Exploring Lecha Dodi, Part 6: Verse #4 – Hitna’ari

Other entries in this series: Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3 | Part 4 | Part 5

We continue on to Verse 4:

התנערי מעפר קומי
לבשי בגדי תפארתיך עמי
על יד בן ישי בית הלחמי
קרבה אל נפשי גאלה

In this verse, Yerushalayim appears to respond to the Jews’ exhortations in the previous verse, especially “רב לך שבת בעמק הבכא,” which we explained as the Jews’ complaint that Yerushalayim seeks undue sympathy by remaining enmeshed in tears. Picking up on the קומי of the last verse (קומי צאי מתוך ההפכה), Yerushalayim responds by telling the Jews that it is they, not her, who must take the lead on the redemption process: התנערי מעפר, קומי; shake yourself free of your dust, arise. It is you, Jews, who are responsible for providing me the comfort that is needed before a redemption can occur. קרבה אל נפשי, גאלה; come close to my soul, you who are charged to take responsibility for me! Rav Schwab, in a beautiful explanation of סמיכת גאולה לתפילה, explains that a גואל is not a redeemer but a stand-in, someone who assumes the persona of the object of his responsibility (see, for example, Bamidbar 5:8, ואם אין לאיש גואל). Taken this way, Yerushalayim is reminding the Jews that they are her גואל, her stand-in, and as such it is they who must קום, arise and provide for Yerushalayim her much-needed and long-awaited respite. It is not to elicit sympathy that Yerushalayim remains sitting in the עמק הבכא, but because the Jews have not done their own work (מעפר קומי).

Birnbaum and ArtScroll assume that התנערי stands alone and the word מעפר is connected to the word קומי (thus התנערי, מעפר קומי). Sacks, with an eye to the cantillation in Yeshayahu 52:2, connects מעפר to התנערי rather than קומי (hence התנערי מעפר, קומי).

Let’s look at the original Pesukim which form the basis for this verse of Lecha Dodi:

ישעיהו פרק נב פסוק ב
א) עוּרִי עוּרִי לִבְשִׁי עֻזֵּךְ צִיּוֹן, לִבְשִׁי בִּגְדֵי תִפְאַרְתֵּךְ יְרוּשָׁלִַם עִיר הַקֹּדֶשׁ, כִּי לֹא יוֹסִיף יָבֹא בָךְ עוֹד עָרֵל וְטָמֵא
ב) הִתְנַעֲרִ֧י מֵעָפָ֛ר ק֥וּמִי שְּׁבִ֖י יְרֽוּשָׁלִָ֑ם הִֽתְפַּתְּחִי֙ מוֹסְרֵ֣י צַוָּארֵ֔ךְ שְׁבִיָּ֖ה בַּת־צִיּֽוֹן

Comparing the Pesukim with the song, it becomes only more clear that the reference in our verse is to the Jews, rather than Yerushalayim; notice how the paytan changes the word Yerushalayim in פסוק א to עמי in the song, and cuts off פסוק ב just before the words שבי ירושלים, sit, Yerushalayim. Without those words, the reference becomes ambiguous and can more readily be interpreted as referring to the Jews. In a sense, both Birnbaum and Sacks are correct. The meaning of the verse, which included שבי ירושלים, would require a comma after מעפר (ala Sacks) so that קומי שבי ירושלים can be maintained as a connected phrase. The meaning of the song, however, which does not contain שבי ירושלים, would require a comma after התנערי (ala Birnbaum), since the two words after that contain a complete thought, one directed to the Jews.

Malbim, interestingly, interprets שבי ירושלים not as a command to sit, as Rashi does, but as a reference to the captives (שבויים) among the Jews, who are told here to return:

רש”י
שבי – על הכסא

מלבי”ם
התנערי.
תחלה דבר אל עיר ציון ועיר ירושלים, עתה דבר נגד עַם ציון ועַם ירושלים שהגלו משם, והנה השבי מן השרים והפרתמים אוסרים אותם בזקים ושומרים אותם, והשבי מן ההמון ודלת העם אינם אוסרים אותם, אבל הם הפקר שוכבים על הארץ כבהמות. על זה אומר, “התנערי מעפר קומי שבי ירושלם, התפתחי מוסרי צוארך שביה בת ציון.” כי שביה בת ציון היו השרים והפרתמים, ושבי ירושלים היו ההמון ודלת העם

Bothered as he so often is by a redundancy in the Pasuk that the Rishonim missed, Malbim here distinguishes between two kinds of captives. The שבי ירושלים are the majority of Jews, who sit wallowing in self-pity – “הפקר שוכבים על הארץ כבהמות” – like the Jews accused Yerushalayim of doing in the last verse (רב לך שבת בעמק הבכא). The שבי בת ציון are the Jewish leaders, who are forced to remain in exile by external forces (“אוסרים אותם בזקים ושומרים אותם”). It is interesting that Malbim here exhorts the general populace of the Jews to gladden Yerushalayim by their return, even if the leaders cannot be counted among them.

