Sunday, May 16, 2021

The cost of kindness

Marc Zvi Brettler asks if the death of the righteous is precious in the eyes of i-h-v-h? (I have great respect for Marc and his work, but in this article, he is not carrying the verse to its necessary conclusion, the cost to God of creation, and the character of i-h-v-h and the one who fears i-h-v-h - this being the thrust of the purpose of the psalms - to form a people who are similarly kind and merciful, i.e. who are in the image and likeness of i-h-v-h. It should be no surprise that we humans have difficulty living up to this vocation into which we are invited, whether to write of it or to do it.)

First, he suggests that Psalms 116:15 is a question. Is it a question?

Answer: no. The verse may raise a question in the reader, but it answers it in the affirmative. Marc carefully points out, that a question does not need an explicit interrogative, but can be based on tone of voice. Let's see if this could apply in this case.

I set part of this psalm to the music of the te'amim with verse 5 as a chorus reflecting the cost to i-h-v-h of creation. (I did not set that exact verse. It reads well as part of the sequence from 110-117, the psalms around which I based my oratorio, Unleashing Leviathan.)

Marc accurately points out the medieval responses to the question raised by this verse. But let's look first at the words: 

iqr byini ihvh 
hmovth lksidiv

I have no quarrel with iqr glossed as precious, perhaps even rare since the ksid (the one who is merciful) is rare. But ksid should not be rendered as righteous. The ksid (one under mercy) may be declared righteous (xdq / xdiq). But the text does not say righteous in this verse.

So I would read it thus:

Precious in the eyes of Yahweh,
is the death of those under his mercy.

Words eventually matter. ksid is derived from ksd which I translate simply as kind/kindness or mercy. 

Now consider the music: Position the pdf at verse 15 (or see below). Note that 15b (bars 71-72) is two words only, a recitation on the subdominant and a direct return to the tonic. There is no chance of a question in the tone of voice. The subdominant is a restful reciting note. Recitation on the reciting note defined by the atnah is not uncommon. But here it occurs on three consecutive verses, 14, 15, and 16. I must lay out the data for you because it is complex yet also consistently straightforward.

thlim q'tz Psalms 116 Fn Min Max Syll
a ahbti ci-iwmy ihvh
at-qoli tknunii
1 I love, for Yahweh heard,
the voice of my supplication.
g 3e 4A 8
b ci-h'th aozno li
ubimii aqra
2 For he bent his ear to me,
and in my days I will call.

3e 4B 5
g appuni kbli-mvvt umxri waol mxauni
xrh vigon amxa
3 The pangs of death enveloped me and anguish of Sheol found me.
Trouble and sadness I find.
3e 4C 16
d ubwm-ihvh aqra
anh ihvh ml'th npwi
4 So in the name of Yahweh I will call,
beseeching, Yahweh, make an escape for my being.

3e 4A 6
h knun ihvh vxdiq
valohinu mrkm
5 Gracious is Yahweh and righteous,
and our God is compassionate.
3e 4B 8
v womr ptiim ihvh
dloti vli ihowiy
6 Yahweh keeps the simple.
I was brought low and me he saves.

3e 4B 8
z wubi npwi lmnukiici
ci-ihvh gml yliici
7 Return, O my being, to your rest,
for Yahweh has matured you.
3e 4B 8
k ci kilxt npwi mmvvt
at-yini mn-dmyh
at-rgli mdki
8 For he rescued my being from death,
my eyes from tears,
my foot from tripping.

C 3e 4C 9
't athlç lpni ihvh
barxot hkiim
9 I will walk in the presence of Yahweh,
in the lands of the living.
g 3e 4B 7
i hamnti ci adbr
ani yniti maod
10 I believed so I spoke.
I myself was much afflicted.

g 3e 4B 8
ia ani amrti bkopzi
cl-hadm cozb
11 I myself said in my haste,
Every human lies.
g 3e 4B 8
ib mh-awib lihvh
cl-tgmulohi ylii
12 What will I return to Yahweh,
for all his benefits to me?
3e 4A 5
ig cos-iwuyot awa
ubwm ihvh aqra
13 The cup of salvation I will bear,
so in the name of Yahweh I will call.
3e 4B 6
id ndrii lihvh awlm
ngdh-na lcl-ymo
14 My vows to Yahweh I will pay,
may it be before all his people.

