1 A Song of Ascents. In my distress I called unto 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
א שִׁיר הַמַּעֲלוֹת אֶל יְהוָה בַּצָּרָתָה לִּי קָרָאתִי וַיַּעֲנֵנִי.
120:1 A Song of Ascents
What is the meaning the Hebrew word ‘maalot,’ translated as ascents, which appears in the opening phrases of the next 15 psalms? According to Rashi, it is a reference to the 15 Temple steps upon which the Levites stood while reciting these 15 psalms. Rabbi Samson Raphael Hirsch explains the ascent on a spiritual plane. He understands it to mean that from our low spiritual depth, we call, pray, and sing to God to lift us up, or to give us the ability to lift ourselves up to the greatest heights. A clear example of this would be the beginning of Psalm 130: “From the depths I call out to you O God”. Still other commentators claim that these psalms were sung by those who returned to the Land of Israel 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 the LORD brought back those that returned to Zion…” Travelling to the Land of Israel is considered an ascent, as the verse in Ezra 7:9 says: “upon the first day of the first month began he to go up from Babylon.” Even today, moving to Israel is referred to as making ‘aliyah,’ ascending to live in the Land of Israel.
2 O Hashem, deliver my soul from lying lips, from a deceitful tongue.
ב יְהוָה הַצִּילָה נַפְשִׁי מִשְּׂפַת שֶׁקֶר מִלָּשׁוֹן רְמִיָּה.
3 What shall be given unto thee, and what shall be done more unto thee, thou deceitful tongue?
ג מַה יִּתֵּן לְךָ וּמַה יֹּסִיף לָךְ לָשׁוֹן רְמִיָּה.
4 Sharp arrows of the mighty, with coals of broom.
ד חִצֵּי גִבּוֹר שְׁנוּנִים עִם גַּחֲלֵי רְתָמִים.
5 Woe is me, that I sojourn with Meshech, that I dwell beside the tents of Kedar!
ה אוֹיָה לִי כִּי גַרְתִּי מֶשֶׁךְ שָׁכַנְתִּי עִם אָהֳלֵי קֵדָר.
6 My soul hath full long had her dwelling with him that hateth peace.
ו רַבַּת שָׁכְנָה לָּהּ נַפְשִׁי עִם שׂוֹנֵא שָׁלוֹם.
7 I am all peace; but when I speak, they are for war.
ז אֲנִי שָׁלוֹם וְכִי אֲדַבֵּר הֵמָּה לַמִּלְחָמָה.