Jewish Prayers From the Heart and Pen of Alden Solovy

Balak: Your Dwelling Place

Ma Tovu is one of my favorite prayers. The opening line comes from this week’s Torah portion, Balak. Balak hires Bil’am to curse the people Israel, but instead he blesses them. The blessing includes this line, which opens Ma Tovu: “How goodly are thy tents, O Jacob, thy dwellings, O Israel!” [Numbers 24:5] According to rabbinic interpretation, the ‘tents’ are ‘tents of Torah’ and the ‘dwellings’ are synagogues. This prayer turns the metaphor once again, stating that our lives can be the dwelling place of G-d’s glory when we do the work of love and charity. Two lines from Ma Tovu, traditionally said upon entering a synagogue, frame the second stanza.

Your Dwelling Place
When I pray,
When I quiet my mind and open my heart,
I become a priest/priestess
In the house of God.

I love Your house,
Your habitation,
The dwelling place of Your glory.
Let me serve You with my hands,
With the toil of healing the world,
With the labor of kindness and compassion.
And I will become Your abode
Of love and charity,
Of thanksgiving and peace,
Doing Your will in joy,
Rejoicing in Your work.
How goodly are thy tents, O Jacob,
Thy dwellings, O Israel!

Let my life become a temple,
A sanctuary of praise and service,
And You will dwell
In me.

© 2015 Alden Solovy and All rights reserved.

Postscript: Some of my other prayers that borrow quotes directly from the liturgy include: “Come, Beloved,” “Sephardi Quarter Note,” “Gathering: A Dream of Reunion” and “Affirmation of Faith.”

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