Ma Tovu

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Ma Tovu (Hebrew for "O How Good" or "How Goodly") is a prayer in Judaism, expressing reverence and awe for synagogues and other places of worship.

The prayer begins with Numbers 24:5, where Balaam, sent to curse the Israelites, is instead overcome with awe at God and the Israelites' houses of worship. Its first line of praise is a quote of Balaam's blessing and is thus the only prayer commonly used in Jewish services that was written by a non-Jew. The remainder of the text is derived from passages in Psalms relating to entering the house of worship and preparation for further prayer (Psalms 5:8; 26:8; 95:6; and 69:14). In this vein is the prayer recited by Jews upon entering the synagogue.

Hebrew text[edit]

מַה טֹּבוּ אֹהָלֶיךָ, יַעֲקֹב; מִשְׁכְּנֹתֶיךָ, יִשְׂרָאֵל. (1 Numbers 24:5

וַאֲנִי בְּרב חַסְדְּךָ אָבא בֵיתֶךָ אֶשְׁתַּחֲוֶה אֶל הֵיכַל קָדְשְׁךָ בְּיִרְאָתֶךָ. (2 Psalms 5:8

3) .ה׳ אָהַבְתִּי מְעון בֵּיתֶךָ וּמְקום מִשְׁכַּן כְּבודֶךָPsalms 26:8

וַאֲנִי אֶשְׁתַּחֲוֶה וְאֶכְרָעָה אֶבְרְכָה לִפְנֵי ה׳ עשִׂי. (4 Psalms 95:6 (adapted)

5) וַאֲנִי תְפִלָּתִי לְךָ ה׳ עֵת רָצוֹן אֱלֹהִים בְּרָב חַסְדֶּךָ עֲנֵנִי בֶּאֱמֶת יִשְׁעֶךָPsalms 69:14

Transliteration[edit]

Ma tovu ohalekha Ya'akov, mishk'notekha Yisra'el.
Va'ani b'rov hasd'kha, avo veytekha,
Eshtahaveh el heikhal kodsh'kha b'yir'atekha.

Va'ani t'filati l'kha Adonai et ratzon.
Elohim b'rov hasdekha aneini b'emet yish'ekha.

English translation[edit]

How lovely are your tents, O Jacob, your dwelling places, O Israel!
As for me, O God abounding in grace,
I enter your house to worship with awe in Your sacred place.
To You, Eternal One, goes my prayer: may this be a time of your favor.
In Your great love, O God, answer me with Your saving truth.

External links[edit]