Psalm 133 is very short, and very hard to translate. I will share with you how I read it.
A song of ascents. Of David.
How good and how pleasant it is
when people dwell together.
It is like fine oil, enveloping our faces
making us feel like we are part of the priesthood
dressed in their exquisite garments.
It feels like the dew of Mount Hermon,
spreading their goodness all over Zion.
There the Eternal ordained blessing forever; May the whole world experience the blessing of life.
I have said many times in our congregation that every translation is an interpretation. Mine definitely is. In my interpretation, this psalm extols the virtues of communal life. First we are told that communal life is good. The psalm continues by telling us how it makes a person feel, comfortable in our skins, and important as part of this special people. It gives us the sustaining power of dew, maintaining us nourished. This is nourishment that comes from Zion, the place from where God distributes blessings to those gathered in community, and the power of that experience brings the blessing of life to the whole world.
We’re now experiencing a shift in our definition of community. We were used to gather in person. We now gather in a virtual community. We have a challenge, to feel a sense of community through this different medium, to feel connected to each other, and to be nourished by it in order to disseminate God’s blessings to the world. One way of feeling connected is through song.
At the end of this posting, there is a video of me singing the first line of this psalm. It says: Hineh mah tov umah na’yim shevet achim gam yachad. Which means: “How good and how pleasant it is when people dwell together.” Join me in singing, and let’s bring God’s blessings to this world that is sorely in need of those.
Rabbi Lia Bass