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What does it mean, Sela?

The Color of HeavenArtscroll
Topic: Sela, Definition

Lars-Toralf Storstrand wrote:

There is a word in our "westernized" copies of the Tanach that seems to baffle a lot of people to the degree that they say: "We don't know what it means!" Now I am asking you: What does "Sela" (in the Psalms) mean. I've heard several theories, but I want to get this clear.

Shalom.


Dear Lars-Toralf Storstrand,

The word "Sela" appears not only in our "westernized" translations of Tanach, but in the original Hebrew as well.

Some commentaries maintain that the word "Sela" has no translation; rather it is a word used to control the meter and allow the preceding words to flow correctly. The proof for this is that the word appears only in the "poetic" Book of Psalms and one "Psalm-like" chapter in Chavakuk.

The Ibn Ezra translates "Sela" as "truth" or "so it is."

The Talmud teaches us the meaning of the word in a similar fashion: "Every time the word "Sela" is used, it refers to something that goes on and on without end." Hence the translation of the Targum - "L'almin" - meaning "forever."

Sources:

  • Psalms 3:3, Targum, Ibn Ezra.
  • Talmud, Tractate Eruvin 54a.

 
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