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.
Adonai, ahavti m'on beitekha um'kom mishkan k'vodekha.
Va'ani eshtakhaveh ve'ekhra'ah, avar'kha lifnei Adonai osi.
Va'ani t'filati l'kha Adonai et ratzon, Elohim b'rov hasdekha aneini be'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]