“You have put thanksgiving in my mouth, and praise on my tongue, and my lips' guiding star in a place of jubilation.”
This line from ancient Jerusalem forms part of a psalm of thanksgiving that was penned in Hebrew over 2,000 years ago and preserved in the now-famous Dead Sea Scrolls.
Though ancient, its themes resonate with modern religious traditions.
The poetry gives us insight into the culture that gave birth to Christianity and Rabbinic Judaism, and helps us better understand the nature of these two great monotheistic faiths.
In honor of our American holiday of Thanksgiving — and in appreciation of our culture of religious pluralism — here is the complete text, newly translated into English. (Learn more about the text.)
Have a jubilant Thanksgiving.
I offer thanks to you, my God,
For acting wondrously with dirt,
And with a creature of clay acting very powerfully.
What am I that you have taught me your true secrets,
Instructed me about your wondrous acts?
You have put thanksgiving in my mouth,
And praise on my tongue,
And my lips' guiding star in a place of jubilation.
I will sing your kindness and ponder your power.
I will bless your name all day, forever,
And recount your glory among the children of Adam.
My soul delights in your abundant beneficence.
For I know that your mouth is truth,
That in your hand is righteousness,
That in your thought is all knowledge,
That in your strength is all power,
And that all glory is with you.
In your anger are all punishing judgments,
And in your goodness abundant forgiveness.
Your compassion is for those in whom you find favor,
For your have taught them your true secrets,
Instructed them about your wondrous mysteries.
For the sake of your glory,
You have purified humans
In order that they become holy for you,
From every impure abomination and guilt through unfaithfulness
In order that they become united,
With the children of your truth,
To join the lot with those who are holy to you —
From the dirt of worms
To raise the dead up to an everlasting secret,
From a sordid spirit up to your wisdom —
And in order that they be positioned in place before you
Together with the eternal hosts and everlasting spirits,
And in order that they be renewed with everything,
With those who know,
In a community a jubilation.
Dr. Hoffman is a teacher, translator, and author. His most recent book is The Bible's Cutting Room Floor, which explores this kind of ancient text more fully. He can be reached through his website at www.lashon.net.