“The earth is Adonai’s and the fullness thereof.” (24:1)
We are temporary residents of a world entirely belonging to the Blessed Holy One. Perhaps because we don’t own the world, we treat it as poorly as many apartment dwellers treat their living space. Homeowners tend to take care of their property better than renters. Perhaps the Psalmist should have written, “The earth, and everything in it, belong to you. If you want your investment to increase in value, take care of it.” Instead, he suggests that we are guests in someone else’s home. Only those who show honor to their Host deserve standing in God’s world as recipients of God’s blessing.
“I shall not want.” (23:1)
The mantra of North America is “I want.” We eat too much, spend too much, acquire too much, and are never satisfied. The next time you are tempted to take seconds of dessert or buy a shiny new toy, adopt the mantra “I shall not want.” Try quieting the insistent voice of the yetzer hara inside you rather than feeding it. Focus on what you need, rather than what you want. You’ll discover that your true needs are much more modest than your desires, and your level of satisfaction will rise.
“My heart is like wax.” (22:15)
In the Psalm, the melting wax heart denotes weakness. But taken in and of itself, a wax heart is the opposite of a hard heart. Rather than being hard-hearted and stubborn, isn’t it better to have a sensitive malleable heart? A hard-hearted person thinks of himself or herself first. Do these people really need my help? Why should I be the one to step in? How will I benefit? A soft-hearted person thinks of others first and looks for ways to ease their suffering. A heart of wax is the price we pay for being vulnerable and allowing ourselves to feel.
“You have set upon his head a crown of fine gold.” (21:4)
We might understand the function of a kippah to be a mark of identification as a Jew and a reminder to the wearer of his or her Jewish responsibilities. A gold crown is a kippah, a thousand times heavier. Every person wears a crown denoting him or her as a being created in the image of God. It’s the ultimate participation trophy, with a twist. The crown is a weighty burden that functions as a constant reminder to live up to the responsibility and privilege of being human.
“May God grant you your heart’s desire, and fulfill your every plan.” (20:5)
Is this a blessing or a curse? We want a lot of things, but not everything our heart desires is actually good for us or for the world. We make plans that fail when our desire overreaches our ability to ensure success. Sometimes, the best thing that can happen to us is to be reminded that our plans and our heart’s desires are not enduring, forcing us to take a second look at the priorities in our lives. May your heart’s desire and your every plan be aligned with your very best God-given potential.