Does anyone know a Jewish interpretation of "selah" in the psalms? Literally it seems to mean something about basket or hanging, but I don't know how this works into psalms.

Jewish sites say it may mean "forever", or "certainly" or even that it is a non-sense word like "Yahoo" or "Yeehah". Non-Jewish sites have it meaning musical direction. Thanks to anyone with insights or answers.

Rabbi Aryeh Kaplan, z'tl, made a case for the psalms being primarily meditative exercises. Could Selah be some sort of Kabbalistic device?

  • The way hebrew works btw, a word can both mean forever and basket. Assuming that there is a cultural connection between what a basket does and the concept of forever. Sort of like the word "shefa"
    – avi
    Sep 18 '11 at 7:50
  • Oh thank you! I was reading last night, after asking this question, Rabbi Aryeh mentioned David HaMelech's song referring to himself "My heart is hollow within me" (Tehilim 109:22) and indicated this meant that David had made himself a vessel for the Divine. The footnote to this statement is the Tanya, Avodah Zara 4 b, Likutey Amarim 1:1. So, thanks for validating that "basket" and "forever" could be connected in this way!
    – Chana
    Sep 18 '11 at 14:53
  • Where/in which of Rabbi Kaplan’s books does he mention this?
    – Dr. Shmuel
    May 3 '18 at 23:15

Rada"k (on ch. 3) is of the opinion that it is a term of elevation, in this case indicating elevation of the voice in reciting the word/line/psalm in which it appears. The word appears only in T'hilim and Chavakuk, which are both poetic. (He cites as a proof text Y'sha'yahu 62:10, in which the same root refers to clearing a path.)

Alternatively, M'tzudas Tziyun says it always means "always", which is in line with "the targum", and Malbim says it is always an indication of a pause (ibid.).

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