Zimrat haAretz  (“Songs of the Earth”)
Cantor Shoshana Brown
Reflections on Psalm 130
Psalm 130:  A Psalm of Penitence for the Days of Awe

A translation of the Hebrew of this Psalm into English:

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From the depths I call out to You, Yah;
Adonai, hear my voice, turn Your ears attentively to the voice of my plea.
Oy, Yah, if  You kept count of all our sins--Adonai, who could stand?
But there is forgiveness with You, and therefore we revere You.
I wait, Adonai, my whole being waits--for God’s word I hope and pray.
My soul yearns for Adonai more eagerly than watchmen yearn for the dawn.
Put your hope, O Israel, in Adonai-for in Adonai’s presence there is steadfast
Loving-kindness, and abundant is God’s power to redeem.
Yes, Yah will indeed redeem Israel from all their sins!
I have long loved this Psalm-with its desperate cry, mi-ma’amakim, out of the depths, and its imagery of the
watchmen yearning for the first signs of morning.  Who has not had an anxious night-a night when sleep
would not come, a night filled with pain, a night watching by a loved one’s bedside?  I once had the experience
of an early 1st trimester miscarriage, a sad occasion--but also terribly painful! I knew the pain would not last
forever, but it seemed I would never get to sleep…and then eventually I heard the sweet, clear singing of birds
announcing the dawn.  It felt to me like a miracle that I had slept, and that the pain was mostly gone. I was still
terribly sad about the loss of the pregnancy, but the singing of the birds and the lightening sky gave me solace
through my pain and sorrow:  I would be well again, and although that nefesh that had briefly resided within
me had returned to its Source without experiencing this world, nevertheless I need not give up hope that, in
time, God would grant me the privilege of bringing a new child into the world.
This psalm is assigned for the season of repentance-with the idea that our sins are as painful to us as that
miscarriage was to me.  The “sinner” (which is all of us) cries out from the depths-listen to my voice, God!  I am
trusting in Your forgiveness.  I am waiting expectantly-with my whole being-for You to strengthen me with Your
loving-kindness, to rescue me from the darkness of my plight!  It may sound medieval to modern people to
bemoan one’s imperfections with such desperation, but this is why it helps to sing our prayers.  Through the
voice of song we can connect in a deeper way to the universal human condition, to the anguish of the whole
human race over its inability to ever find the perfect way to live-a way of justice and peace and plenty for all. 
To be human is to yearn for a way out of this. Viewed rationally, the prospects may seem dim-but through our
connection to God we find hope, which allows us to still rejoice, to still want to bring forth new lives into the
world.  Wishing you all a joyful, sweet New Year,   Shoshana