Chapter 3

1I am the man who has known affliction Under the rod of His wrath;

אאֲנִי הַגֶּבֶר רָאָה עֳנִי בְּשֵׁבֶט עֶבְרָתוֹ׃

2Me He drove on and on In unrelieved darkness;

באוֹתִי נָהַג וַיֹּלַךְ חֹשֶׁךְ וְלֹא־אוֹר׃

3On none but me He brings down His hand Again and again, without cease.

גאַךְ בִּי יָשֻׁב יַהֲפֹךְ יָדוֹ כָּל־הַיּוֹם׃

4He has worn away my flesh and skin; He has shattered my bones.

דבִּלָּה בְשָׂרִי וְעוֹרִי שִׁבַּר עַצְמוֹתָי׃

5All around me He has built Misery and hardship;

הבָּנָה עָלַי וַיַּקַּף רֹאשׁ וּתְלָאָה׃

6He has made me dwell in darkness, Like those long dead.

ובְּמַחֲשַׁכִּים הוֹשִׁיבַנִי כְּמֵתֵי עוֹלָם׃

7He has walled me in and I cannot break out; He has weighed me down with chains.

זגָּדַר בַּעֲדִי וְלֹא אֵצֵא הִכְבִּיד נְחָשְׁתִּי׃

8And when I cry and plead, He shuts out my prayer;

GAM KEE ez-AK va-a-sha-VAY-a sa-TAM t'-fi-la-TEE

חגַּם כִּי אֶזְעַק וַאֲשַׁוֵּעַ שָׂתַם תְּפִלָּתִי׃

 3:8   And when I cry and plead, He shuts out my prayer

While God always hears our prayers, He doesn’t always grant our requests. Even in difficult times, Hashem does not always respond to our prayers in the affirmative, but instead “He shuts out my prayer.” It is noteworthy that in the central Jewish prayer, known as the Amida and recited three times a day, Hashem is referred to as, “He who listens to our prayers” and not, “He who answers our prayers.” God’s will is inscrutable. Like any parent, at times He says “no.” But especially at those times, He is always there to listen with love and to hear our cries.

9He has walled in my ways with hewn blocks, He has made my paths a maze.

טגָּדַר דְּרָכַי בְּגָזִית נְתִיבֹתַי עִוָּה׃

10He is a lurking bear to me, A lion in hiding;

ידֹּב אֹרֵב הוּא לִי אריה [אֲרִי] בְּמִסְתָּרִים׃

11He has forced me off my way and mangled me, He has left me numb.

יאדְּרָכַי סוֹרֵר וַיְפַשְּׁחֵנִי שָׂמַנִי שֹׁמֵם׃

12He has bent His bow and made me The target of His arrows:

יבדָּרַךְ קַשְׁתוֹ וַיַּצִּיבֵנִי כַּמַּטָּרָא לַחֵץ׃

13He has shot into my vitals The shafts of His quiver.

יגהֵבִיא בְּכִלְיוֹתָי בְּנֵי אַשְׁפָּתוֹ׃

14I have become a laughingstock to all people, The butt of their gibes all day long.

ידהָיִיתִי שְּׂחֹק לְכָל־עַמִּי נְגִינָתָם כָּל־הַיּוֹם׃

15He has filled me with bitterness, Sated me with wormwood.

טוהִשְׂבִּיעַנִי בַמְּרוֹרִים הִרְוַנִי לַעֲנָה׃

16He has broken my teeth on gravel, Has ground me into the dust.

טזוַיַּגְרֵס בֶּחָצָץ שִׁנָּי הִכְפִּישַׁנִי בָּאֵפֶר׃

17My life was bereft of peace, I forgot what happiness was.

יזוַתִּזְנַח מִשָּׁלוֹם נַפְשִׁי נָשִׁיתִי טוֹבָה׃

18I thought my strength and hope Had perished before Hashem.