Writing in the Mossad Harav Kook journal Sinai (#102, pp. 183-196), Yaakov Bazak assumes that this verse is said about Yerushalayim, rather than, as we interpreted, by Yerushalayim. Bazak agrees that the subject is Yerushalayim rather than the Jews (he points out the female verbs קומי, התנערי and לבשי), but he assumes that Yerushalayim is the subject, not the speaker. Consequently, עמי is the very בגדי תפארתך, and he would explain line #2 as an exhortation to “don the clothing of your splendor – [which are] my nation!” Yerushalayim without its people, Bazak explains, is like a woman without her fine adornments. Bazak’s reading lines up neatly with the beginning of the book of Eichah:
ה) עוֹלָלֶ֛יהָ הָלְכ֥וּ שְׁבִ֖י לִפְנֵי־צָֽר ו) וַיֵּצֵ֥א מִבַּת־צִיּ֖וֹן כָּל־הֲדָרָ֑הּ

The final line of our verse, “come close to my soul, serve as its representative,” comes from Tehillim (69:19):

תהלים פרק סט
יז) עֲנֵ֣נִי ה’ כִּי־ט֣וֹב חַסְדֶּ֑ךָ כְּרֹ֥ב רַ֝חֲמֶ֗יךָ פְּנֵ֣ה אֵלָֽי: יח) וְאַל־תַּסְתֵּ֣ר פָּ֭נֶיךָ מֵֽעַבְדֶּ֑ךָ כִּֽי־צַר־לִ֗י מַהֵ֥ר עֲנֵֽנִי: יט) קָרְבָ֣ה אֶל־נַפְשִׁ֣י גְאָלָ֑הּ לְמַ֖עַן אֹיְבַ֣י פְּדֵֽנִי: כ) אַתָּ֤ה יָדַ֗עְתָּ חֶרְפָּתִ֣י וּ֭בָשְׁתִּי וּכְלִמָּתִ֑י נֶ֝גְדְּךָ֗ כָּל־צוֹרְרָֽי

In its original context, this line comes at the end of a string of pleas for Hashem’s mercy, and just before the author gives away the store: למען איבי פדני … נגדך כל צוררי, for the sake of [quieting] my enemies, redeem me … against you are all my enemies. Alongside the personal longing that we feel when we are away from Yerushalayim, there must be considered as well the defamation of Hashem’s Name which that absence causes, as our enemies interpret that absence as representing our abandonment and neglect by Hashem. Put back into the context of our verse, then, Yerushalayim reminds the Jewish גואלים that as long as we are away, it causes revelry among our enemies. Therefore, Yerushalayim pleads that the Jews קרבה אל נפשי, return to my soul, and serve as the agent or stand-in for Yerushalayim on the world stage – the גואל – that we are supposed to be.

Taken as a whole, in this verse Yerushalayim responds to the Jews’ points by offering several of its own: It is your job, not mine, to ensure my happiness (התנערי מעפר קומי); it is your responsibility to serve as the vocal representative of my message on earth, to be my גואל; your captive status is one which is based on self-perception and can be ended at any time (קומי שבי ירושלים); the task which lies before you in comforting me and initiating the process of redemption is one which contains an altruistic need, not just a selfish one, because Hashem, at the same time, is vindicated in the eyes of the world (קרבה אל נפשי גאלה, למען איבי פדני).

Next time we will explore התעוררי, including comparing the final קומי with the earlier two.

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5 Responses to Exploring Lecha Dodi, Part 6: Verse #4 – Hitna’ari

  1. ש. אפל says:

    Indeed, if you go into a Yemenite shul that says לכה דודי, you’ll hear hithnaa’ri meiafar — gumi. This is in accordance with the תרגום which says אִיתנַפַּצִי מֵעַפרָא. קוּמִי תִּיבִי עַל כֻּרסֵי יְקָרִיך, יְרוּשׁלַם.

    • rebleib1 says:

      Interesting. Do you mean they pause before the third word? I assume you don’t mean they say “gumi” instead of “kumi.” I agree with you that the Targum seems to support breaking up the phrase after the second word, rather than the first. Also interesting that the Targum sides with Rashi and not Malbim: תיב על כרסי יקריך ירושלים – “sit on your throne of honor, Yerushalayim;” no captives here. That’s probably Rashi’s source, although he is less clear than Targum.

      • ש. אפל says:

        1) Yes, they pause before the third word (not pause as in completely and absolutely stop, but like a מפסיק in leining).
        2) They most certainly say gumi (מלעיל) instead of kumi; the קוֹף is pronounced like others pronounce ג, i.e., as the g in the word “go.” Hence, the Yemenite pronunciation of the ק is not identical to the ּכ. (The Yemenite pronunciation of ג differs depending on whether or not it has a דגש. With a דגש it’s just like the pronunciation of j in the word jump. Without a דגש, there is no English equivalent.)

      • rebleib1 says:

        I didn’t know about the Kof-Gimmel. Very interesting. Thank you.

  2. Dorothy says:

    Good points all around. Truly apeaceirtpd.

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