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Echoes of the Future
Video 1 of 17
I want to take you for reasons that I'm not going to disclose to you right now into a journey into the heart of one of these psalms, Psalm 30. Psalm 30 is - in Hebrew it's known as Mizmor Shir Chanukat Habayit l'Dovid. A psalm for the consecration of the House. That's just fancy words for the dedication of the Temple. It's a psalm of David. David - King David was the - presumably - the author of this psalm. It's a little bit strange that he is described as the author of the psalm because the Temple was not built in his lifetime, it was built in the lifetime of his son. Nevertheless, this is the Koteret, really the headline of the psalm. A psalm that there's to dedicate the Temple.
When you look at the psalm it just seems to almost be like a kind of plain, vanilla kind of amalgam of many different ideas that don't really seem to have to do with anything. It almost seems like there's no progression, it's that these are scattered sort of ideas. But I want to argue that there is a very fascinating center around which everything revolves. Once we understand that center, we will understand, I think, the psalm again in three dimensions. We'll be able to see it in its raw, spiritual power, in a way, I think, that will make it, I think, very, very touching - at least for me, from my life, and I hope that it will be for you as well.
So with no further ado, I want to sort of jump into this and just begin to try to show you first of all some of the problems, why it is that when we look at this psalm we see it in this kind of - seem to see it in this kind of scattered way. It's not easy to see this center. I want to just show you how kind of scattered the psalm feels. But let's kind of jump in and let me introduce you to some of its text and give you a feel for what it is that I'm talking about.
Here's the psalm right over here in English and in Hebrew. The Hebrew which you're seeing over here is the Hebrew but the English is going to be the 1917 edition of JPS, which is a translation I kind of like. Very archaic sounding, so you'll have to excuse the archaic aspects of it, but it's really kind of literal. As we go through this I'm going to freely translate from the Hebrew and at times I may only show you the Hebrew on screen, because so much of what we're doing has to do with wordplay that connects to the Hebrew itself. At the beginning at least I want to show you the English and you're always welcome to just refer to your own English translation if the Hebrew doesn't mean anything to you, to get a sense of what it is that we're talking about. but keep your eye on the Hebrew even if you don't read Hebrew, and you don't understand the words, still the kind of things we're doing - I'll explain the English as I go along - I think it will help you to just visualize it with me, with the Hebrew as well.
So just to begin, just to read the very first sentence over here. Mizmor shir chanukat habayit l'Dovid. As I said, it's a psalm that's for the consecration of the Temple. I want to just begin with asking you, what does this idea of consecration of the Temple have to do with the rest of the psalm? As you'll see, the rest of the psalm it kind of has to do with themes of forgiveness, kind of spiritual salvation, and it seems as you read through much of Psalms, these are the themes of much of Psalms. It seems like what is special about this particular psalm that has to deal specifically with consecrating the Temple?
Again, if you would ask me to come out of nowhere and come up with an idea for a psalm - if I was writing some sort of poem for the consecration of the Temple, I might talk about the beauty of the Temple perhaps. I might talk of the surpassing spiritual import of the Temple, why it's significant. It's a place of connection to G-d, it's a place for maybe prayer, maybe it's a place for offerings, maybe it's a place where G-d dwells. I would think any of these themes would be appropriate.
Instead, none of this stuff is what Psalm 30, ostensibly a psalm to celebrate the dedication of the Temple - none of these are themes that appear in the psalm at all. Instead, the psalm is intensely personal, it seems to be a reflection of David's own life, David's own personal struggles in some kind of way. The first question I want to hold out to you, is what does this intensely personal psalm have to do with the dedication of the Temple at all? Okay, so that's question number one for you - what does this personal psalm have to do with the Temple?
Maybe if you can, take a read through the text - again here it is on screen - once again, you're free to use this translation or any other. Read through it, try to get a sense of why you think the themes are so hard to pin down over here? Maybe even make a list of different ideas that are here and just list them one, two, three, four, five and then the question mark which we'll struggle with, is how do these things fit together? And, of course, the thing we'll struggle with, which is, how does any of this have to do with this idea of here; Chanukat Habayit - dedication for the Temple?
So read through the psalm, and we'll come back and I'll go through it with you together and we'll get a sense of, I think, some of the difficulties and try to tackle what's really going on here. Again, I think it's a very, very powerful piece of biblical literature and I hope to show you why.
1. What Does the Book of Psalms Have to Do With the Joseph Story?
2. A Curious Dedication
3. Profit Motive
4. Blood Money
5. Did Jacob Know?
6. A Father's Ambivalent Blessing
7. The Ruthlessness of War
8. The Lion and the Cub
10. To Redeem an Ancestor's Pledge
11. The Lion and the Lamb
12. Moving Up
13. Memories of Father
14. First Cries
15. Where Would I Be Without You
16. What Could Kill Me--But Then What?
17. A Palpable Presence
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