Psalm 137: If I Forget Thee, O Jerusalem

The Talmud says that although King David wrote most of them, some of the Psalms were written by different authors at various times, ending with Ezra in the early 2nd Temple era. This psalm talks about the destruction of the 1st Temple.

Rochel Sylvetsky,

OpEds Rochel Sylvetsky
Rochel Sylvetsky
]Yonatan Zindel Flash 90

The Levites, whose tasks in the Temple included song and musical accompaniment to the services, deeply mourned the First Temple's destruction as they were exiled to Babylon. Their cruel conquerors, sneering but also perhaps out of curiosity, ordered them to sing the songs whose beauty was famous throughout the ancient world.  In response, the Levites, according to the Midrash, cut their fingers so that they would not be able to play their instruments.

The aching words of the Psalm bring that moment to life:

By the rivers of Babylon, there we sat down, yea, we wept, when we remembered Zion.

We hanged our harps upon the willows in the midst thereof.

For there they that carried us away captive required of us a song; and they that wasted us required of us mirth, saying: "Sing us one of the songs of Zion".

How shall we sing the LORD'S song in a strange land?

If I forget thee, O Jerusalem, let my right hand forget her cunning.

If I do not remember thee, let my tongue cleave to the roof of my mouth; if I prefer not Jerusalem above my chief joy.

And then the psalmist turns to the heavens for revenge:

Remember, O LORD, the children of Edom on the day of Jerusalem's destruction; who said, Raze it, raze it, down to the foundation thereof.

O daughter of Babylon, who art one day to be destroyed; happy shall he be, that rewardeth thee as thou hast served us...