Book of Psalms in Plain English: A Contemporary Reading of Tehillim

Book of Psalms in Plain English: A Contemporary Reading of Tehillim

by Aaron Lichtenstein

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Product Details

ISBN-13: 9789655240702
Publisher: Urim Publications
Publication date: 07/01/2014
Sold by: Barnes & Noble
Format: NOOK Book
Pages: 201
Sales rank: 1,126,281
File size: 365 KB

About the Author

Aaron Lichtenstein teaches at the City University of New York and has previously taught at New York University, Yeshiva University, the University of Denver, and the London School of Jewish Studies. He is a former staff editor of the Encyclopedia Judaica. He lives in New York City.

Read an Excerpt

The Book of Psalms In Plain English

By Aaron Lichtenstein

Urim Publications

Copyright © 2011 Aaron Lichtenstein
All rights reserved.
ISBN: 978-965-524-070-2



    Fortunate is the man who never went the way of the wicked,
    Nor consorted with the sinners,
    Nor sat around with the cynics,
    Who instead yearns for God's teachings,
    And who studies God's Torah day and night.
    Thereby he will be like a tree near a stream,
    That gives fruit in season and whose leaves never wilt.
    Just so, everything the man undertakes will succeed.
    Not so the evildoers, who are like wind-blown chaff,
    For evildoers shall not stand with the righteous on judgment day,
    For God embraces the ways of the righteous,
    While the ways of evildoers are doomed.


    For nothing do the nations gather at a summit,
    To conspire against God and His elect, resolving:
    "We shall cut all our ties with them,
    And free ourselves from their heavy bonds."
    But the Lord in heaven is laughing at them,
    And to their confusion, responds with anger:
    "It is I who has installed a king on holy Mt. Zion."
    Now I'll tell you what the Lord said to me:
    "You are like a new-born child to me,
    Just ask and I shall give you those nations
    As your birthright possession to the end of the earth,
    You can beat them with an iron club,
    Smash them as if they were earthenware."
    So now, you monarchs and magistrates, get smart:
    Obey and serve the Lord energetically,
    Distribute food, lest He ignite His wrath
    With a burst of fire that wrecks your rule.
    Fortunate are those who put their trust in Him.


    David's psalm, when he ran away from his son Absalom:

    O Lord, I have so many foes attacking me,
    They say that now even God cannot save me.
    But you, O Lord, are my shield and protection,
    So I can uphold my honor and raise my head.
    I could always call to God and He would respond,
    Indeed, answering me from His holy mountain,
    I could lie down to sleep and wake in His care,
    And I would not fear the political fights around me.
    O Lord, my God, come now and rescue me,
    Slap my attackers and break their teeth.
    But Lord of salvation, always have blessings for Your nation.


    A composition for voices, a psalm of David:

    My just Lord, have mercy and accept my prayers.
    Among men, who pursue meaningless illusions,
    I am a disgraceful foul blot,
    But know that God takes cognizance of His devotees,
    So He answers me when I cry out to Him.
    Agitate against sin and you will sleep soundly,
    Make the righteous sacrifice, putting your trust in God.
    Many are asking to be shown the way to virtue,
    So Lord, do shine Your bright countenance on us,
    Already my heart is filled with happiness,
    Greater than the joy over a bumper-crop harvest,
    And I can lie down to sleep in perfect peace,
    Because, O Lord, You provide me with Your security.


    A composition for band, psalm of David:

    O Lord, hear me and listen to my statements,
    O King, accept my plea, as I pray to You.
    By early morning I put my case to You and wait:
    Surely clowns will not gain access to You,
    As indeed You disdain the workers of iniquity,
    And repulse liars, sneaks, and assassins.
    But mercifully, I frequent Your temple for worship,
    So I ask that You grant me a clear success,
    Because the Other has never spoken an honest word,
    His throat opens to tragedy and the grave,
    Condemn him to falling into his own plot,
    Crush him for repeated sins and for defying You.
    Then those who love Your majesty can rejoice assured,
    By bursting into song to celebrate with You,
    For You extend constant blessings to the righteous,
    And protect them with a crown of good wishes.


