Violence in Psalms Before Benching?


Hi Rabbi Simon I was just wondering about why the last verse in psalm 137 that we sing before benching is so violent? Is it really advocating and praying for "clutching and dashing the infants against the rock"? Spencer Shaw


Good question. 

For one thing, maybe that is part of the reason why that Psalm is not nearly as popular as its Shabbos and Yom Tov counterpart, 126 (Shir ha-Ma'alot).

As a further, general observation, I would point out that the Scriptures often use imagery and expressions which are surprisingly earthy and seemingly unrefined, to our ears. For example the thinly veiled sexual allusions in this week's haftarah (Judges 5:27), or the almost coarse term for "male" in 1 Kings 14:10 (and elsewhere). Warfare and conquest often involve atrocities, and the Jews were subjected to horrific forms of just that at the hands of the Babylonians. The Psalmist foresees a time when Darius the Mede (Persia) will conquer Babylon and repay them in kind for their own unspeakable brutality. It is not so much a prayer as a recognition that what goes around comes around, and that Babylon's sadism and gloating will not last.

Kind regards

rabbi rashi simon