Tuesday, July 14, 2015

A poem of Rabbi Yehudah HaLevi - The Hall of G-d

I'm working on translating a poem of Rabbi Yehudah HaLevi. I find this challenging because I prefer to be literal, but I want to preserve the poetry. I'd welcome corrections/suggestions:

The Hebrew:
הֵיכַל ד' וּמִקְדַּשׁ הֲדֹמוֹ
,גָּלָה כְבוֹדוֹ וְנִפְזַר עַמּוֹ
וּמִמֶרְחַקִּים יִדְרְשׁוּ שְׁלוֹמוֹ
.וְיִשְׁתַּחֲווּ לוֹ אִישׁ מִמְּקוֹמוֹ

גּוֹלִים בְּמַעֲרָב בְּכוּשׁ וּמִצְרָיִם
,מְגַמַּת פְּנֵיהֶם יְרוּשָׁלָיִם
,אֶל אֲבִיהֶם אֲשֶׁר בַּשָּׁמָיִם
.לַעֲמֹד לְשָׁרְתוֹ וּלְבָרֵךְ בִּשְׁמוֹ

אוֹבֵד בְּעֵילָם וְנִדָּח בְּשִׁנְעָר
.לְדֶרֶךְ אַרְצוֹ פִּיהוּ יִפְעַר
מִבֵּין שִׁנֵּי זְאֵבֵי יָעַר
.וּמִתּוֹךְ צַעַר יַחֲזִיק בְּתֻמּוֹ

,גָּלוּת צִיּוֹן אֲשֶר בִּסְפָרַד
בַּעֲרָב מְפֻזָּר וּבֶאֱדוֹם מְפֹרָד
לִפְאַת מִקְדָּשׁ יִתַּר וְיֵחֱרַד
.לְבָבוֹ, כְּגָמוּל עֲלֵי אִמּוֹ

,שָׁפַךְ תְּפִלָּה, וְצוּר מִתְעַלֵּם
.וְשָׁמַע חֲרָפוֹת וַיְהִי כְאִלֵּם
בְשׁוּב שְׁבוּת צִיּוֹן הָיָה כְּחוֹלֵם
.ובַהֲקִיצוֹ, אֵין פּוֹתֵר חֲלוֹמוֹ

מָתַי אֶקְרָא וְאַתָּה תִרְצֶה
,וְאֶת מִשְׁפָּטִי לָאוֹר תּוֹצֵא
,וְיִוָּדַע, יוֹם תַּצִּיל וְתִפְצֶה
?אֱמֶת כִּי רוֹצֶה ד‘ בְּעַמּוֹ

The Hall of G-d, the Sanctuary that is His footstool,1
His honour is exiled, His nation scattered,2
and from afar they seek His welfare,3
and bow to Him, each from his place.4

Exiled in the West, in Kush and Egypt,5
the goal of their faces is Jerusalem,6
toward their Father in the heavens,
to stand to serve Him and to bless in His Name.7

Wandering in Elam and pushed away in Shinar,8
to the path toward his land he opens his mouth.9
From between the teeth of the wolves of the forest,10
and in the midst of pain he maintains his purity.11

The exile of Zion in Spain,12
in Arabia scattered, and in Rome divided,13
in the direction of the Sanctuary will leap and tremble14
his heart, like a weaned child for his mother.15

He pours out prayer, and the Rock remains hidden,16
and he hears calumny, and is as one mute.
Of the return of Zion’s captives he is as a dreamer,17
and when he awakes – none can explain his dream.18

When will I cry out and You will desire,19
and You will produce my verdict before the light,20
and it will be known, on the day You rescue and release,21
that in truth, G-d desires His nation?

Related verses:
1 Yeshayah 66:1
2 Shemuel I 4:21, Esther 3:8
3 Yirmiyahu 8:19
4 Tzefaniah 2:11
5 Yeshayah 11:11
6 Chavakuk 1:9, Daniel 6:11
7 Devarim 10:8
8 Yeshayah 11:11, 27:13
9 Iyov 29:23
10 Yirmiyahu 5:6
11 Iyov 2:3
12 Ovadia 1:20
13 Esther 3:8
14 Iyov 37:1
15 Tehillim 131:2
16 Tehillim 102:1
17 Tehillim 126:1
18 Bereishit 41:8
19 Yeshayah 58:9
20 Yeshayah 51:4
21 Yirmiyahu 9:17, Tehillim 144:10


  1. 1. in paragraph 2 you have an explicit subject and not in paragraph 3? Paragraph 3 reads better
    2. נדח -- rejected, abandoned, exiled?
    3. אובד -- does he mean lost or wandering (without a home, c.f. כי תבוא)?
    4. יחזיק -- "shall he maintain" as it is future, not מחזיק like אובד
    5. I think ערב and מואב refer to Dar al Islaam and Christiandom, in that Spain was divided between the two. Rome and Arabia don't capture that.
    6. לעמוד לשרתו -- "standing to serve Him" (no and)
    7. וצור -- "yet the Rock"?
    8. אמת -- the truth, that truly

  2. Thanks, Russell.
    1. Good point, thanks.
    2. I am trying to be literal.
    3. Fair (although the כי תבוא instance is most vague).
    4. Not sure you are right on this.
    5. Could be, but see #2.
    6. Could be.
    7. I think so, yes.
    8. I think it extends from the previous line.

  3. 2. נדחה means abandoned, not just pushed away http://milog.co.il/%D7%A0%D7%93%D7%97%D7%99%D7%9D
    5. They have alternate meanings as well, and I really think he means here the respective empires (or whatever they are called)