Aug 25, 2020

Thoughts on Psalm 23: "Who Walks in the Valley of the Shadow of Death?"

Who Walks in the Valley
of the Shadow of Death?
Rabbi Menachem Creditor
published on myjewishlearning.com

Among the best-known of any biblical chapter, the six verses of Psalm 23 are commonly recited at funerals and chanted as a meditation. Its mystical words echo in our ears:

"Yea though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, 
I will fear no evil, for You are with me..."

But what do they mean?

The classic King James translation of 1611, quoted above, capitalizes the “Y” in You, meaning that the one doing the walking is human and God is the companion. Robert Alter’s magisterial 2007 translation agrees. Human beings do not walk alone through life’s travails — through the “vale of death’s shadow” as Alter renders it — because God is always present.

Yet other interpreters suggest that the verse might not be pointing to the Divine Presence at all. Consider this teaching from the Talmud.... [click here to continue reading]