Friday, April 2, 2010

Lamentations 3

Exile is a powerful state of mind as well as being a physical reality. Without home, without belonging, without identity, without help, alone, fearful. Yet even here this poet knows how to be within the faith. There is a tension between 'my doing' and 'their doing' and in this case the doing of Hashem. This poet is not afraid to attribute cause to Hashem - because that is the source of all wrestling, correction and rebuke.

There is a movement of the human psyche in this part. I have sketched it in the left hand column. At least that's my opinion at the moment. 66 verses in acrostic restraint has not been very easy. I may adjust a thing or two as time goes on. Especially if anyone cares to read with me and enjoy these astonishing poems.

VerseHebrew textA translationWhat shall we say?
Alephאֲנִי הַגֶּבֶר
רָאָה עֳנִי
בְּשֵׁבֶט עֶבְרָתוֹ
A specific warrior am I
He has seen humiliation
through the sceptre of his fury
I was too strong a glottal for aleph - I tried it and changed it. The break between first and third person is striking.
Personal responsibilityאוֹתִי נָהַג
וַיֹּלַךְ חֹשֶׁךְ
וְלֹא אוֹר
Advanced me he has
but driven into darkness
and not light
I am taking the first word as an object marker with a mater and a first person singular pronoun. Strange construction! I could not confirm the example in either lexicon - but my eyes may have missed it.
אַךְ בִּי יָשֻׁב יַהֲפֹךְ
יָדוֹ כָּל הַיּוֹם ס
Against me surely he has turned
his hand every day
The poet had dozens of other possibilities for beginning with aleph and used none of them. Unfortunately, the poet could not use the future - there being none
Betבִּלָּה בְשָׂרִי וְעוֹרִי
שִׁבַּר עַצְמוֹתָי
Broke my bones
aged my flesh and my skin
reversing the line order
בָּנָה עָלַי
וַיַּקַּף רֹאשׁ וּתְלָאָה
Built against me
and enclosed gall and fatigue
בְּמַחֲשַׁכִּים הוֹשִׁיבַנִי
כְּמֵתֵי עוֹלָם ס
Bid me live in dark places
as the dead of the age
Gimelגָּדַר בַּעֲדִי וְלֹא אֵצֵא
הִכְבִּיד נְחָשְׁתִּי
Guarded around me so I cannot escape
making heavy my fetters
גַּם כִּי אֶזְעַק וַאֲשַׁוֵּעַ
שָׂתַם תְּפִלָּתִי
Groaning I cry and shout
He stops my prayer
גָּדַר דְּרָכַי בְּגָזִית
נְתִיבֹתַי עִוָּה ס
Guarded my ways with trenches
my paths distorted
Daletדֹּב אֹרֵב הוּא לִי
אֲרִי בְּמִסְתָּרִים
Dreadful lurking bear he is to me
a lion in secret lairs
All יְהוָה's doingדְּרָכַי סוֹרֵר וַיְפַשְּׁחֵנִי שָׂמַנִי שֹׁמֵםDismembering me departing me from my ways
making me desolate
דָּרַךְ קַשְׁתּוֹ
וַיַּצִּיבֵנִי כַּמַּטָּרָא לַחֵץ ס
Directing his bow
and taking his stand with me as a target for the arrow
Compare Lam 2:4
Heהֵבִיא בְּכִלְיֹתָי
בְּנֵי אַשְׁפָּתוֹ
He pierces my fires
with the children of his quiver
הָיִיתִי שְּׂחֹק לְכָל עַמִּי
נְגִינָתָם כָּל הַיּוֹם
Hilarious I have become to all my people
their string to play every day
הִשְׂבִּיעַנִי בַמְּרוֹרִים
הִרְוַנִי לַעֲנָה ס
He has satisfied me with bitterness
He has made me drunk with wormwood
Vavוַיַּגְרֵס בֶּחָצָץ שִׁנָּי
הִכְפִּישַׁנִי בָּאֵפֶר
Violence to my teeth he has done with ground up arrowheads
He has covered me with ashes