    A composition for chorus and strings, a psalm of David:

    O Lord, do not punish me in Your anger,
    Have mercy, for I hurt and am weary to the bone,
    My soul has been in confusion for too long,
    Help, O Lord, save my soul out of pity,
    For the dead and buried cannot acknowledge Your Being.
    Weary with sobs, I drench my bedding in tears,
    My eyes grow dim from confronting the enemies.
    Away! all you devils, because God now hears my cry,
    God accepts my pleas and answers my prayer.
    My attackers turn away in abashed disarray,
    Retreating from the shock of disgrace.


    A caprice by David which he sang to God
    about Cush ben Yemini:

    My Lord God, save me from those who pursue me,
    Who are ready to tear me apart like a lion.
    My Lord God, if I am guilty as they accuse,
    If I committed the crime of repaying evil for good,
    If I am the upstart aggressor for no real reason,
    Then let my opponents loose for the kill,
    To beat my life and honor into the ground.
    Instead, O Lord, apply the judgment You have set for me,
    And let Your anger flare against my opponents' wrongs,
    Then the whole world will cheer and acquiesce to Your lordship,
    So Lord who judges nations, see me in my innocence.

    The just Lord will put an end to wickedness,
    He weighs the merit in the righteous heart,
    Helps those who are true, and I rely on Him.
    The Lord is an honest judge, dispensing continual retribution
    To the unrepentant who keeps his weapons ready.
    But his knife may cause his own death, as happens,
    As when Mischief marries Crime and they engender Falsehood,
    As when one hides the ditch he dug and falls himself into it,
    As when an act of violence turns to harm its perpetrator.
    Thus, I praise the Lord for His rule of law,
    And sing my song to His transcendent name.


    A composition for instrument, a psalm of David:

    Our Lord and Master, how glorious is Your name throughout the land,
    And not only in Your heavenly place of splendor.
    Your famed power is there in the talk of children,
    And is a refutation to the embittered heretics.
    As I gaze at the workings of Your heavens,
    The moon and the stars which You coordinate,
    Why would You be concerned with man and woman,
    This human race which You appointed?
    You fashioned it just short of divine,
    And crowned it with respect and dignity,
    With dominion over all creation, serving at its feet,
    The sheep and cattle and beasts of the field as well,
    The birds on high and the fish off distant seashores.
    Our Lord and Master, how glorious is Your name throughout the land.


    Composed on the death of his son, a psalm of David:

    O God, I thank You from my heart and will reveal Your miracles,
    I am overjoyed over You and shall sing of Your divinity,
    Because You have defeated my foes, having scattered them into retreat,
    For You have given me justice while presiding in Your court,
    You had warned the people, then condemned the wicked to oblivion,
    The enemy is no more, his cities destroyed and forgotten,
    Whereas the Lord's justice endures forever, adjudicating the nations,
    The Lord remains the recourse for the unlucky and downtrodden,
    And the source of hope for the devout and seekers of the Lord.
    Citizens of Zion, sing to the Lord and tell the world about Him,
    How He stirs to avenge the blood of screaming victims.
    O God, see my pain too, and save me from violence,
    Then I can tell the citizens of Zion about your deliverance,
    And how those barbarians were caught in the very trap they set,
    The Lord's well-known ploy to turn the tables on the evildoer,
    By which the evildoer and agnostic are soon reduced to dust,
    While the plight of the poor is not overlooked forever.
    O God, come bring the nations before You in judgment,
    Do not let these mortals imagine themselves supermen,
    Teach them the fear of God and that they are only human.


    O Lord, why do You sometimes disappear in time of trouble?

    As when tough criminals prepare to strike the weak?
    For when a criminal smiles at success, he is laughing at You as well.
    The criminal can act self-assured only if he thinks there is no Providence,
    He terrorizes his victims while Your judgment is withheld,
    Swearing by his crooked scheme, he thinks he can never stumble,
    From his hidden nook he devises plans to accost the unwary poor,
    Like a lion in its lair, about to seize its prey,
    His victim is soon grabbed, overpowered, and crushed,
    He tells himself that God forgets, looks away, or never saw.
    O Lord, rouse up Your mighty arm, do not neglect the needy,
    For the wicked blaspheme when they think that no one cares.
    Yet all have seen You righting wrong to protect poor orphans,
    And that You have broken wanton forces of evil into smithereens,
    For the Lord is the eternal Master who wiped whole nations from their

    O Lord, listen now to these cries of the brokenhearted poor,
    Administer justice for the orphan and all those suffering oppression,
    So that mankind shall no longer be driven from the earth.


