Psalms 129


שִׁיר הַמַּעֲלוֹת רַבַּת צְרָרוּנִי מִנְּעוּרַי יֹאמַר־נָא יִשְׂרָאֵל׃   129:1

Psal. 129:1   A song of the ascendance:

                        “They have distressed me greatly since my youth,”

                                 let Israel now say.

רַבַּת צְרָרוּנִי מִנְּעוּרָי גַּם לֹא־יָכְלוּ לִי׃   129:2

Psal. 129:2   They have distressed me greatly since my youth,

                                 yet they have not prevailed regarding me.

עַל־גַּבִּי חָרְשׁוּ חֹרְשִׁים הֶאֱרִיכוּ (לְמַעֲנֹותָם) [לְמַעֲנִיתָם]׃   129:3

Psal. 129:3   Plowers plowed on my back;

                                 they continued long for their plowing fields.

I have great trouble understanding the motivation of the sages in calling out many errors, such as in this verse.  The spelling of the word in the parentheses is not incorrect.  Again, either its spelling or that in the brackets can be deemed appropriate.  Why did they choose to call out an error?  I am deeply puzzled by this.  I fear it also may be indicative of my ignorance of the esoteric nuances of Halachah and the Talmud.

יְהוָה צַדִּיק קִץֵּץ עֲבֹות רְשָׁעִים׃   129:4

Psal. 129:4   The Lord is righteous;

                                 He cuts to pieces the cords of the wicked.

יֵבֹשׁוּ וְיִסֹּגוּ אָחֹור כֹּל שֹׂנְאֵי צִיֹּון׃   129:5

Psal. 129:5   All the haters of Zion shall be ashamed and repulsed.

יִהְיוּ כַּחֲצִיר גַּגֹּות שֶׁקַּדְמַת שָׁלַף יָבֵשׁ׃   129:6

Psal. 129:6   They shall be like the grass of housetops,

                                 which as soon as it is drawn out, dries up,

שֶׁלֹּא מִלֵּא כַפֹּו קֹוצֵר וְחִצְנֹו מְעַמֵּר׃   129:7

Psal. 129:7   with which the reaper does not fill his hand,

                                 or the sheaf binder, his bosom.

וְלֹא אָמְרוּ הָעֹבְרִים בִּרְכַּת־יְהוָה אֲלֵיכֶם בֵּרַכְנוּ אֶתְכֶם בְּשֵׁם יְהוָה׃   129:8

Psal. 129:8   Nor do those passing say,

                                 “The blessing of the Lord to you,

                        we bless you in the name of the Lord.”

In this psalm the scribe plainly appears to be playing the role of Israel, not of himself.    The clue is in the first two verses.  Notice that the quote the psalmist asks Israel to speak in the first verse repeats verbatim in the second verse.  The only question in my mind is who is the “they” he refers to in these verses?  Is it the people of the country or is it Israel’s neighbors?  I suspect it is the former, Israel’s inhabitants.  In other words, the psalmist has Israel express its disappointment in the behavior of its own inhabitants.  The third verse reads in part, “The plowers plowed on my back, ....”  Of course, this could mean the back of the scribe as well as the “back” of Israel.  But I say one of the consistencies of the psalms is their elegant poetry, and this leads me to accept the more poetic interpretation rather than the more literal one.  Thus in my opinion, the psalmist is once again taking on the role of Israel.


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