How to make gravel sound like arrow - I think the poet is doing some sounds like free association in the pain of memory
lack of hopeוַתִּזְנַח מִשָּׁלוֹם נַפְשִׁי
נָשִׁיתִי טוֹבָה
Very far is my life removed from peace
I forget what is good
וָאֹמַר אָבַד נִצְחִי
וְתוֹחַלְתִּי מֵיְהוָה ס
Victory that was mine is perished I said
also my hope from Yahweh
Zayinזְכָר עָנְיִי וּמְרוּדִי
לַעֲנָה וָרֹאשׁ
Zeroing in on my humiliation and my miseries
wormwood and gall
This is a pivotal trio in the poem - a point of turnaround. Z is not a nice letter in English for it - in Psalm 119 I used Y since seven Z's in a row was impossible
memory rekindles hopeזָכוֹר תִּזְכּוֹר וְתָשׁוֹחַ
עָלַי נַפְשִׁי
Zealous in memory and humbled within me is my life
זֹאת אָשִׁיב אֶל לִבִּי
עַל כֵּן אוֹחִיל ס
Zigzags this into my heart
therefore I wait expectant
Chetחַסְדֵי יְהוָה
כִּי לֹא תָמְנוּ 
כִּי לֹא כָלוּ רַחֲמָיו
How by the mercies of
we are not completed
for his compassions are not exhausted
Complete is normally a positive word. consume normally a negative one. I have let my usual glosses stand - think about it. (BDB has a suggested rereading - drop the nun - read tamu not tamnu. I don't see why but I haven't read any commentaries yet.)

(I used to be confused between tamid and tamim - in the first the taf is grammatical and the root is mid, in the second and third, the taf is part of the root. See how important the splitting of the letters into two groups is!)
יְהוָה's characterחֲדָשִׁים לַבְּקָרִים
רַבָּה אֱמוּנָתֶךָ
He makes them new every morning
great is your faithfulness
חֶלְקִי יְהוָה
אָמְרָה נַפְשִׁי
עַל כֵּן אוֹחִיל לוֹ ס
He Yahweh is my portion
says my life
therefore I wait expectantly in him
Tetטוֹב יְהוָה לְקֹוָו
לְנֶפֶשׁ תִּדְרְשֶׁנּוּ
To those who wait for him Yahweh is good
to the life that seeks him
טוֹב וְיָחִיל וְדוּמָם
לִתְשׁוּעַת יְהוָה
That one should wait is good - working and silent
for the salvation of Yahweh
טוֹב לַגֶּבֶר
כִּי יִשָּׂא עֹל בִּנְעוּרָיו ס
To the warrior, good it is to bear the yoke in one's youth
Yodיֵשֵׁב בָּדָד וְיִדֹּם
כִּי נָטַל עָלָיו
Yielding alone and silent
for he bears with it
This is such an accurate portrayal of the elect bearing judgment
Acceptanceיִתֵּן בֶּעָפָר פִּיהוּ
אוּלַי יֵשׁ תִּקְוָה
Yielding to the dust his mouth
as if there is hope
יִתֵּן לְמַכֵּהוּ לֶחִי
יִשְׂבַּע בְּחֶרְפָּה ס
Yielding cheek to the smiter
sated with reproach
Kafכִּי לֹא יִזְנַח
לְעוֹלָם אֲדֹנָי
Kindness my Lord
will not remove for ever
proleptic kindness for the K
essential mercy knownכִּי אִם הוֹגָה וְרִחַם כְּרֹב חֲסָדָיוKindness from him is manifold
If he afflict he will be compassionate
כִּי לֹא עִנָּה מִלִּבּוֹ
וַיַּגֶּה בְּנֵי אִישׁ ס
Kids he does not humiliate from his heart
nor afflict humanity
בְּנֵי אִישׁ kids of humanity :)
Lamedלְדַכֵּא תַּחַת רַגְלָיו כֹּל אֲסִירֵי אָרֶץLook at the breaking under foot of
all the prisoners of earth
The anointed and the elect one is not aloneלְהַטּוֹת מִשְׁפַּט גָּבֶר
נֶגֶד פְּנֵי עֶלְיוֹן
Look at the turning aside the judgment of the warrior
in front of the face of the Highest
לְעַוֵּת אָדָם בְּרִיבוֹ אֲדֹנָי לֹא רָאָה ס Look at the perversion of a person's cause
Does my Lord see?
