Chapter 137

Translation and Transliteration of 

1By the rivers of Babylon, there we sat, sat and wept, as we thought of Tzion.

al na-ha-ROT ba-VEL, sham ya-SHAV-nu gam-ba-KHI-nu, b'-zokh-ray-NU et-tzi-YON

אעַ֥ל נַהֲר֨וֹת ׀ בָּבֶ֗ל שָׁ֣ם יָ֭שַׁבְנוּ גַּם־בָּכִ֑ינוּ בְּ֝זׇכְרֵ֗נוּ אֶת־צִיּֽוֹן׃

2There on the poplars we hung up our lyres,

al-a-ra-VIM b'-to-KHA ta-LEE-nu ki-no-ro-TE-nu

בעַֽל־עֲרָבִ֥ים בְּתוֹכָ֑הּ תָּ֝לִ֗ינוּ כִּנֹּרוֹתֵֽינוּ׃

3for our captors asked us there for songs, our tormentors, for amusement, “Sing us one of the songs of Tzion.”

ki-SHAM she-E-lo-NU sho-VEI-nu div-rei-SHIR ve-to-la-LEI-nu sim-KHA, shi-ROO la-NU mi-SHIR tzi-YON

גכִּ֤י שָׁ֨ם שְֽׁאֵל֪וּנוּ שׁוֹבֵ֡ינוּ דִּבְרֵי־שִׁ֭יר וְתוֹלָלֵ֣ינוּ שִׂמְחָ֑ה שִׁ֥ירוּ לָ֝֗נוּ מִשִּׁ֥יר צִיּֽוֹן׃

4How can we sing a song of Hashem on alien soil?

AYKH na-SHEER et shir a-do-NAI al ad-MAT ne-KHAR

דאֵ֗יךְ נָשִׁ֥יר אֶת־שִׁיר־יְהֹוָ֑ה עַ֝֗ל אַדְמַ֥ת נֵכָֽר׃

5If I forget you, O Yerushalayim, let my right hand wither;

im esh-ka-KHAYKH y'-ru-sha-LA-im tish-KAKH y'-mee-NEE

האִֽם־אֶשְׁכָּחֵ֥ךְ יְֽרוּשָׁלָ֗͏ִם תִּשְׁכַּ֥ח יְמִינִֽי׃

 137:5   If I forget you, O Yerushalayim

Psalm 137 was written by the rivers of Babylon, where the exiled Jews wailed and lamented the destruction of the Beit Hamikdash. They wondered how they would continue to endure on foreign soil. How could they continue to sing the songs of Hashem, which were supposed to be sung in the Temple, in the exile? Their answer was an oath to never forget Yerushalayim. This psalm makes an oblique reference to Sefer Devarim 8:19, “If you do forget Hashem your God and follow other gods to serve them or bow down to them, I warn you this day that you shall certainly perish.” Israel’s exile came when they forgot God in their land. In Babylon, they promised themselves never to repeat that mistake, and never to forget Yerushalayim. Today, this psalm is recited at Jewish weddings just before the groom breaks a glass, ensuring that Jerusalem is always at the forefront of our minds and reminding us that no joyous occasion is complete until Yerushalayim is restored to its former glory.

6let my tongue stick to my palate if I cease to think of you, if I do not keep Yerushalayim in memory even at my happiest hour.

tid-BAK l'-sho-NEE l'-khi-KEE im LO ez-k'-RAY-khee im LO a-a-LEH et y'-ru-sha-LA-im AL ROSH sim-kha-TEE

ותִּדְבַּֽק־לְשׁוֹנִ֨י ׀ לְחִכִּי֮ אִם־לֹ֢א אֶ֫זְכְּרֵ֥כִי אִם־לֹ֣א אַ֭עֲלֶה אֶת־יְרוּשָׁלַ֑͏ִם עַ֝֗ל רֹ֣אשׁ שִׂמְחָתִֽי׃

 137:6 if I do not keep Yerushalayim in memory even at my happiest hour.

Rabbi Aryeh Levin (1885-1969)

Rabbi Aryeh Levin (1885 – 1969) was considered one of the most righteous and pious Jews of the 20th century. He was known as the “Tzadik (saint) of Yerushalayim” for his devotion to the needy and downtrodden of the Holy City. His passion for seeing only the goodness of people and his zeal for Jerusalem were part of his very fiber. As is the Jewish custom, Rabbi Levin would place ashes on the forehead of a bridegroom under the wedding canopy in order to keep the destruction of Yerushalayim at the forefront of everyone’s mind “even at my happiest hour”. Fittingly, he had the privilege of personally experiencing the fulfillment of Rabbinic adage: “All who mourn Jerusalem, merit to witness its rebuilding (Taanit 30b).” After the liberation of Jerusalem in 1967, the “Tzadik of Yerushalayim” would visit the Western Wall weekly, until his death two years later.

7Remember, Hashem, against the Edomites the day of Yerushalayim's fall; how they cried, “Strip her, strip her to her very foundations!”

ZE-khor a-do-NAI liv-NAY e-DOM et YOM ye-ru-sha-LA-im ha-o-M'-REEM a-ROO a-ROO ad ha-Y'-SOD baH

זזְכֹ֤ר יְהֹוָ֨ה ׀ לִבְנֵ֬י אֱד֗וֹם אֵת֮ י֤וֹם יְֽר֫וּשָׁלָ֥͏ִם הָ֭אֹ֣מְרִים עָ֤רוּ ׀ עָ֑רוּ עַ֝֗ד הַיְס֥וֹד בָּֽהּ׃

8Fair Babylon, you predator, a blessing on him who repays you in kind what you have inflicted on us;

bat-ba-VEL ha-sh'-du-DAH a-sh'-RAY she-y'-sha-LEM-lakh et g'-mu-LEKH she-ga-MAL-t'-LA-nu

חבַּת־בָּבֶ֗ל הַשְּׁד֫וּדָ֥ה אַשְׁרֵ֥י שֶׁיְשַׁלֶּם־לָ֑ךְ אֶת־גְּ֝מוּלֵ֗ךְ שֶׁגָּמַ֥לְתְּ לָֽנוּ׃

9a blessing on him who seizes your babies and dashes them against the rocks!

a-sh'-RAY she-yo-KHAYZ v'-ni-PAYTS et o-la-LA-yikh el ha-sa-LA.

טאַשְׁרֵ֤י ׀ שֶׁיֹּאחֵ֓ז וְנִפֵּ֬ץ אֶֽת־עֹ֝לָלַ֗יִךְ אֶל־הַסָּֽלַע׃