g 3e 4B 8
'tv iqr byini ihvh
hmovth lksidiv
15 Precious in the eyes of Yahweh,
is the death of those under his mercy.
g 3e 4B 7
'tz anh ihvh ci-ani ybdç
ani-ybdç bn-amtç
pitkt lmosrii
16 Yahweh beseeching, for I myself am your servant,
I myself your servant and child of your maidservant.
You have loosed my bonds.
3d 4B 9
iz lç-azbk zbk todh
ubwm ihvh aqra
17 To you I will offer the offering of thanksgiving,
so in the name of Yahweh I will call.
3e 4B 8
ik ndrii lihvh awlm
ngdh-na lcl-ymo
18 My vows to Yahweh I will pay,
may it be before all his people,
g 3e 4B 8
i't bkxrot bit ihvh btocci iruwlim hllu-ih 19 in the courts of the house of Yahweh, in your centre, O Jerusalem. Hallelu Yah. 3e 4C 17

verses 1, 9, 14, 15, 16, and 18 all have identical musical shape returning from the subdominant to the tonic. A ger-rev,e. The sequence A-e as a final phrase occurs 57 times in the 21 prose books. In the poetry books, the particular sequence with the revia-mugrash (ger-rev) occurs 507 times (14% of verses). The sequence of notes in verse 15 occurs in 75 verses of the poetry books (Psalms, Proverbs, Job). If my thesis is correct, then you will find each of these verses has a sense of rest in the final half verse. So above for the verses in question, sing them and hear that sense. Read them with that tone of voice. They are never questions.

What is the question raised by verse 15? Is this verse noted in the New Testament? (Marc, with Amy-Jill Levine, is one of the two editors of the Jewish Annotated New Testament.) A strongly allusive verse Revelation 14:13, reflects the sense of Psalms 116:15. The footnotes in the JANT do not mention the psalm allusion. I think this is an oversight. The New Testament has the same rationale behind it as the Psalms: creating a community that shows kindness and embodies mercy.

This psalm begins with the completeness of love, I love, for i-h-v-h heard, // the voice of my supplication. So the poet is willing to 'pay my vows' ngdh-na lcl-ymo. The poet will 'walk in the lands of the living', note the plural, barxot hkiim. 'You have loosed my bonds.' Each of these half verses has identical music.

Psalms 116:15b the death of those under his mercy

Needless to say, neither the churches in their present forms, nor Israel in its present form, nor any group that goes by the name of violence, or works with imperialist motives, has succeeded in this costly endeavour. 

Let us redefine what we mean when we say ksidim (trad Chasidim or equivalent)- mercy and kindness - not righteousness necessarily, but leading to such a maturity (verse 7). I think we could all agree that kindness is desirable. The question is whether anyone is willing to bear the cost. That is the rare aspect.

Who dares to speak that first verse? I love (open-ended without direct object). Without such love, there are no vows to pay, bonds are not loosed, and we do not walk in the lands of the living.

Wednesday, May 12, 2021

Psalms 16

This post replaces a draft of Psalm 16 from 2011.09.13-09:48. How curious it is to review posts from 10 years ago. The first published post I came across was a freeform translation I did in 2014 and then another post in 2015. Here's the style from 2011. I had not yet figured out what I would do with the name i-h-v-h. I knew for sure I would not substitute the title Lord in any form or special typeset. Now I think just the letters will do and a realization that it has something to do with being and becoming, yet, I hasten to add, ihvh is not time-dependent.

The pleasures and the right handin which the elect reveals the tension inherent in the world and chooses the refuge, the portion, and the secure place of trust in which he or she will not be moved and where there is satisfaction of joys in the presence of יְהוָה

Verse 1 calls this psalm a mictam. It is the first of 6, the other 5 being psalms 56-60, three of which are to the tune 'do not destroy'. 

Here's another paragraph essentially from 2011 (with the language slightly updated to use the SimHebrew Latin letter mapping):

There are three words suggested for the root mictam: inscription related to כתם ctb (to write), golden related to ctm and atonement related to Akkadian ctm to cover (not the Hebrew cpr which almost sounds like English cover). Being uncertain, I used all three suggestions. Each of them has its attractions. It has to be gold because it speaks (if silently) of ultimate satisfaction at God's right hand. Silent because such things cannot be spoken. Of atonement since it is about being at one, not being abandoned, not being subject to chance, not being without hope, yet it knows of such abandonment, chance, and despair. But it is only one word. Some translations leave it as Miktam. Craigie suggests reference to Jeremiah 2:22 translating your iniquity is inscribed before me

Note the recurrence of ks in the Psalm. Mercy and refuge are closely related in the family of roots beginning with ks. This psalm is referenced in Acts 2:25-28, 2:31, 13:35.

At the time, I was also asking whether the psalter is a book the plot and theme and purpose of which can be discerned. 

This was my third time reading the psalter in Hebrew. My second reading began after my first. My first began in 2006 after the conference on The epistle to the Hebrews and theology at St Andrews, where I realized for the first time that the psalms are dialogue between father and son and therefore between 'the Father' and 'the elect of all ages'. Seeing this, one realizes eventually how great is the depth of gratitude the elect of a later age owe to the writers and copiers of the canon - with a dose of shrewdness of course. (And that theme appears in this psalm in what is perhaps an idiomatic phrase - in the earth = gone before. Maybe there are other uses - like 2 Samuel 7:9).

