְתָּה לְ֝רֵעִ֗י
מֵרָחֽוֹק׃
‎‏ג אָרְחִ֣י וְרִבְעִ֣י זֵרִ֑יתָ
וְֽכָל־דְּרָכַ֥י הִסְכַּֽנְתָּה׃

Yah! You have scanned me
And discerned me.
2 You know when I am relaxed
or agitated.
From afar
You comprehend my fantasies.
3 You design my conduct and my repose.
You direct my paths so I can manage.

‎‏ ד כִּ֤י אֵ֣ין מִ֭לָּה בִּלְשׁוֹנִ֑י
הֵ֥ן יְ֝הוָ֗ה יָדַ֥עְתָּ כֻלָּֽהּ׃
‎‏ה אָח֣וֹר וָקֶ֣דֶם צַרְתָּ֑נִי
וַתָּ֖שֶׁת עָלַ֣י כַּפֶּֽכָה׃

4 Before my mouth opens
You know what I am about to say.
5 You have shaped my past and my future.
Your hand, gently on my shoulder.

ו פלאיה פְּלִ֣יאָֽה דַ֣עַת מִמֶּ֑נִּי
נִ֝שְׂגְּבָ֗ה לֹא־א֥וּכַֽל לָֽהּ׃

6 All this awes my awareness.
It is beyond my skills to fathom.

‎‏ז אָ֭נָ֥ה אֵלֵ֣ךְ מֵרוּחֶ֑ךָ
וְ֝אָ֗נָה מִפָּנֶ֥יךָ אֶבְרָֽח׃

7 Whereto can I withdraw from Your spirit?
Flee from facing You?

‎‏ח אִם־אֶסַּ֣ק שָׁ֭מַיִם
שָׁ֣ם אָ֑תָּה
וְאַצִּ֖יעָה שְּׁא֣וֹל
הִנֶּֽךָּ׃

8 If I would mount up to Heaven
There are You.
If I make my bed in Hell
You are there too.

‎‏ט אֶשָּׂ֥א כַנְפֵי־שָׁ֑חַר
אֶ֝שְׁכְּנָ֗ה בְּאַחֲרִ֥ית יָֽם׃
‎‏י גַּם־שָׁ֭ם יָדְךָ֣
תַנְחֵ֑נִי
וְֽתֹאחֲזֵ֥נִי יְמִינֶֽךָ׃

9 Soaring on the wings of the dawn,
To find shelter in the setting sun,
10 It would be Your hand,
that would carry me,
Your right hand, holding me safe.

‎‏יא וָ֭אֹמַר אַךְ־חֹ֣שֶׁךְ יְשׁוּפֵ֑נִי
וְ֝לַ֗יְלָה א֣וֹר בַּעֲדֵֽנִי׃
‎‏יב גַּם־חֹשֶׁךְ֮ לֹֽא־יַחְשִׁ֪יךְ מִ֫מֶּ֥ךָ
וְ֭לַיְלָה כַּיּ֣וֹם יָאִ֑יר
כַּ֝חֲשֵׁיכָ֗ה כָּאוֹרָֽה׃
‎‏יג כִּֽי־אַ֭תָּה קָנִ֣יתָ כִלְיֹתָ֑י
תְּ֝סֻכֵּ֗נִי בְּבֶ֣טֶן אִמִּֽי׃

11 If I want to find oblivion in darkness,
Trading light for darkness,
12 To You, it would still not be dark.
Night is as bright as day for You.
Dark and light – the same in Your sight.
13 You have designed my innards,
shaped me in the my mother’s womb.