    A composition by David:

    You can't tell me to fly off my mountain,
    Because I have put my trust in the Lord.
    But you evildoers aim your arrows at blameless men
    In the valleys, attacking every settlement in the land.
    Meanwhile the Lord looks down from His throne in heaven,
    Distinguishing the righteous from the violent whom He hates,
    He then inundates the evildoers with storms of flashing hailstone,
    Because the righteous Lord loves righteousness,
    And the righteous shall be rewarded with His favor.


    A composition for strings, a psalm of David:

    God help! there is not a worthy or honest man left,
    They tell each other lies, even among friends,
    They speak with forked tongues, with hearts of deceit.
    Would that the Lord shut down these false self-serving mouths,
    That say with propaganda they can conquer the world.
    Let the Lord rise now because of the cheated poor,
    Who must be empowered to claim restitution.
    Your word, Lord, is sterling purified seven times over,
    So protect the poor, us all, from this modern generation,
    Having gangsters and bloodsuckers who run circles round the people.


    A psalm composition by David:

    How long will You overlook me, O Lord?
    How long will You hide Your favor from me?
    How long must I go on examining my soul's worth?
    How long will my enemy be threatening my life?
    O Lord, see my pain and enlighten me, lest I die,
    Lest my enemies rejoice for having defeated me.
    Still, I trust You to have me rejoicing at Your help,
    For I will be serenading You about Your kindness.


    A composition by David:

    The ruffians really believe that there is no God,
    They commit their abominations in full public view,
    Not even one of them does anything virtuous.
    When the Lord in heaven peers down on mankind
    In search of enlightened souls, those who seek the Lord,
    He finds them all spoiled and crooked, not one doing good.
    This explains why criminals can devour our people undeterred.
    It is because our people are not calling out to God,
    And when the Lord does flourish in some righteous generation,
    All will understand, and be jolted into fearing the Lord,
    For they did not believe that the Lord could protect the meek.
    Now we must hope that Israel's salvation is nearing,
    When the Lord will return His exiled people to Zion,
    Amid much joy and celebration for all Jacob and Israel.


    Of David:

    O Lord, who gains admission to Your hilltop sanctuary?
    He who is honest, does right, and tells the whole truth,
    He does not gossip, hurt friends, or embarrass the family,
    He despises the scoundrel but respects the God-fearing,
    He keeps his promise even after a down-turn,
    He does not demand usury nor accept any bribe.
    Such a person shall never stumble or fall.


    A poem by David:

    Protect me, O Lord, because I place my trust in You.
    Others say You are too distant to bother with our needs,
    They turn to nature's gods as suppliers of human welfare,
    They cultivate these pagan idols with worship and donations.
    But I'll not pour them any blood or even mention them by name.
    For God provides my sustenance and is master of my destiny,
    I enjoy my co-religionists and am pleased with my place in life,
    And thank God for His guidance, in line with my basic instincts.
    I imagine God here with me always, His arm at my side,
    So that my heart rejoices, with my dignity and safety assured,
    For You will not relegate my soul to the tomb and to Hell,
    But indulge me in life with celebrating Your favor,
    The ecstasy of Your powerful eternal presence.


    David's prayer:

    Lord of justice, I chant my prayer to You sincerely,
    And I know that You judge me with perfect justice,
    You investigate my motives to find them pure,
    So my words and actions adhere to Your express command,
    I am careful not to trespass onto the realm of crime,
    I walk the path You choose, where I will not stumble.
    When perplexed, I call out with questions for Your answer,
    How marvelous is Your kindness in rescuing believers from attack.
    So now come hide me like a chick beneath Your wing,
    From the felons bent on murder who surround me,
    Their vain threats made through fat faces and clenched teeth,
    They spy out and encircle me at my every destination,
    Moving like lions poised to pounce from a hidden lair.
    O Lord, come with Your sword to confront and destroy,
    Let me die from old age, as You ordained for mortals,
    Living amid the precious gifts You extend to us,
    Satisfying our hungers and granting sweet children,
    And wealth enough to bequeath to grandchildren.
    As for me, satisfaction comes from receiving Your favor,
    And a brimming measure of Your revelations.