יחוָאֹמַר אָבַד נִצְחִי וְתוֹחַלְתִּי מֵיְהֹוָה׃

19To recall my distress and my misery Was wormwood and poison;

יטזְכָר־עָנְיִי וּמְרוּדִי לַעֲנָה וָרֹאשׁ׃

20Whenever I thought of them, I was bowed low.

כזָכוֹר תִּזְכּוֹר ותשיח [וְתָשׁוֹחַ] עָלַי נַפְשִׁי׃

21But this do I call to mind, Therefore I have hope:

כאזֹאת אָשִׁיב אֶל־לִבִּי עַל־כֵּן אוֹחִיל׃

22The kindness of Hashem has not ended, His mercies are not spent.

כבחַסְדֵי יְהֹוָה כִּי לֹא־תָמְנוּ כִּי לֹא־כָלוּ רַחֲמָיו׃

23They are renewed every morning— Ample is Your grace!

כגחֲדָשִׁים לַבְּקָרִים רַבָּה אֱמוּנָתֶךָ׃

24Hashem is my portion,” I say with full heart; Therefore will I hope in Him.

כדחֶלְקִי יְהֹוָה אָמְרָה נַפְשִׁי עַל־כֵּן אוֹחִיל לוֹ׃

25Hashem is good to those who trust in Him, To the one who seeks Him;

כהטוֹב יְהֹוָה לְקוָֹו לְנֶפֶשׁ תִּדְרְשֶׁנּוּ׃

26It is good to wait patiently Till rescue comes from Hashem.

כוטוֹב וְיָחִיל וְדוּמָם לִתְשׁוּעַת יְהֹוָה׃

27It is good for a man, when young, To bear a yoke;

כזטוֹב לַגֶּבֶר כִּי־יִשָּׂא עֹל בִּנְעוּרָיו׃

28Let him sit alone and be patient, When He has laid it upon him.

כחיֵשֵׁב בָּדָד וְיִדֹּם כִּי נָטַל עָלָיו׃

29Let him put his mouth to the dust— There may yet be hope.

כטיִתֵּן בֶּעָפָר פִּיהוּ אוּלַי יֵשׁ תִּקְוָה׃

30Let him offer his cheek to the smiter; Let him be surfeited with mockery.

ליִתֵּן לְמַכֵּהוּ לֶחִי יִשְׂבַּע בְּחֶרְפָּה׃

31For Hashem does not Reject forever,

KEE LO yiz-NAKH l'-o-LAM a-do-NAI

לאכִּי לֹא יִזְנַח לְעוֹלָם אֲדֹנָי׃

3:31   For the Lord does not reject forever

Abba Eban (1915-2002)

Throughout the many episodes of persecution, Jews have remembered the critical message of this verse: The suffering of the Jewish people will not be eternal. Already in the days of Moshe, Hashem assured His people that though they may face His wrath and anger, though He may send nations to oppress them, they will always remain His chosen nation. Their suffering will eventually come to an end, and Hashem will redeem His people, as it says: “Yet, even then, when they are in the land of their enemies, I will not reject them or spurn them so as to destroy them, annulling My covenant with them: for I Hashem am their God” (Leviticus 26:44). To the contrary, “I will remember My covenant with Yaakov; I will remember also My covenant with Yitzchak, and also My covenant with Avraham I will remember; and I will remember the land” (Leviticus 26:42). Indeed, after years of persecution and suffering, the Jewish people are thriving and the Land of Israel is flourishing, thus demonstrating the eternal truth of this verse.

32But first afflicts, then pardons In His abundant kindness.

לבכִּי אִם־הוֹגָה וְרִחַם כְּרֹב חסדו [חֲסָדָיו׃]

33For He does not willfully bring grief Or affliction to man,

לגכִּי לֹא עִנָּה מִלִּבּוֹ וַיַּגֶּה בְנֵי־אִישׁ׃

34Crushing under His feet All the prisoners of the earth.

לדלְדַכֵּא תַּחַת רַגְלָיו כֹּל אֲסִירֵי אָרֶץ׃

35To deny a man his rights In the presence of the Most High,

להלְהַטּוֹת מִשְׁפַּט־גָּבֶר נֶגֶד פְּנֵי עֶלְיוֹן׃

36To wrong a man in his cause— This Hashem does not choose.

