Blessing for the sanctuary
(Mah Tovu)

(The first line of Mah Tovu is a famous blessing given to the Hebrew people in the book of Numbers. The poem as a whole is used as a prayer to utter before entering the synagogue for morning prayers. Any attempt to translate it literally would garble it, so the following is an extremely metaphorical translation that, I hope, reflects its meaning.)

Virtuous are the children of Jacob in their intimate reclusion,
magnificence shines from Israel in formal assembly.

And I sense an outpouring of generosity as I approach your sanctuary.

It becomes a palace to me.
I will duck, casting off the awe of worldly status,
As I become drenched in your sacredness.

Holy one, what I love about your abode is that it becomes a nexus of your grandeur.
I will kneel so I can give birth to a blessing in the presence of the holy one,
The progenitor of blessing.

But I have only prayer to offer you at this moment where your will is poised.
All I ask is that you speak to me in return, holy one,
Summon your great kindness!
Speak to me from deep within the truth that is my salvation!

More commentaries on prayers:

More Biblical commentaries

Andy Oram
14 April 2002

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