Here's what's in the database today. There is a performance of the music here. And a pdf here. This is the only place in my translation where I used that (13th century?) coinage, atonement.

thlim 'tz Psalms 16 Fn Min Max Syll
a mctm ldvid
womrni al ci-ksiti bç
1 From gold, concerning atonement, through inscription, of David.
Keep me O God for I take refuge in you.
3e 4A 5
b amrt lihvh adonii ath
'tobti bl-yliç
2 You said to Yahweh, You are my Lord,
my good pales beside you.
3e 4B 10
g lqdowim awr-barx hmh
vadiri cl-kpxi-bm
3 About the holy ones that are in the earth, of them,
and of majesties ... Is all my delight in them?
g 3e 4B 10
d irbu yxbotm akr mhru
bl-asiç nscihm mdm
ubl-awa at-wmotm yl-wptii
4 Let their idols increase. Following they rush headlong.
I will not spill out their libations with blood,
neither will I bear their names on my lips.
3d 4B 10
h ihvh mnt-klqi vcosi
ath tomiç gorli
5 Yahweh is the portion of my share and my cup.
You yourself maintain my lot.

3e 4A 9
v kblim nplu-li bnyimim
af-nklt wprh ylii
6 Pledges have fallen to me in pleasures.
Indeed for me there is a glistening inheritance.
3e 4B 9
z abrç at-ihvh awr iyxni
af-lilot iisruni cliotii
7 I will bless Yahweh who advises me.
Indeed in the nights my vital centre chastens me.

3e 4B 12
k wivviti ihvh lngdi tmid
ci mimini bl-amo't
8 I have agreed with Yahweh in front of me continually,
for he is at my right hand. I will not be moved.
3e 4B 10
't lcn wmk libi vigl cbodi
af-bwri iwcon lb'tk
9 So my heart will be glad and my glory rejoice.
Indeed my flesh will dwell in trust.

3e 4C 12
i ci la-tyzob npwi lwaol
la-titn ksidç lraot wkt
10 For you will not forsake me to the grave.
You will not permit one within your mercy to see destruction.
C 3e 4C 8
ia todiyni aork kiim
woby wmkot at-pniç
nyimot biminç nxk
11 You will make known to me a path of life,
satisfaction of gladness in your presence,
pleasures at your right hand always.
3e 4C 8

Monday, May 10, 2021

Psalms 15

The last time I posted on this psalm was 2.5 years ago. We couldn't see what was coming. The post before that was 2010, since reverted to draft, and before that on Bob's Log in 2008! At that time I was still using my fantastical diagrams still available but hard to start and wow - so complex. This snippet of a bar chart shows the relationship of Psalms 15 to other psalms. Psalms 24 and 101 stand out for the shared roots.

The relationship of Psalms 15 to other psalms
And my method of showing repeating roots was a 3D bar chart - too much! But its word by word colourful presentation sure kept me occupied with detail. Here is the sevenfold 'no'.

The sevenfold no in Psalms 15

This was a fantastic logic-modeler. I don't think it exists anywhere anymore. The basis of it morphed into a great tool for fast web-app development particularly designed for Monitoring and Evaluation applications, still available. I use a version of it for my Data-based algorithmic translation engine. (DBATE). 

So compare Psalms 15 and 24 - both in the cohort of psalms I am examining at present. They share about 40% of their words. A similar proportion is shared with Psalms 101.

Word / Gloss1234567891012VsStem
מזמור a psalm
לדוד of David
יהוה Yahweh
מי who
מי who
בהר on hill
קדשך your holy
צדק righteousness
בלבבו in his heart
לא not
15:3 לא
לא not
לא not
נשא he does lift up
יהוה Yahweh
נשבע he swears
ולא and not
לא not
נקי the innocent
לא not
לא not
לדוד of David
מזמור a psalm
ליהוה Yahweh's
מי who
בהר the hill of
יהוה Yahweh
24:3 יהוה
ומי and who
קדשו his holy
נקי those of innocent
לבב heart
לא not
נשא has lifted up
ולא and not
נשבע sworn
ישא such will bear
יהוה Yahweh
וצדקה and righteousness

Psalms 15 music is here. No performance is available. Over to you!

To recite: 5 verses, the first and last are tricola. Notice how short cola can be. I think that verse 4 should be read as he refuses to despise with his eyes. It is quite natural to be put off by externals.

thlim 'tv Psalms 15 Fn Min Max Syll
a mzmor ldvid
ihvh mi-igur baohlç
mi-iwcon bhr qodwç
1 A psalm of David.
Yahweh who will guest in your tent?
Who will dwell on your holy hill?
3e 4B 5
b holç tmim upoyl xdq
vdobr amt blbbo
2 One walking complete and working righteousness,
and speaking truth in his heart.
3e 4B 9
g la-rgl yl-lwono la-ywh lriyhu ryh
vkrph la-nwa yl-qrobo
3 He does not slander with his tongue. He does not do evil to his friend,
and a reproach he does not lift up over those near him.
3e 4B 14
d nbzh byiniv nmas vat-irai ihvh icbd
nwby lhry vla imir
4 One despised in his eyes? It is refused. And those who fear Yahweh he glorifies.
He swears in spite of injury and does not alter.
3e 4C 16
h cspo la-ntn bnwç vwokd yl-nqi la lqk
la iimo't lyolm
5 His money he does not give at interest, and a bribe over the innocent he does not take.
Doing these things,
he will not be moved forever.
3e 4C 16