לולְעַוֵּת אָדָם בְּרִיבוֹ אֲדֹנָי לֹא רָאָה׃

37Whose decree was ever fulfilled, Unless Hashem willed it?

לזמִי זֶה אָמַר וַתֶּהִי אֲדֹנָי לֹא צִוָּה׃

38Is it not at the word of the Most High, That weal and woe befall?

לחמִפִּי עֶלְיוֹן לֹא תֵצֵא הָרָעוֹת וְהַטּוֹב׃

39Of what shall a living man complain? Each one of his own sins!

לטמַה־יִּתְאוֹנֵן אָדָם חָי גֶּבֶר עַל־חטאו [חֲטָאָיו׃]

40Let us search and examine our ways, And turn back to Hashem;

מנַחְפְּשָׂה דְרָכֵינוּ וְנַחְקֹרָה וְנָשׁוּבָה עַד־יְהֹוָה׃

41Let us lift up our hearts with our hands To Hashem in heaven:

מאנִשָּׂא לְבָבֵנוּ אֶל־כַּפָּיִם אֶל־אֵל בַּשָּׁמָיִם׃

42We have transgressed and rebelled, And You have not forgiven.

מבנַחְנוּ פָשַׁעְנוּ וּמָרִינוּ אַתָּה לֹא סָלָחְתָּ׃

43You have clothed Yourself in anger and pursued us, You have slain without pity.

מגסַכֹּתָה בָאַף וַתִּרְדְּפֵנוּ הָרַגְתָּ לֹא חָמָלְתָּ׃

44You have screened Yourself off with a cloud, That no prayer may pass through.

מדסַכּוֹתָה בֶעָנָן לָךְ מֵעֲבוֹר תְּפִלָּה׃

45You have made us filth and refuse In the midst of the peoples.

מהסְחִי וּמָאוֹס תְּשִׂימֵנוּ בְּקֶרֶב הָעַמִּים׃

46All our enemies loudly Rail against us.

pa-TZU a-LAY-nu pee-HEM kol o-y'-VAY-nu

מופָּצוּ עָלֵינוּ פִּיהֶם כָּל־אֹיְבֵינוּ׃

 3:46   All our enemies loudly rail against us

Abba Eban (1915-2002)

Many times, the enemies of the Jewish people eagerly awaited the day when the Jews would finally meet their demise. But these plans and expectations have always been divinely foiled. This verse reflects the hatred that Israel’s enemies, both historical and contemporary, have always felt towards her. In the spring of 1967, for example, Israel’s fate seemed truly doomed. Nearly all of her neighbors sought to wipe her off the map, including Egypt, Jordan, Syria, Iraq, and Saudi Arabia. Here is how Abba Eban, serving at that time as Israel’s Foreign Minister, described the mood in the days leading up to the Six Day War: “There was no doubt that the howling mobs in Cairo, Damascus and Baghdad were seeing savage visions of murder and booty. Israel, for its part, had learned from Jewish history that no outrage against its men, women and children was inconceivable. Many things in Jewish history are too terrible to be believed, but nothing in that history is too terrible to have happened. Memories of the European slaughter were taking form and substance in countless Israeli hearts. They flowed into our room like turgid air and sat heavy on all our minds. As has always been the case, God had different plans, and the young State of Israel mightily and miraculously defeated its enemies.”

47Panic and pitfall are our lot, Death and destruction.

מזפַּחַד וָפַחַת הָיָה לָנוּ הַשֵּׁאת וְהַשָּׁבֶר׃

48My eyes shed streams of water Over the ruin of my poor people.

מחפַּלְגֵי־מַיִם תֵּרַד עֵינִי עַל־שֶׁבֶר בַּת־עַמִּי׃

49My eyes shall flow without cease, Without respite,

מטעֵינִי נִגְּרָה וְלֹא תִדְמֶה מֵאֵין הֲפֻגוֹת׃

50Until Hashem looks down And beholds from heaven.

