1 A song of ascents. When Hashem restores the fortunes of Tzion —we see it as in a dream—
SHEER ha-ma-a-LOT b’-SHUV a-do-NAI et shee-VAT tzi-YON ha-YEE-nu k’-kho-l’-MEEM
א שִׁיר הַמַּעֲלוֹת בְּשׁוּב יְהֹוָה אֶת־שִׁיבַת צִיּוֹן הָיִינוּ כְּחֹלְמִים׃
126:1 When Hashem restores the fortunes of Tzion
Psalm 126 refers to Tzion (ציון), one of the Bible’s names for Yerushalayim, which is also used in a more general sense for the entire Land of Israel. This name is closely related to the word for ‘special’ and ‘distinctive,’ m’tzuyan (מצוין). This teaches that God’s holy city is more than a location. According to former British Chief Rabbi Jonathan Sacks, “Tzion is not just a place. It is a way of life. Jews are called to moral excellence, to be different…” God created a special place on earth which would be the ideal incubator for spiritual growth. The word Tzion, therefore, describes not only where we live, but how we must live. Psalm 126 is recited by Jews upon completing a festive meal, connecting it with the eternal longing for physical redemption and spiritual greatness in Zion. When Hashem finally returns His people to Israel, they will be “as in a dream,” as the actual redemption and heightened spirituality will be even greater than imagined, beyond our wildest dreams.
2 our mouths shall be filled with laughter, our tongues, with songs of joy. Then shall they say among the nations, “Hashem has done great things for them!”
ב אָז יִמָּלֵא שְׂחוֹק פִּינוּ וּלְשׁוֹנֵנוּ רִנָּה אָז יֹאמְרוּ בַגּוֹיִם הִגְדִּיל יְהֹוָה לַעֲשׂוֹת עִם־אֵלֶּה׃
3 Hashem will do great things for us and we shall rejoice.
ג הִגְדִּיל יְהֹוָה לַעֲשׂוֹת עִמָּנוּ הָיִינוּ שְׂמֵחִים׃
4 Restore our fortunes, Hashem, like watercourses in the Negev.
ד שׁוּבָה יְהֹוָה אֶת־שבותנו [שְׁבִיתֵנוּ] כַּאֲפִיקִים בַּנֶּגֶב׃
5 They who sow in tears shall reap with songs of joy.
ה הַזֹּרְעִים בְּדִמְעָה בְּרִנָּה יִקְצֹרוּ׃
6 Though he goes along weeping, carrying the seed-bag, he shall come back with songs of joy, carrying his sheaves.
ו הָלוֹךְ יֵלֵךְ וּבָכֹה נֹשֵׂא מֶשֶׁךְ־הַזָּרַע בֹּא־יָבוֹא בְרִנָּה נֹשֵׂא אֲלֻמֹּתָיו׃