Thursday, August 12

Today, Rosh Hodesh Elul, we began reciting LeDavid Hashem Ori (Tehillim 27) which we will say twice a day until Hoshanah Rabbah. It's important that we understand, and teach, what it means. Our friend Rabbi Mark Smilowitz points out the importance of getting the translations right (and the value of Da'at Mikra in helping with that)...

Consider, for example, the twelfth verse of chapter 27 of Tehillim, the Psalm that we recite during the month of Elul. The Psalmist prays for deliverance from eidei sheker veyfayah hamas. A common translation: "False witnesses and those who breathe violence" [Artscroll Siddur] is awkward and obscure. Furthermore, this translation assumes the root of veyfayah is n.p.h., which is unlikely because the dropped nun would have been replaced by a daggesh in the yod. More likely is that the root is y.p.h, which appears nowhere else in Tanakh. Amos Hakham, who wrote the Da'at Mikra commentray on Tehillim, points out that this latter root is common in Ugaritic documents where it refers to witnesses or accusers. Thus he translates the verse as "false witnesses and malicious accusers," maintaining the poetic style and coherence. This is a particularly important example because we recite this Psalm as part of our liturgy, and it is important that our students (and we ourselves) understand what we are saying.

From: Ten Da'at XIII (December 2001), pp. 42-43.


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