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Psalm 126 (Greek numbering: Psalm 125) or Shir Hama'alot (שיר המעלות) is a psalm and common piece of liturgy. It is one of the Songs of Ascents. In the Latin Psalters it has the title In convertendo Dominus.
In Judaism, Psalm 126 is sung in an upbeat, fast, joyous manner before Birkat Hamazon (the Grace After Meals) on Shabbat, Jewish Holidays, Rosh Chodesh, Chol Hamoed, and by some on other days in which Tachanun is not recited. While fourteen psalms actually begin with the words "Shir Hama'alot" (Song of Ascents), this psalm is commonly referred to as "Shir Hama'alot" due to this common use.
This is a song of joy and of thanks to God. The thanks is reflected in its third verse, "The LORD has done great things for us". But this is overshadowed by the joyousness of the author. The author is gleeful to return to Zion.
In many areas the people who are going out to sow are starving. The only food they could possibly have is the seeds they kept for sowing. The people literally cry when they place their only food in the ground because they know they will receive the harvest. Vs. 5 and 6 are stating that when we give sacrificially to the point of the last portion, God will be faithful to bring in the bountiful harvest. It also shows that those who plan for the future, will be rewarded.
The psalm was set as a motet in Latin by composers including Dmitri Bortnyansky, Jean-Philippe Rameau (In convertendo Dominus) and Lorenzo Perosi. It was set to music in Latin by Jules Van Nuffel, In convertendo Dominus, and in a 1998 version by Philip Glass in which the chorus sings worldless syllables and a narrator recites the text in English.
Verses 5 and 6 were set by Brahms (in German) in the first movement of A German Requiem. Other German partial settings were made by Heinrich Schütz, Johann Hermann Schein and Heinrich Hartmann. Verses of the psalm have been set in English by composers including William Byrd and Charles Villiers Stanford.
- The Complete Artscroll Siddur page 530
- Jeffay, Nathan (3 April 2012). "Israelis Divided Over Changing Anthem". Jewish Daily Forward (Forward.com). Retrieved 18 November 2013.
- Gottesman, Ariella (31 May 2011). "Hatikvah: The Impossible Dream". Israel National News (Arutz Sheva). Retrieved 18 November 2013.
- Neil Levin, "The Book of Psalms and Its Musical Interpretations," booklet notes to "Psalms of Joy and Sorrow," Naxos CD 8.55945
- "Psalm 126", ChoralWiki website, accessed 31 December 2014.
- Psalm 126 at biblegateway.com