Psalms for the High Holy Days

On Yom Kippur, the holiest of holidays in the Jewish liturgical year, psalms are recited throughout the day. Read new translations by Pamela Greenberg of three psalms associated with the Jewish High Holy Days from her forthcoming book, “The Book of Prayer Songs: A New Translation of the Book of Psalms”:

Psalm 23

A psalm, by David.

God is my shepherd; there is nothing I lack.
You lay me down in lush meadows.
You guide me toward tranquil waters,
reviving my soul.
You lead me down paths of righteousness
for that is your nature.
And when I walk though the valley, overshadowed by death,
I will fear no harm, for you are with me.
Your rod and staff—they comfort me.
You spread a table before me
in the face of my greatest fears.
You drench my head with oil;
my cup overflows past the brim.
Surely goodness and kindness
will accompany me all the days of my life
and I will have dwelt in the house of the Holy
for the length of my days.

Psalm 32

By David, a psalm of understanding.

Blessed is the one who lifts up her transgressions to God;
her sins will be forgiven.

Blessed is the one for whom the Holy One
need not reckon his faults;
whose spirit is clean of deceit.

When I ploughed the fields in silence,
my bones wasted away;
they groaned all day as I worked.

For day and night your hand weighed heavy against me;
the juice of my breast went dry, like the brittle fruit of summer–Selah.

I made my sin known to you.
My wrongs I no longer attempted to hide.

I said, I will confess my rebellions to the Eternal–
and you forgave my sins and errors–Selah.

For this, let the one who loves you
pray at any time she can find–
do not let the flood of waters overtake her.

You are a hiding place for me,
protecting me from anguish.
You surround me with a loud cry of rescue–Selah.

I will enlighten and illumine for you
the path you should walk.
My eyes will give witness.

Don’t be like a horse,
a mule without understanding
with a bridle and halter put on to restrain it.

In such a way God cannot approach you.

Many are the pains of those who persist in their wrongs,
but those who trust in their Creator are surrounded by love.

Take joy in God and let the righteous rejoice.
Cry out with gladness, all who are steadfast of heart.

Psalm 90

A prayer of Moses, man of God.

God, you have been a dwelling place for us
from one generation to the next.

Before mountains were born,
before earth and its people came to exist.

From eternity until eternity you are holy.

Mortals can turn to you until they are crushed.
You say, “Return, children of Adam.”

Because a thousand years you can hold in your sight
like a yesterday passing into today,
a watchman’s hour of relief at night.

You flood the years; they pass like sleep.
By morning, they vanish like grass.

At dawn a person flowers and is fragrant;
by evening we become withered and dry.

For by your wrath we are extinguished.
By your anger we are made to feel afraid.

You have laid out our transgressions before you,
our secrets are illumined by the light of your face.

All our hours pass by in your fury.
Our years come to an end as though imagined.

The days of our years are seventy;
if we are strong, maybe eighty.

All our boasts are toil and delusion,
because life passes and rushes and flies away.

Who can bear the force of your rejection?
Our fear of you seems to us like your anger.

Make known to us the portion of our days
so that we may gain a heart of wisdom.

Turn back to us, God—-Oh, how long?
Have compassion on those trying to serve your will.

Fill our morning with acts of your kindness
and we will sing and rejoice all our days.

Bring us joy in proportion to our days of affliction,
years we saw only strife.

May your acts be visible to your servants,
your splendor to their children’s eyes.

May the sweetness of the Holy One, our Creator,
be constantly before us.

And the work of our hands, give us direction.
And the work of our hands–give it direction toward you.

  • Beth Altman

    Beautiful.