Memמִי זֶה אָמַר וַתֶּהִי
אֲדֹנָי לֹא צִוָּה
My Lord does not command it
Who is it who speaks and it happens?
No second powerמִפִּי עֶלְיוֹן
לֹא תֵצֵא הָרָעוֹת וְהַטּוֹב
Might it not be that from the mouth of the Highest
comes both the evils and the good? 
good questionמַה יִּתְאוֹנֵן אָדָם חָי
גֶּבֶר עַל חֲטָאָו ס
May living dust complain?
a warrior about his sin?
Nunנַחְפְּשָׂה דְרָכֵינוּ וְנַחְקֹרָה וְנָשׁוּבָה עַד יְהוָהNow let us consider our ways and investigate
and return to Yahweh
נִשָּׂא לְבָבֵנוּ אֶל כַּפָּיִם
אֶל אֵל בַּשָּׁמָיִם
Now let us lift up our heart with open palms
to the One in the heavens
נַחְנוּ פָשַׁעְנוּ וּמָרִינוּ
אַתָּה לֹא סָלָחְתָּ ס
Note that it is we ourselves who have sinned and have disobeyed
You have not forgiven
It occurs to me that this is the situation understood in Hebrews 10:26 ff - Exile is the result of sin after reaching the promised land. Of course history is more complex than this macro metaphor, but the strategy of the poet is to drink the cup and accept the judgment. The extenuating circumstances may not be evident even after a whole kingdom's failure.
Samechסַכּוֹתָה בָאַף וַתִּרְדְּפֵנוּ
הָרַגְתָּ לֹא חָמָלְתָּ
Such anger you have overshadowed and persecuted us
You have slain without pity
every phrase 'without pity' is preceded by a different verb the four times it is used in this lament.
Complaint madeסַכּוֹתָה בֶעָנָן לָךְ
מֵעֲבוֹר תְּפִלָּה
Shadowed you are yourself with a cloud
so prayer passes over
The second phrase is usually given with a negative, but the negative is not in the text. I stuck myself with a 'pass' + preposition for this word - maybe abandon concordance here. Concordance is a much bigger subject than one poem anyway - it encompasses quotations, references, allusions, and even shared culture over centuries - It may even be misleading.
סְחִי וּמָאוֹס תְּשִׂימֵנוּ
בְּקֶרֶב הָעַמִּים ס
Scrapings and refuse you have made us
in the midst of all the peoples 
Pehפָּצוּ עָלֵינוּ פִּיהֶם
כָּל אֹיְבֵינוּ
Parted against us are their mouths
all our enemies 
Again Ayin and Peh are reversed
Compare Lam 2:16
פַּחַד וָפַחַת הָיָה לָנוּ
הַשֵּׁאת וְהַשָּׁבֶר
Pit and dread are come upon us
devastation and destruction
פַּלְגֵי מַיִם תֵּרַד עֵינִי
עַל שֶׁבֶר בַּת עַמִּי ס
Plunging waters flood my eyes
at the destruction of the daughter of my people
Ayinעֵינִי נִגְּרָה
וְלֹא תִדְמֶה
מֵאֵין הֲפֻגוֹת
In my eye is pouring
without ceasing
or any intermission 
עַד יַשְׁקִיף
וְיֵרֶא יְהוָה מִשָּׁמָיִם
If it may be that he will look down
and Yahweh may see from heaven
עֵינִי עוֹלְלָה לְנַפְשִׁי
מִכֹּל בְּנוֹת עִירִי ס
In my life my eye imposes 
on account of all the daughters of my city
Tsadeצוֹד צָדוּנִי כַּצִּפּוֹר
אֹיְבַי חִנָּם
Chased - they chased me as a bird
my enemies - without a cause
C is the letter I use to transcribe Tsade - it can sometime make a similar sound - e.g. incision, appropriate to these three verses.
