Thursday, June 23, 2011

Beatitudes in the psalms

Who is the object of happiness? The answer is full of variety. The opening frame of psalms 1 and 2 approach the subject negatively and in the name of protection, certainly a need for all. The contrast in these verses is again between the singular and the plural. (As an aside, 2:12 agrees in form with 128:1. To be consistent with my overall desire for concordance, I should translate 2:12 as all. There is a conflict between my chosen style in psalms 1 and 2 and this analysis. In psalms 1 and 2, I am, at the beginning, emphasizing the one and the many. If the many be the all, so be it.)

אַשְׁרֵי הָאִישׁ
אֲשֶׁר לֹא הָלַךְ
בַּעֲצַת רְשָׁעִים
וּבְדֶרֶךְ חַטָּאִים
לֹא עָמָד
וּבְמוֹשַׁב לֵצִים
לֹא יָשָׁב
1.1Happy the one
who does not walk
in the advice of the wicked
and in the way of sinners
does not stand
and in the seat of the scornful
does not sit
וְתֹאבְדוּ דֶרֶךְ
כִּי-יִבְעַר כִּמְעַט אַפּוֹ
אַשְׁרֵי כָּל-חוֹסֵי בוֹ
2.12Kiss, aflame yourself pure
lest he face you
and you perish in your way
kindled with a touch of his anger
Happy! the many who find this protection
In the remaining psalms of Book 1, there are several benedictions including the first of three which are given to the human אָדָם, the earthling, the child of the dust.  Then in 33 we have the nation as object (distinguish this from the people - still to come).  Then we have the first of three for הַגֶּבֶר which I have translated with a root related to the valiant. This is applied equally to male and female. There are also 3 of these.
אַשְׁרֵי נְשׂוּי פֶּשַׁע
כְּסוּי חֲטָאָה
32.1Of David
an insight
happy lifted up transgression
covered sin
אַשְׁרֵי אָדָם
לֹא יַחְשֹׁב יְהוָה לוֹ עָו‍ֹן
וְאֵין בְּרוּחוֹ רְמִיָּה
32.2happy the human
to whom יְהוָה will not consider iniquity
and without deceit in his spirit
אַשְׁרֵי הַגּוֹי
אֲשֶׁר יְהוָה אֱלֹהָיו
הָעָם בָּחַר לְנַחֲלָה לוֹ
33.12happy the nation
where יְהוָה is its God
the people chosen as his inheritance
טַעֲמוּ וּרְאוּ כִּי טוֹב יְהוָה
אַשְׁרֵי הַגֶּבֶר יֶחֱסֶה בּוֹ
34.9taste and see for יְהוָה is good
happy the valiant that take refuge in him
אַשְׁרֵי הַגֶּבֶר
אֲשֶׁר שָׂם יְהוָה מִבְטַחוֹ
וְלֹא פָנָה אֶל רְהָבִים
וְשָׂטֵי כָזָב
40.5happy the valiant
who makes יְהוָה his trust
and does not turn to the proud
falling away to a lie
אַשְׁרֵי מַשְׂכִּיל אֶל דָּל
בְּיוֹם רָעָה יְמַלְּטֵהוּ יְהוָה
41.2Happy the one giving insight to the weak
in the day of evil יְהוָה will let him escape
יְהוָה יִשְׁמְרֵהוּ וִיחַיֵּהוּ
וְאֻשַּׁר בָּאָרֶץ
וְאַל תִּתְּנֵהוּ בְּנֶפֶשׁ אֹיְבָיו
41.3יְהוָה will guard him and keep him alive
and he will be considered happy in the earth
and you will not give him into the throat of his enemies
Books 2 to 4 are not so well populated with happiness. Except psalm 84, a bit of respite in the lament of Book 3.  n psalm 89 we get the first, again of three, addressed to the nation.
אַשְׁרֵי תִּבְחַר וּתְקָרֵב
יִשְׁכֹּן חֲצֵרֶיךָ
נִשְׂבְּעָה בְּטוּב בֵּיתֶךָ
קְדֹשׁ הֵיכָלֶךָ
65.5Happy the one chosen and made near
who will dwell in your courts
We will be satisfied in the good of your house
your holy temple
יְהִי שְׁמוֹ לְעוֹלָם
לִפְנֵי שֶׁמֶשׁ יִנּוֹן שְׁמוֹ
וְיִתְבָּרְכוּ בוֹ