    A composition by the servant of God,
    David, who recited this song to God,
    Whenever God saved him from his foes
    And from Saul, expressing his love for God Almighty.

    God is my rock, my fortress, and my haven,
    My stronghold, my power, my trust, my shield,
    The trumpet for my victories, and my protector.
    I address God with praises and He saves me
    From attack. When choking from calamity,
    Frightened by a rush of outlaws, surrounded
    By the dread of Hell, confronted with entrapment,
    I turn to God in my troubles and pray.
    From His sanctuary He hears my voice,
    He lets my pleadings reach Him.
    The earth then starts to shake in fear,
    The mountains trembling at His displeasure.
    Breathing fire, His mouth emits flames,
    He lowers the heaven and descends,
    With darkness clothing His footsteps.
    He mounts a Cherub and flies on wind,
    Encased by night, with cloud as armor,
    His splendor pierces the dark in flame.

    God's voice thunders from the sky in hail,
    His arrows, forked lightning, confound the foe —
    O Lord, Your whispered roar stirs the oceans
    And bares the world's foundations —
    He rescues me from a dangerous foe,
    An enemy who is more powerful than I,
    He advances and leads me into battle,
    Nudges me to safety, because He likes me.
    God is rewarding me for righteousness,
    And for having hands clean of sin.
    Following God's ways, I eschew wrong,
    I am mindful of His laws always,
    And am honestly aware of my temptations.
    So God repays according to my innocence.
    For the pious there is kindness,
    For the good man there is goodness,
    For the crude there is cruelty,
    For the crook there is damnation.
    Thus, God, You rescue the poor people,
    But dash the haughty to the ground.
    You light my lamp, dispel the darkness,
    I sweep thru enemy lines unharmed,
    You help me get over the embankment.

    God's paths are perfect, His word is sure,
    He defends those who depend on Him.
    Is there divinity except for God's?
    Or a fortress outside our Lord's?

    You prepare me for certain victory,
    My feet run uphill swift as a deer,
    You train my hands to wage war,
    For my arms to bend the metal bow,
    You lend me Your protective shield,
    Humbly projecting me as a superpower,
    My steps proceed assured, not tripping,
    I pursue the enemy, search and destroy,
    Crashing him down at my feet.
    O Lord, it is You who made me mighty,
    Who let me overpower my antagonists,
    Who made them run from me in tatters,
    They prayed to God but got no answer,
    So I mashed them and threw them to the wind.
    You sustained me in quarrels with my men,
    Then foreign peoples had to serve me,
    The nations obeyed, cringing and lying,
    And I let them stew, restricted to their capitals.
    God lives, my blessed defender on high,
    The almighty God who grants me my revenge,
    Who puts the multi-nationals at my disposal,
    Who saves me from armies and from terrorists.
    This is why I glorify You around the globe,
    Singing this song to Your divine name,
    For magnifying the successes of the monarchy,
    For being munificent with the anointed king,
    With David and with his children forever.


    A choral poem by David:
    The heavens pay tribute to God,
    The sky proclaims the pride of His artistry.
    Day by day they have their say,
    Night by night they tell the truths,
    Their wisdom and words are always heard,
    The sounds reaching throughout the world.
    They form in cluster around the sun,
    Which comes up like a new-wed groom,
    Like an athlete eager to run a race,
    Orbiting the sky from end to end,
    So nothing can escape his assertion:
      God's Torah is perfect, calming the soul,
      God's testament is trustworthy, enlightening the simple,
      God's laws are just, a cause for rejoicing,
      God's commandments sparkle, a delight to behold,
      The worship of God is pure, lasting to eternity,
      God's judgments are true, altogether righteous,
      All are more precious than gold,
      And sweeter than a honeycomb flow.

    And I, Your humble servant, concur,
    And there is much reward in the observances.
    But since no one can avoid mistakes,
    Do keep me free of hidden snares,
    And help me avoid the evildoers,
    Deflecting their influence away from me,
    So I'll stay clean of their abominations.
    May my words in this heart-felt Psalm,
    Be acceptable to You, my God, Protector and Redeemer.


Excerpted from The Book of Psalms In Plain English by Aaron Lichtenstein. Copyright © 2011 Aaron Lichtenstein. Excerpted by permission of Urim Publications.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

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