Tuesday, April 21, 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?