Apr 20, 2009

Shemonei Esrei: Deconstructed!

Every time I'm davening, I stumble over this bit in the Shemonei Esrei that, translated by Artscroll reads
Rebuilding Jerusalem
And to Jerusalem, Your city, may you return in compassion, and may You rest within it, as You have spoken. May you rebuild it soon in our days as an eternal structure, and may You speedily establish the throne of David within it. Blessed are You, HaShem, the Builder of Jerusalem. 
My beef with the text comes with the bolded words there. The Hebrew looks like this:
The text makes sense to me in that it calls for a rebuilding (uvnei) of Jerusalem, but I find the wording on the throne of David difficult. Jerusalem, after all, was destroyed a few times over, with the Temple -- the first and the second -- being destroyed. In my mind, the rebuilding of Jerusalem is largely in reference to the reestablishment of a Temple, a central place of worship for Jews. But the throne of David, established at one point in Israel, needs not be established but merely to be re-established. It's confusing to me that verb associated with Jerusalem is rebuild, but the verb associated with the throne of David is an original, an establishing.

The verb translated as establish, tachin (להכין), literally means "to prepare, make ready." My favorite Hebrew-English/English-Hebrew online dictionary uses the verbs לייסד, להקים; לבסס for "to establish." (Note: These probably are strictly modern Hebrew verbs, not sure about the Biblical Hebrew. Boneh is pretty standard for building, to build, builder, etc. in the Hebrew Bible. Someone with more knowledge of the varying verbs relating to building or esetablishing or constructing in the Tanakh.)

Thus it seems to me that the text in the Shemonei Esrei is actually calling for Jerusalem to be rebuilt as in the glory days and for the city to be prepared and made ready for the throne of David once again thrive (i.e. be re-established). At any rate, it makes me feel a lot better about reading it every time I daven. It has always seemed awkward to me that it would be "establish." 

Then again, I tend to pick apart words and phrases much more than is necessary. I'm guessing this hasn't bothered anyone else, right?


הצעיר שלמה בן רפאל לבית שריקי ס"ט said...

Well, I've been "looking around" and it seems like "תכין" really does mean to prepare or to "put something in a situation where something can be done with it"(הכשרה).

(Though there is a bit of evidence that "תכין" might have something to do with "הרכנת הראש"-moving (or nodding) of the head).

..Ithink it's cool someone out there is paying attention to this stuff. Keep us posted!

rutimizrachi said...

I checked the new Koren Siddur (my current personal favorite) to see if you might be cheered by its translation. No luck: it uses the word "install" -- still "an original." A thought, a small argument: the fact that the throne referred to is "of David," and we know that it therefore refers to an existing throne (which, btw, may be among those Temple items we don't believe have been actually destroyed) helps the translation be make some sense to me. Rebuild the Temple, and establish/install David's (existing) throne (for the first time) in it (this newly-built Temple). It is a weak argument, as your definition for the Hebrew word is also the only one I can find. It's the best I can do on only one cup of coffee. But it's fun to exercise the old college-brain muscles again, after so long! Thanks.

Chaviva said...

@Mr. First Up There The pursuit continues! Thank you for looking into it and sharing what you did find.

@rutimizrachi You make a very intriguing point, though! Install. Hrm. I'm going to have to consider that and look through a couple of texts I have laying around and see what I can muster up. Thanks for your coffee-induced comment :)

Schvach said...

Perhaps the use of the Hebrew verb 'to establish' is a tangential reference to the coming of Moshiach, since in the Shemonah Esrei, David HaMelech is refered to as 'Moshiach
Tzedikechah' - 'Your Righteous Anointed'. Remember, by us Moshiach comes only once.

Mordechai Y. Scher said...

I don't understand why you read the verb livnot as 'rebuild'. I don't think there is any such construct in the Ivrit of the Second Temple. I think there is only the verb 'to build'. One might translate this as 'rebuild' because they know the context; but the verb is simply 'to build' AFAIK.

Also, the root CN'H means a 'base' or tripod or the like. From there the verb l'hachin, to make stable, prepare, etc., as well as words such as machon.

It seems to me that the verbs livnot and lahachin are consistent with each other here. What am I missing?

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