This limmud is part of the ongoing FHJC Psalm 27 Series. The rest of the content can be found here : https://www.sefaria.org/groups/FHJC-Psalm-27-Series .
Before going any further in our discussion, let's take a moment to just read through our prayer-poem once again.
Now with that, let's start looking at our poem from a different angle than last week.
Like all of the greatest poetry throughout the Judean and Israelite literature, this employs the literary technique of parallelism, or the rhyming of ideas from one line, sentence, or passage, to the next.
What's really brilliant about parallelism is that there's almost always some kind of forward progression, or development. This might manifest itself in one of several ways:
- Narrative progression - The second line follows, chronologically, on the heels of the first;
- Intensification - The second line takes the image or metaphor of the first and strengthens it;
- Specification - In the second line, the psalter hones in, where first there was a description in more general terms;
- Concretization - The move from an abstract image to something concrete;
- Antithetical - The two lines are juxtaposed for contrast.
With that, let's explore what our prayer has to offer.
Before reading my own interpretation after each case of parallelism, try to come up with your own understanding of what the psalter was getting at. Recognizing the parallelism is only the first step; interpreting the intention behind the poetry is when the poem is truly brought to life.
The way the Judean and Israelite poets would wield this incredibly powerful technique is just amazing, enabling them to conceal multiple layers of insight and beauty underneath such seeming simplicity.
But parallelism is not all of it. These poets were utter masters of their language. Hebrew as a language is very broad. Combinations of three-letter roots can take on so many different nuances of meaning, and playing with roots and with puns were yet other techniques they had in their arsenal.
This is what we'll pick up with next week!