(click below the music note to listen)
Mah Tovu ohaleicha Yaakov, mishk'notecha Yisrael
How goodly are your tents, O Yaakov, your dwelling places, O Yisrael.
Va-ani b'rov chasdcha avo veytecha, eshtachaveh el heichal kadsh'cha b'yiratecha
As for me, through Your abundant kindness I will enter Your House; I will prostrate myself toward Your Holy Sanctuary in awe of You.
Hashem ahavti m'on beytecha, umkom mishkan k'vodecha
O Hashem, I love the House where You dwell, and the place where Your glory resides.
Va-ani estachaveh v'echra-ah, evr'chah lifnei Hashem osi
I shall prostrate myself and bow, I shall kneel before Hashem my Maker.
Va-ani, t'filoti l'cha Hashem, et ratzon, Elokim b'rav chasdekcha, aneni be-emet yishecha
As for me, may my prayer to You, Hashem, be at an opportune time; O G-d, in Your abundant kindness, answer me with the truth of Your salvation.
The Sages interpret this praise of Yisrael as a reference to its 'tents of learning and prayer.' In a deeper sense, the Jewish home achieves its highest level when it incorporates the values of the synagogue and study hall. This collection of verses expresses love and reverence for the synagogue that, in the absence of the Holy Temple, is the place where G-d's glory resides among Yisrael.
V'ani "As for me, through Your abundance kindness I will enter Your House." The latter verse contains exactly ten Hebrew words and was used to determine if there were ten people present for the minyan. Jewish tradition does not count people by numbers; using the words of verse instead of numbers is an acceptable alternative.
According to talmudic interpretation, the phrase "your tents" refers to the synagogues, and has become customary to recite these words upon entering the house of G-d.
The entire passage conveys the feelings of reverence and joy experienced within the synagogue ("O Hashem, I love the House where You dwell, and place where Your glory resides... may my prayer to You, Hashem, be at an opportune time; O G-d, in Your abundant kindness, answer me..."). The expression opportune time (et ratzon) is taken to mean the time of public worship (Berachot 8a).
Talmud - Mas. Berachot 8a
What is the meaning of the verse: But as for me, let my prayer be made unto Thee, O Hashem, in an acceptable time?1 When is the time acceptable? When the congregation prays.
The five verses are borrowed from BaMidbar 24:5; Tehillim 5:8, 26:8, 95:6, 69:14.
- Artscroll Siddur
- Encyclopedia Of Jewish Concepts, Philip Birnbaum
- To Pray As A Jew, Rabbi Donin
- Soncino Talmud