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“Ma Tovu”

07/12/2022 09:15:01 AM


This week’s torah portion is best known for its famous blessing “Ma Tovu”.  The story reads like a comical farce. Bilaam, a diviner is tasked by Balaak, the king of Moab to utter a curse over Israel so that they would be weakened in battle. He tries to curse the Israelites but, each time only words of blessing come out of this mouth. In his final effort, we hear the words: “How goodly are your tents O Jacob, your dwelling places, O Israel”. 

These words, MA TOVU OHALEHCHA YA’AKOV, MISHK’NOTEH’CHA YISRAEL” are sometimes inscribed over the doors of synagogues. They serve to remind us that we are entering a holy space. I feel blessed to be part of this community, Adath Shalom. It is the people of a congregation who turn a building into a tent of Jacob and a mishkan of Israel. Thank you for the warm welcome this past shabbat.

The verse “Ma tovu ohalehcha ya’akov, mishk’noteh’cha yisrael” has  been the source of great musical inspiration for centuries.  From the grand 4 part choral composition by the 19th century synagogue composer: Louis Lewandowski to the very well known round you might remember from youth group and summer camp. You might have a bit of fun exploring YouTube for various settings of “Mah Tovu”. To get you started, here is a link to hear Louis Lewandowki’s 4 part choral setting sung by the famous Hazzan Israel Alter. YOu can also see pictures of the grand synagogues of Germany.

This is a more contemporary setting by Danny Maseng.


Wed, April 17 2024 9 Nisan 5784