צָמְתוּ בַבּוֹר חַיָּי
וַיַּדּוּ אֶבֶן בִּי
Cut off my life have they in the pit
and they throw a stone on me
צָפוּ מַיִם עַל רֹאשִׁי
אָמַרְתִּי נִגְזָרְתִּי ס
Cascading waters are over my head
I said, I am cut down
Qofקָרָאתִי שִׁמְךָ יְהוָה
מִבּוֹר תַּחְתִּיּוֹת
Queried I the name of Yahweh
from the pit's lowest parts
continuing engagement.קוֹלִי שָׁמָעְתָּ
אַל תַּעְלֵם
אָזְנְךָ לְרַוְחָתִי לְשַׁוְעָתִי
Quest of mine you heard
Do not hide
your ear from my spirit
in my crying
responseקָרַבְתָּ בְּיוֹם אֶקְרָאֶךָּ
אָמַרְתָּ אַל תִּירָא ס
Quite near you were in the day I called to you
you said do not be afraid
Reshרַבְתָּ אֲדֹנָי
רִיבֵי נַפְשִׁי
גָּאַלְתָּ חַיָּי
Redeemed my life you have my Lord,
you have pleaded
the pleas of my being
promoted the last phrase to the first
penitenceרָאִיתָה יְהוָה עַוָּתָתִי
שָׁפְטָה מִשְׁפָּטִי
Regarded you have Yahweh my distortion
Judge my judgment
Note it is not that the warrior has been wrong but that we are ourselves each distorted - . that we might know mercy
but also a knowledge and need of vengeanceרָאִיתָה כָּל נִקְמָתָם
כָּל מַחְשְׁבֹתָם לִי ס
Regarded you have all their vengeance
all their devices about me
compare next verse
Shin.שָׁמַעְתָּ חֶרְפָּתָם יְהוָה
כָּל מַחְשְׁבֹתָם עָלָי
So hear their reproach Yahweh
all their devices against me
there is a significant difference between about and against - these two verses reflect a judgment against enemies that is known because it is also an internally known sequence of thought
שִׂפְתֵי קָמַי וְהֶגְיוֹנָם
עָלַי כָּל הַיּוֹם
Sneering lips and their chanting
against me every day
Sin / Shin was easier than I expectedשִׁבְתָּם וְקִימָתָם הַבִּיטָה
אֲנִי מַנְגִּינָתָם ס
See! their sitting and their rising
I am their music
Oh those hiphil weak nun I verbs! I have improved my algorithm but it will be some time before I publish the diagrams on this book - I still can't fully handle deriving roots with missing letters!
Tafתָּשִׁיב לָהֶם גְּמוּל
 כְּמַעֲשֵׂה יְדֵיהֶם
To them return a reward of growth Yahweh 
according to the work of their hands
Note how this word גְּמוּל can be both positive and negative in ancient and modern Hebrew. Compare Psalm 119
Note the positive twist and be gladתִּתֵּן לָהֶם
מְגִנַּת לֵב
תַּאֲלָתְךָ לָהֶם
To them give
shield of heart
your oath to them
Oh the double entendre. I am sure the original poet was as charitable as I am - a heart's shield could be a barrier but could also be a means to mercy - as for the oath, just consider Melchizedek and the oath of Psalm 110 as interpreted in Hebrews.
alas vengeance is mine, says the Lord and I accept your prayerתִּרְדֹּף בְּאַף
מִתַּחַת שְׁמֵי יְהוָה פ
To them be your persecution in anger
and annihilate them
from under the name of Yahweh
I hope you got this far and can see the joke! Under heaven my foot - it is the Name of יְהוָה the poet has invoked. You do not know of what spirit you are.