נעַד־יַשְׁקִיף וְיֵרֶא יְהֹוָה מִשָּׁמָיִם׃

51My eyes have brought me grief Over all the maidens of my city.

נאעֵינִי עוֹלְלָה לְנַפְשִׁי מִכֹּל בְּנוֹת עִירִי׃

52My foes have snared me like a bird, Without any cause.

נבצוֹד צָדוּנִי כַּצִּפּוֹר אֹיְבַי חִנָּם׃

53They have ended my life in a pit And cast stones at me.

נגצָמְתוּ בַבּוֹר חַיָּי וַיַּדּוּ־אֶבֶן בִּי׃

54Waters flowed over my head; I said: I am lost!

נדצָפוּ־מַיִם עַל־רֹאשִׁי אָמַרְתִּי נִגְזָרְתִּי׃

55I have called on Your name, Hashem, From the depths of the Pit.

נהקָרָאתִי שִׁמְךָ יְהֹוָה מִבּוֹר תַּחְתִּיּוֹת׃

56Hear my plea; Do not shut Your ear To my groan, to my cry!

נוקוֹלִי שָׁמָעְתָּ אַל־תַּעְלֵם אָזְנְךָ לְרַוְחָתִי לְשַׁוְעָתִי׃

57You have ever drawn nigh when I called You; You have said, “Do not fear!”

נזקָרַבְתָּ בְּיוֹם אֶקְרָאֶךָּ אָמַרְתָּ אַל־תִּירָא׃

58You championed my cause, O Hashem, You have redeemed my life.

RAV-ta a-do-NAI ree-VAY naf-SHEE ga-AL-ta kha-YAI

נחרַבְתָּ אֲדֹנָי רִיבֵי נַפְשִׁי גָּאַלְתָּ חַיָּי׃

 3:58   You have redeemed my life

Indeed, God is the ultimate redeemer. Time and again, Hashem lifts the Jewish people up from the brink of destruction and depths of despair and helps them to stand upright once again. A shining example of this is the founding of the State of Israel. Merely three years following the end of the darkest period in Jewish history, when a third of world Jewry was brutally murdered and the future of the Jewish people seemed most bleak, God restored His nation to a position of dignity and strength. The significance of the founding of the State of Israel in 1948 was not just the return of the Jewish people to their homeland; it was the reestablishment of Jewish sovereignty, and the affirmation that Hashem did not break His word. He was, and remains, the redeemer of His people.

59You have seen, Hashem, the wrong done me; Oh, vindicate my right!

נטרָאִיתָה יְהֹוָה עַוָּתָתִי שָׁפְטָה מִשְׁפָּטִי׃

60You have seen all their malice, All their designs against me;

סרָאִיתָה כָּל־נִקְמָתָם כָּל־מַחְשְׁבֹתָם לִי׃

61You have heard, Hashem, their taunts, All their designs against me,

סאשָׁמַעְתָּ חֶרְפָּתָם יְהֹוָה כָּל־מַחְשְׁבֹתָם עָלָי׃

62The mouthings and pratings of my adversaries Against me all day long.

סבשִׂפְתֵי קָמַי וְהֶגְיוֹנָם עָלַי כָּל־הַיּוֹם׃

63See how, at their ease or at work, I am the butt of their gibes.

סגשִׁבְתָּם וְקִימָתָם הַבִּיטָה אֲנִי מַנְגִּינָתָם׃

64Give them, Hashem, their deserts According to their deeds.

סדתָּשִׁיב לָהֶם גְּמוּל יְהֹוָה כְּמַעֲשֵׂה יְדֵיהֶם׃

65Give them anguish of heart; Your curse be upon them!

סהתִּתֵּן לָהֶם מְגִנַּת־לֵב תַּאֲלָתְךָ לָהֶם׃

66Oh, pursue them in wrath and destroy them From under the heavens of Hashem!

סותִּרְדֹּף בְּאַף וְתַשְׁמִידֵם מִתַּחַת שְׁמֵי יְהֹוָה׃