On the word ‘Psalm’

On the Book of PsalmsIn his introduction to On the Book of Psalms: Exploring the Prayers of Ancient Israel, Dr. Nahum Sarna, z”l, writes:

In the Law and the Prophets, God reaches out to man…In the Psalms, human beings reach out to God. The initiative is human. The language is human.

Later, he tells us the source of the word “Psalm”:

Our English title “Psalms” came to us via the Latin Liber Psalmorum, which in turn, was derived from the Greek word for “a song sung to a stringed instrument.” Another name by which the book is known is the Psalter. This too was received from the Latin, which inherited it from psalterion, the Greek word for a “stringed instrument.” Both words were Greek renderings of the Hebrew mizmor, which occurs in the headings of many of the psalms. This term never recurs in the Bible outside of Psalms and it came to to be used for liturgical singing accompanied by a musician.

I am greatly enjoying learning the Book of Psalms, in Hebrew called Sefer Tehillim, with Ilana-Davita. Feel free to join in and write about Psalms from an academic, spiritual, healing, historical, halachic, artistic, musical, photographic or emotional point of view. I look forward to choosing another Psalm about which to write.

Last week I wrote about Psalm 23, and I mentioned a website with songs:
http://www.piyut.org.il/about/english/
Mizmor L’David with the Ashkenazi tune I am most familiar, is here:
Mizmor L’David
As this is an Israeli website, you may have better luck using Internet Explorer than Firefox.

Enjoy!

 Exploring Tehilim: The Journey so Far

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6 thoughts on “On the word ‘Psalm’

  • In the Law and the Prophets, God reaches out to man…In the Psalms, human beings reach out to God. The initiative is human. The language is human.
    It is also something that struck me when I read it in Sarna’s book and which I had never realized before.
    Thanks for the link to the website with songs.

  • Ilana-Davita, that’s an Israeli website for you! They like everything Microsoft.
    I believe it’s because in the “olden days” (1990’s?) Hebrew worked well on Windows, but not on other systems.

  • sarna is probably my favorite bible commentator. i also have his books on בראשית and שמות. he also wrote the commentary for the jps torah commentary (בראשית and שמות). i would love to get them, but too expensive right now.

    the saddest part of the psalms book is in the intro when he talks about the israeli officer who wanted to say psalms in battle but didn’t know how.

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