Chapter 88

1A song. A psalm of the Korahites. For the leader; on mahalath leannoth. A maskil of Hayman the Ezrahite.

אשִׁיר מִזְמוֹר לִבְנֵי קֹרַח לַמְנַצֵּחַ עַל־מָחֲלַת לְעַנּוֹת מַשְׂכִּיל לְהֵימָן הָאֶזְרָחִי׃

2Hashem, God of my deliverance, when I cry out in the night before You,

ביְהֹוָה אֱלֹהֵי יְשׁוּעָתִי יוֹם־צָעַקְתִּי בַלַּיְלָה נֶגְדֶּךָ׃

3let my prayer reach You; incline Your ear to my cry.

גתָּבוֹא לְפָנֶיךָ תְּפִלָּתִי הַטֵּה־אָזְנְךָ לְרִנָּתִי׃

4For I am sated with misfortune; I am at the brink of Sheol.

דכִּי־שָׂבְעָה בְרָעוֹת נַפְשִׁי וְחַיַּי לִשְׁאוֹל הִגִּיעוּ׃

5I am numbered with those who go down to the Pit; I am a helpless man

הנֶחְשַׁבְתִּי עִם־יוֹרְדֵי בוֹר הָיִיתִי כְּגֶבֶר אֵין־אֱיָל׃

6abandoned among the dead, like bodies lying in the grave of whom You are mindful no more, and who are cut off from Your care.

ובַּמֵּתִים חָפְשִׁי כְּמוֹ חֲלָלִים שֹׁכְבֵי קֶבֶר אֲשֶׁר לֹא זְכַרְתָּם עוֹד וְהֵמָּה מִיָּדְךָ נִגְזָרוּ׃

7You have put me at the bottom of the Pit, in the darkest places, in the depths.

זשַׁתַּנִי בְּבוֹר תַּחְתִּיּוֹת בְּמַחֲשַׁכִּים בִּמְצֹלוֹת׃

8Your fury lies heavy upon me; You afflict me with all Your breakers. Selah.

חעָלַי סָמְכָה חֲמָתֶךָ וְכָל־מִשְׁבָּרֶיךָ עִנִּיתָ סֶּלָה׃

9You make my companions shun me; You make me abhorrent to them; I am shut in and do not go out.

טהִרְחַקְתָּ מְיֻדָּעַי מִמֶּנִּי שַׁתַּנִי תוֹעֵבוֹת לָמוֹ כָּלֻא וְלֹא אֵצֵא׃

10My eyes pine away from affliction; I call to You, Hashem, each day; I stretch out my hands to You.

יעֵינִי דָאֲבָה מִנִּי עֹנִי קְרָאתִיךָ יְהֹוָה בְּכָל־יוֹם שִׁטַּחְתִּי אֵלֶיךָ כַפָּי׃

11Do You work wonders for the dead? Do the shades rise to praise You? Selah.

יאהֲלַמֵּתִים תַּעֲשֶׂה־פֶּלֶא אִם־רְפָאִים יָקוּמוּ יוֹדוּךָ סֶּלָה׃

12Is Your faithful care recounted in the grave, Your constancy in the place of perdition?

יבהַיְסֻפַּר בַּקֶּבֶר חַסְדֶּךָ אֱמוּנָתְךָ בָּאֲבַדּוֹן׃

13Are Your wonders made known in the netherworld, Your beneficent deeds in the land of oblivion?

יגהֲיִוָּדַע בַּחֹשֶׁךְ פִּלְאֶךָ וְצִדְקָתְךָ בְּאֶרֶץ נְשִׁיָּה׃

14As for me, I cry out to You, Hashem; each morning my prayer greets You.

ידוַאֲנִי אֵלֶיךָ יְהֹוָה שִׁוַּעְתִּי וּבַבֹּקֶר תְּפִלָּתִי תְקַדְּמֶךָּ׃

15Why, Hashem, do You reject me, do You hide Your face from me?

טולָמָה יְהֹוָה תִּזְנַח נַפְשִׁי תַּסְתִּיר פָּנֶיךָ מִמֶּנִּי׃

16From my youth I have been afflicted and near death; I suffer Your terrors wherever I turn.

טזעָנִי אֲנִי וְגֹוֵעַ מִנֹּעַר נָשָׂאתִי אֵמֶיךָ אָפוּנָה׃

17Your fury overwhelms me; Your terrors destroy me.

יזעָלַי עָבְרוּ חֲרוֹנֶיךָ בִּעוּתֶיךָ צִמְּתוּתֻנִי׃

18They swirl about me like water all day long; they encircle me on every side.

יחסַבּוּנִי כַמַּיִם כָּל־הַיּוֹם הִקִּיפוּ עָלַי יָחַד׃

19You have put friend and neighbor far from me and my companions out of my sight.

hir-KHAK-ta mi-ME-nee o-HAYV va-RAY-a m'-yu-da-AI makh-SHAKH

יטהִרְחַקְתָּ מִמֶּנִּי אֹהֵב וָרֵעַ מְיֻדָּעַי מַחְשָׁךְ׃

88:19   And my companions out of my sight

This psalm is similar to a lamentation, as it ends on a very sad note. Though unusual, this type of psalm also belongs in the Psalter, which depicts a range of human experiences, and not only those with “happy endings.” While scholars debate the identity of the authors of the psalm, since verse 1 attributes it to both the sons of Korach and Hayman the Ezrahite, the Sages suggest that the psalm was authored by the congregation of Israel as a whole. At times of total darkness and exile, the Jewish people struggle to find words to express faith in God’s ultimate salvation. While the last words reflect this horrible state of bleak loneliness, we should note that the entire psalm was directed to Hashem, God of salvation (verse 2). God desires our expressions of suffering and our cries. This, too, is His praise.