כָּל גּוֹיִם יְאַשְּׁרוּהוּ
72.17his name will be forever
his name will continue in the presence of the sun
and they will bless themselves in him -
all nations will call him happy
יְהוָה צְבָאוֹת
אַשְׁרֵי אָדָם בֹּטֵחַ בָּךְ
84.13יְהוָה of hosts
happy the human who trusts in you
אַשְׁרֵי יוֹשְׁבֵי בֵיתֶךָ
עוֹד יְהַלְלוּךָ
84.5Happy those sitting in your house
ever they will praise you
אַשְׁרֵי אָדָם עוֹז לוֹ
בָךְ מְסִלּוֹת בִּלְבָבָם
84.6Happy the human whose strength is in you
with a highway in their heart
אַשְׁרֵי הָעָם
יֹדְעֵי תְרוּעָה יְהוָה
בְּאוֹר פָּנֶיךָ יְהַלֵּכוּן
89.16Happy the people
knowing the jubilation of יְהוָה
In the light of your face they will walk
אַשְׁרֵי הַגֶּבֶר אֲשֶׁר תְּיַסְּרֶנּוּ יָּהּ
וּמִתּוֹרָתְךָ תְלַמְּדֶנּוּ
94.12Happy the valiant whom you chastise Yah
and from your instruction you teach them
אַשְׁרֵי שֹׁמְרֵי מִשְׁפָּט
עֹשֵׂה צְדָקָה בְכָל עֵת
106.3happy those keeping judgment
doing righteousness at all times
In psalm 112, and 119, I translate to the constraint of the acrostic. Psalm 128 gives us a universal. Psalm 137 is enigmatic, as usual. Dashes uniquely matches the smashed pots of psalm 2 - so bear the tension.
הַלְלוּ יָהּ
אַשְׁרֵי אִישׁ יָרֵא אֶת יְהוָה
בְּמִצְו‍ֹתָיו חָפֵץ מְאֹד
112.1Hallelu Yah
A happy person fears יְהוָה
By his commandments he has much delight
אַשְׁרֵי תְמִימֵי דָרֶךְ
הַהֹלְכִים בְּתוֹרַת יְהוָה
119.1All joy for those who are the complete of the way
who walk in the teaching of יְהוָה
אַשְׁרֵי נֹצְרֵי עֵדֹתָיו
בְּכָל לֵב יִדְרְשׁוּהוּ
119.2All joy for those observing his testimonies
with a whole heart they seek him
אַשְׁרֵי הַגֶּבֶר
אֲשֶׁר מִלֵּא אֶת אַשְׁפָּתוֹ מֵהֶם
לֹא יֵבֹשׁוּ
כִּי יְדַבְּרוּ אֶת אוֹיְבִים בַּשָּׁעַר
127.5happy the valiant
who filled his quiver with them
he will not be ashamed
when he speaks with enemies at the gate
שִׁיר הַמַּעֲלוֹת
אַשְׁרֵי כָּל יְרֵא יְהוָה
הַהֹלֵךְ בִּדְרָכָיו
128.1A song of the steps
Happy all fearing יְהוָה
those walking in his ways
יְגִיעַ כַּפֶּיךָ כִּי תֹאכֵל
אַשְׁרֶיךָ וְטוֹב לָךְ
128.2for you will eat the labour of your hands
your happiness and good for you
בַּת בָּבֶל הַשְּׁדוּדָה
אַשְׁרֵי שֶׁיְשַׁלֶּם לָךְ
אֶת גְּמוּלֵךְ שֶׁגָּמַלְתְּ לָנוּ
137.8Devastating daughter of Babel
happy the one who makes peace with you
even weans you as you weaned us
אַשְׁרֵי שֶׁיֹּאחֵז וְנִפֵּץ
אֶת עֹלָלַיִךְ אֶל הַסָּלַע
137.9happy the one who holds and dashes
your unweaned against the cliff
אַשְׁרֵי הָעָם שֶׁכָּכָה לּוֹ
אַשְׁרֵי הָעָם שֱׁיְהוָה אֱלֹהָיו
144.15happy the people who are like this to him
happy the people who have יְהוָה as their God
אַשְׁרֵי שֶׁאֵל יַעֲקֹב בְּעֶזְרוֹ
שִׂבְרוֹ עַל יְהוָה אֱלֹהָיו
146.5Happy the one who has the God of Jacob for its help
Its hope is in יְהוָה its God
There are several of these macarisms that are action based. If we would be happy then we may do these 10 things among other thoughts. Treat them as mitzvot and be joyful.
  • fear יְהוָה
  • observe the testimonies, 
  • be complete in the way, 
  • walk in the teaching of יְהוָה, 
  • keep judgement,
  • trust in יְהוָה of hosts, 
  • sit in יְהוָה's house, 
  • have strength in יְהוָה,
  • be chosen and made near, 
  • give insight to the weak.