‎‏יד אֽוֹדְךָ֗ עַ֤ל
כִּ֥י נוֹרָא֗וֹת נִ֫פְלֵ֥יתִי
נִפְלָאִ֥ים מַעֲשֶׂ֑יךָ
וְ֝נַפְשִׁ֗י יֹדַ֥עַת מְאֹֽד׃
‎‏טו לֹא־נִכְחַ֥ד עָצְמִ֗י מִ֫מֶּ֥ךָּ
אֲשֶׁר־עֻשֵּׂ֥יתִי בַסֵּ֑תֶר
רֻ֝קַּ֗מְתִּי בְּֽתַחְתִּיּ֥וֹת אָֽרֶץ׃

14 I am overcome with thanks
At Your awesome wonders,
Your astonishing works,
Of which my soul is aware.
15 My essence is not hidden from You,
Who have made me in concealment,
Who has knitted me beneath the surface.

‏טז גָּלְמִ֤י׀ רָ֘א֤וּ עֵינֶ֗יךָ
וְעַֽל־סִפְרְךָ֮ כֻּלָּ֪ם
יִכָּ֫תֵ֥בוּ
יָמִ֥ים יֻצָּ֑רוּ
ולא וְל֖וֹ אֶחָ֣ד בָּהֶֽם׃

16 Your eyes have seen me as embryo.
My days–are all inscribed
in Your ledger–
Days not yet shaped —
each one of them counted.

‎‏יז וְלִ֗י מַה־יָּקְר֣וּ רֵעֶ֣יךָ
אֵ֑ל
מֶ֥ה עָ֝צְמוּ רָאשֵׁיהֶֽם׃
‎‏יח אֶ֭סְפְּרֵם
מֵח֣וֹל יִרְבּ֑וּן
הֱ֝קִיצֹ֗תִי
וְעוֹדִ֥י עִמָּֽךְ׃

17 How precious are Your stirrings
in me Oh God!
How powerful their impact!
18 I can’t number them —
beyond all sand grains.
When I emerge from my reflection
I am still with You.

‎‏יט אִם־תִּקְטֹ֖ל אֱל֥וֹהַּ׀
רָשָׁ֑ע
וְאַנְשֵׁ֥י דָ֝מִ֗ים ס֣וּרוּ מֶֽנִּי׃
‎‏כ אֲשֶׁ֣ר יֹ֭אמְרֻךָ לִמְזִמָּ֑ה
נָשֻׂ֖א לַשָּׁ֣וְא עָרֶֽיךָ׃

19 If You, God, would only rid us
from our evil!
If only the cruelty would disappear!
20 And defiance of You vanish,
Forgiveness overtaking enmity!

‎‏כא הֲלֽוֹא־מְשַׂנְאֶ֖יךָ יְהוָ֥ה׀ אֶשְׂנָ֑א
וּ֝בִתְקוֹמְמֶ֗יךָ אֶתְקוֹטָֽט׃
‎‏כב תַּכְלִ֣ית שִׂנְאָ֣ה שְׂנֵאתִ֑ים לְ֝אוֹיְבִ֗ים הָ֣יוּ לִֽי׃

21 I detest hatred of You – Yah!
Quarrelsomeness repels me.
22 I loathe hostility to the utmost.

‎‏כג חָקְרֵ֣נִי אֵ֭ל
וְדַ֣ע לְבָבִ֑י
בְּ֝חָנֵ֗נִי וְדַ֣ע שַׂרְעַפָּֽי׃
‎‏כד וּרְאֵ֗ה אִם־דֶּֽרֶךְ־עֹ֥צֶב בִּ֑י
וּ֝נְחֵ֗נִי בְּדֶ֣רֶךְ
עוֹלָֽם׃

23 God! I open myself to Your scrutiny.
Know what is in my heart.
Examine and know my longings.
24 See and remove any defiance from me
And guide me in the way
that serves Your intent for our Earth.

This translation of Psalms 139 is included in Reb Zalman’s Sabbath Supplement to his Siddur Tehillat Hashem Yidaber Pi ~ As I Can Say It (for Praying in the Vernacular) (2009). There he notes, “I prefer this one as the 9th [psalm] of Rebbe Naḥman’s Ten,” — referring to Rebbe Naḥman’s Tikun haKlali selection of 10 psalms for repairing transgressions. Psalms 139 would replace psalms 137 in Reb Zalman’s adaptation of Rebbe Naḥman’s tikkun.

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