KOL HANESHAMA - Translation - Definition - Interpertation


The phrase "Kol HaNeshama" comes from the last verse of Psalm 150, the Psalm that many of us know simply as "Hallelu", perhaps the most joyous of all the Psalms.  We chose it for the name of our synagogue both because of the text itself and the way it opens itself to English translations and interpertations.  

The Hebrew spelling of "Kol" is K-L, Kaf-Lamed, meaning "all".

The root of Neshama, N-SH-M, Nun-Shin-Mem, means "breath" or "breathing", thus a "living thing".

The simple meaning is: "Every living thing" (will praise God).  Some have expanded this to "The breath of every living thing praises God."

The translation in our prayer book, which just happens to be named Kol HaNeshama, is "Let every living thing Yah's praises sing".

Another translation would be "all that breathes" or "all of humanity", signaling a universality in Judaism that includes all of humankind as one entity.

If you change the first Hebrew letter, Kaf, to a Kuf, the pronunciation is identical, but the meaning changes to "the voice of" the living being.  Many Jewish musicians play on this double entendre, since the rest of the Psalm is a description of the use of many musical instruments in the ancient Temple in Jerusalem, culminating with the human voice (breath) in song and prayer.

In Christian usage, the phrase is usually translated as All Souls, but the Hebrew source predates the theology of the soul as separate from the body.  When one considers that voice is created by breath, This might be the basis for the translation "Voice of the souls" or "Voices of the souls".

Sometimes to get to the meaning one has to read not the lines, but between the lines.  The language throughout the centuries has "morphed", and what a word or phrase meant then can be entirely different now.  To put this into a modern prospective think about how the meaning of the sentence, "My credit card was swiped." has changed just over the last fifteen years.

Somehow, as someone once said, "It ain't simple being Jewish".
We hope that this explanation helps, and leaves you smiling.

Our synagogue worship is designed to reflect the joy of music and expression described in Psalm 150.  We praise God and express our gratitude for life, love, family and  community through singing together, learning together, eating and celebrating together in the spirit of "Kol HaNeshama".  We invite you to join us.

941.244.2042 . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . A Synagogue for Everyone . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . office@congkh.org