75 words for 75 years of Israel – Zemer/Song

In honor of Israel’s 75th birthday, Israel365 is excited to launch a new series of essays that will unlock the secrets of the Hebrew Bible!

Excerpted from Rabbi Akiva Gersh’s forthcoming book, 75 Hebrew Words You Need to Understand the Bible (available now!) these essays illuminate the connection between related Hebrew words, revealing Biblical secrets only accessible through Hebrew.

Enjoy the series – and happy 75th birthday to the State of Israel!

זֶמֶר

ZEMER

ZEH-MER

SONG

“Of David, a song.The earth belongs to God and all that it holds, the world and its inhabitants.” (Psalms 24:1)

לדוד מזמור ליהוה הארץ ומלואה תבל וישבי בה.

“It is good to praise God, to sing hymns to Your name, O Most High.” (Psalms 92:2)

טוב להודות ליהוה ולזמר לשמך עליון.

Zemer, Hebrew for “song,” appears throughout the Book of Psalms, which could also be described as a book of songs to God. Many of David’s lofty and beautiful psalms begin with the word mizmor, a form of the word “song.” Upon closer observation, however, you’ll notice that some psalms begin with the phrase “Of David, a song” while others begin with “A song, of David.” The difference between these two phrases is significant.

When David felt distant from God and wanted to draw closer, he sang to God. The psalm that emerged from that moment of song is recorded in Psalms as “A song, of David,” for the song preceded, and led to, greater closeness to God. However, if David was already in an elevated spiritual state and sang a song to express his love and devotion to God, the psalm he wrote at that moment is recorded as “Of David, a song.”

For millennia, the people of Israel have used songs to worship God. In the Tabernacle and Temple, the Levites sang every time a sacrifice was offered on the altar. The beautiful singing of the Levites helped everyone present, and particularly the priests offering the sacrifice, feel the spiritual power of the moment. The songs the Levites sang were taken directly from the Book of Psalms.

One of the most beautiful aspects of the Shabbat experience is the tradition of sitting around the table with family and friends and singing zemirot, special songs composed to celebrate and honor the seventh day. Shabbat is a taste of the time of the Messiah when, as King David says in the Book of Psalms, the entire world will sing to God.

But in the seventh year the land shall have a sabbath of complete rest, a sabbath of יהוה: you shall not sow your field or prune your vineyard. (Leviticus 25:4)

The Israel Bible Team

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