In the Cardo, Psalm 121

Walking in the Old City this afternoon, visiting a few shops, I heard voices singing, music coming from the Cardo. So I walked toward the song.

הִנֵּה לֹא-יָנוּם, וְלֹא יִישָׁן, שׁוֹמֵר, יִשְׂרָאֵל
ה’ שֹׁמְרֶךָ, ה’ צִלְּךָ עַל-יַד יְמִינֶךָ

When I reached the open Cardo there was a group of Israeli soldiers, men and women, arm-in-arm, encircling a street performer, rifles draped over their shoulders, young people in uniform. They sang:

יוֹמָם הַשֶּׁמֶשׁ לֹא-יַכֶּכָּה, וְיָרֵחַ בַּלָּיְלָה

Psalm 121, a hymn of hope and protection: it’s the Psalm we sang when the three boys went missing this summer. The Psalm we sang during the war. The Psalm we sang, yet again, when the fate of the hostages in Paris remained unclear.

ה’ יִשְׁמָרְךָ מִכָּל-רָע, יִשְׁמֹר אֶת-נַפְשֶׁךָ

Looking out over the balcony, I couldn’t help but think that another generation of young, innocents are preparing for war, preparing to defend this homeland for those of us here in Israel and, in truth, for Jews around the world. It is good, these difficult days, to have a homeland.

ה’ יִשְׁמָר-צֵאתְךָ וּבוֹאֶךָ, מֵעַתָּה, וְעַד-עוֹלָם

I listened and said a prayer for peace. I said another prayer for the safety of our soldiers. And I said another for the safety of us all, all peoples, everywhere, so that joy and love will cover the earth.

Until that day, we will sing this song again and again and again. We will pray this Psalm again and again. Waiting, hoping, yearning.

אֶשָּׂא עֵינַי, אֶל-הֶהָרִים, מֵאַיִן יָבֹא עֶזְרִי

We pray this prayer with our voices.
We pray this prayer with our hearts.
We pray this prayer with our tears.

About the Author
Alden Solovy is the Liturgist-in-Residence at the Pardes Institute of Jewish Studies in Jerusalem. A liturgist, poet, and educator, his teaching spans from Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion in Jerusalem to Limmud UK and synagogues throughout North America. He's the author of “This Grateful Heart: Psalms and Prayers for a New Day” and has written more than 750 pieces of new liturgy. His new book, "This Joyous Soul: A New Voice for Ancient Yearnings," was published in 2019. He made aliyah in 2012. Read his work at
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