Kehot publication merges insightful commentaries with meaningful translation
The sacred words of Tehillim (Psalms) have always been a primary means by which the tears, hopes, fears and aspirations of the Jewish people ascend to the Heavenly Throne. Indeed, no single book of Scripture has been borrowed from so freely by the architects of the daily prayer service. And no volume is reached for so readily in times of trouble.
Yet scholars since the time of the Talmudists also have seen it as a text to be studied. Careful analysis of its Hebrew prose reveals great insights into its author (King David), Jewish tradition and the Divine. It was not accidental, according to the sages of the Midrash, that Moses wrote five books of the Torah, and David composed five books of Psalms.
The worlds of prayer and intensive study have long been seen as parallel but distinct forms of Divine service. That gap has been bridged by a newly released edition of Tehillim: Book of Psalms from Kehot Publications Society. The coffee-table-sized tome features large and clear Hebrew print with an eminently readable English translation.
What makes the book stand out is the masterful collection of commentaries from a variety of classic and more obscure sources, many of which have never before appeared in English.
The timeless words of the Midrash and the philosopher and scribe Ibn Ezra can be found alongside the insights of the Kabbalists and Chassidic masters.
The translation is also a commentary of sorts, carefully rendering King David’s sometimes cryptic words into readable English. Occasionally, additional words inspired by the commentaries’ understanding of the verses are interpolated into the text in a smaller type.
Another unique feature is the “Psalms in Practice,” sprinkled throughout the book. Drawing from the corpus of Jewish literature, it features Jewish laws and customs that the sages have extracted by way of careful analysis of the texts. Like the other commentaries, each entry is meticulously sourced and footnoted.
The work is the product of a team of scholars led by Rabbi Yosef Marcus, and sponsored by Howard and Claire Glowinsky.
Aesthetically, it is a companion of Marcus’s previous offerings—the highly acclaimed Pirkei Avot: Ethics of the Fathers (Kehot, 2009) and Haggadah (Kehot, 2011). The silver-edged pages sport original artwork by Yanky Gitlin, and a medley of black text with green rubrication and miniature icons signify the nature of the various commentaries. An extensive appendix includes a comprehensive index, as well as bibliography of the hundreds of scholars and texts cited in the commentary.
True to the supplicatory nature of the Psalms, the edition is clearly marked for those who wish to use it to recite the daily portion of Psalms, either following the weekly or monthly track.
This outstanding offering, which is sure to take its rightful place as a major contribution to the Jewish library, is available at Jewish bookstores and at Kehot.com.
By: Menachem Posner