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תהלים פ״א | Psalms 81, the psalm for Thursday (translation by Reb Zalman Schachter-Shalomi, z”l)

This psalm was the Thursday song of the Levites in the Holy Temple.

Source (Hebrew)Translation (English)
א לַמְנַצֵּ֬חַ ׀ עַֽל־הַגִּתִּ֬ית לְאָסָֽף׃
1 Accompany this Assaph song with the guitar
ב הַ֭רְנִינוּ לֵאלֹהִ֣ים
הָ֝רִ֗יעוּ לֵאלֹהֵ֥י יַעֲקֹֽב׃
ג שְֽׂאוּ־זִ֭מְרָה
כִּנּ֖וֹר נָעִ֣ים עִם־נָֽבֶל׃
ד תִּקְע֣וּ בַחֹ֣דֶשׁ
2 Make music to God,
The Source of our strength.
Trumpet a fanfare to Jacob’s God:
3 Louder, Drum rolls,
Sweet sounding violins
And pipes.
4 Greet the New Moon
With the Shofar,
The time
When the moon is hidden,
And still we celebrate.
ה כִּ֤י חֹ֣ק לְיִשְׂרָאֵ֣ל
ה֑וּא מִ֝שְׁפָּ֗ט
לֵאלֹהֵ֥י יַעֲקֹֽב׃
ו עֵ֤דוּת ׀ בִּֽיה֘וֹסֵ֤ף שָׂמ֗וֹ
בְּ֭צֵאתוֹ עַל־אֶ֣רֶץ מִצְרָ֑יִם
לֹא־יָדַ֣עְתִּי אֶשְׁמָֽע׃
ז הֲסִיר֣וֹתִי
מִסֵּ֣בֶל שִׁכְמ֑וֹ
כַּ֝פָּ֗יו מִדּ֥וּד
ח בַּצָּרָ֥ה קָרָ֗אתָ
5 This is the imperative for Israel.
To become prepared,
For being judged by Jacob’s God.
(Like that day when…)
6 Joseph was empowered
To go out and rule Egypt,
Able to understand a language
He never learned.
(This caused that, in the end.)
7 The heavy load
was taken from his back
No longer
having to knead the clay.
8 You called when oppressed,
And I (said God) freed you.
בְּסֵ֣תֶר רַ֑עַם
עַל־מֵ֖י מְרִיבָ֣ה
In the thunder
You heard my secret message.
Later, I tested you
at Meribah’s springs.
ט שְׁמַ֣ע עַ֭מִּי
וְאָעִ֣ידָה בָּ֑ךְ
י לֹֽא־יִהְיֶ֣ה בְ֭ךָ אֵ֣ל זָ֑ר
וְלֹ֥א תִ֝שְׁתַּחֲוֶ֗ה לְאֵ֣ל נֵכָֽר׃
9 Listen my people!
I witness this to you!
Israel, if only
you would listen to Me.
10 Don’t cling to a strange god.
Don’t worship an alien deity.
יא אָנֹכִ֨י ׀ יְה֘וָ֤ה אֱלֹהֶ֗יךָ
הַֽ֭מַּעַלְךָ מֵאֶ֣רֶץ מִצְרָ֑יִם
יב וְלֹא־שָׁמַ֣ע עַמִּ֣י לְקוֹלִ֑י
וְ֝יִשְׂרָאֵ֗ל לֹא־אָ֥בָה לִֽי׃
יג וָֽ֭אֲשַׁלְּחֵהוּ בִּשְׁרִיר֣וּת לִבָּ֑ם
יֵ֝לְכ֗וּ בְּֽמוֹעֲצוֹתֵיהֶֽם׃
11 It is I, Yah,
Who took you up from Egypt.
I fed you
and you were sated to fullness.
12 But My people did not obey me.
Israel did not desire Me close.
13 I let them have their hearts’ way,
To pursue their own devices.
יד ל֗וּ עַ֭מִּי שֹׁמֵ֣עַֽ לִ֑י
יִ֝שְׂרָאֵ֗ל בִּדְרָכַ֥י יְהַלֵּֽכוּ׃
טו כִּ֭מְעַט
אוֹיְבֵיהֶ֣ם אַכְנִ֑יעַ
וְעַ֥ל צָ֝רֵיהֶ֗ם
אָשִׁ֥יב יָדִֽי׃
טז מְשַׂנְאֵ֣י יְ֭הוָה יְכַֽחֲשׁוּ־ל֑וֹ
וִיהִ֖י עִתָּ֣ם לְעוֹלָֽם׃
יז וַֽ֭יַּאֲכִילֵהוּ מֵחֵ֣לֶב חִטָּ֑ה
דְּבַ֣שׁ אַשְׂבִּיעֶֽךָ׃
14 If only my people would obey Me,
Israel would walk in My ways.
15 In a moment,
I would subdue their foes.
I would, with My own hands,
repay them.
16 Those who loathe Yah, but deny it,
Will have their rebuke forever.
(But you who obey…)
17 I will feed with the fat of grain.
And satisfy
With honey from the rock.

Rabbi Zalman Schachter-Shalomi, z”l, included his translation of the Psalm of the Day for Thursday (Psalms 81) in his Siddur Tehillat Hashem Yidaber Pi (2009). To the best of my ability, I have set his translation side-by-side with a transcription of the vocalized text of the Psalm. –Aharon N. Varady

The association of particular psalms sung by Levites in the Temple for each day of the week is first attested in Mishnah Tamid 4.7.








2 comments to תהלים פ״א | Psalms 81, the psalm for Thursday (translation by Reb Zalman Schachter-Shalomi, z”l)

  • Avatar photo Jacob Ponte Mother's Name Esther

    I am going to have a Colon Cancer operation what Psalm will be appropriate to read? Thank You

    • Hello Jacob, any sincere, heartfelt prayers are always suggested. Specifically for Psalms, the following were recommended when I posed your question to friends: Psalms №20, №30, №121, №130, and №142. If I hear of any further recommendations, I will let you know. Also make sure to visit prayers so-far contributed and catalogued in our project for “Well-being, health, and caregiving.” And here’s wishing you a successful medical intervention and a speedy recovery!

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