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Chapter 120

Translation and Transliteration of 

1A song of ascents. In my distress I called to Hashem and He answered me.

SHEER ha-ma-a-LOT el a-do-NAI ba-tza-RA-tah LEE ka-RA-tee va-ya-a-NAY-nee

אשִׁ֗יר הַֽמַּ֫עֲל֥וֹת אֶל־יְ֭הֹוָה בַּצָּרָ֣תָה לִּ֑י קָ֝רָ֗אתִי וַֽיַּעֲנֵֽנִי׃

 120:1   A song of ascents

What is the meaning the Hebrew word maalot (מעלות), translated here as ‘ascents,’ which appears in the opening phrases of the next fifteen psalms? According to Rashi, it is a reference to the fifteen steps in the Beit Hamikdash upon which the Leviim stood while reciting these fifteen psalms. Rabbi Samson Raphael Hirsch explains the ascent in a spiritual way. He understands it to mean that from our low spiritual depths, we call, pray, and sing to Hashem to lift us up, or to give us the ability to ascend to the greatest heights. According to this interpretation, one can see a clear reflection of this in the beginning of Psalm 130: “Out of the depths I call You, Hashem.” Other commentators suggest that these Tehillim were sung by those who returned to Eretz Yisrael from the Babylonian exile in the times of Ezra, upon their ascent to the Holy Land, as reflected in Psalm 126:1 “A Song of Ascents. when Hashem restores the fortunes of Tzion…” Travelling to the Land of Israel is always considered an ascent, as the verse in Ezra 7:9 says: “On the first day of the first month, the journey up from Babylon was started.” Even today, moving to Israel is referred to as making aliyah, i.e, ‘ascending’ to live in the Land of Israel.

2Hashem, save me from treacherous lips, from a deceitful tongue!

a-do-NAI ha-TZI-la NAF-shee mi-s'-FAT SHE-ker mi-la-SHON re-mi-YAH

ביְֽהֹוָ֗ה הַצִּ֣ילָה נַ֭פְשִׁי מִשְּׂפַת־שֶׁ֑קֶר מִלָּשׁ֥וֹן רְמִיָּֽה׃

3What can you profit, what can you gain, O deceitful tongue?

mah y'-TAYN l'-KHA u-mah yo-SEEF LAKH la-SHON r'-mee-YAH

גמַה־יִּתֵּ֣ן לְ֭ךָ וּמַה־יֹּסִ֥יף לָ֗ךְ לָשׁ֥וֹן רְמִיָּֽה׃

4A warrior's sharp arrows, with hot coals of broom-wood.

khi-TZEI gi-BOR sh'-nu-NIM, im ga-kha-LEI r'-ta-MEEM

דחִצֵּ֣י גִבּ֣וֹר שְׁנוּנִ֑ים עִ֝֗ם גַּחֲלֵ֥י רְתָמִֽים׃

5Woe is me, that I live with Meshech, that I dwell among the clans of Kedar.

o-YA-la-LEE kee-gar-TEE ME-shekh sha-KHAN-tee im o-ho-LEI ke-DAR

האֽוֹיָה־לִ֭י כִּי־גַ֣רְתִּי מֶ֑שֶׁךְ שָׁ֝כַ֗נְתִּי עִֽם־אׇהֳלֵ֥י קֵדָֽר׃

6Too long have I dwelt with those who hate peace.

ra-BAT sha-k'-NAH-lah NAF-shee, im so-NAY sha-LOM

ורַ֭בַּת שָֽׁכְנָה־לָּ֣הּ נַפְשִׁ֑י עִ֝֗ם שׂוֹנֵ֥א שָׁלֽוֹם׃

7I am all peace; but when I speak, they are for war.

a-NI sha-LOM v'-khi a-da-BER, HE-ma la-mil-KHA-ma. (Selah)

זאֲֽנִי־שָׁ֭לוֹם וְכִ֣י אֲדַבֵּ֑ר הֵ֝֗מָּה לַמִּלְחָמָֽה׃