Psalm 62

“Like a leaning wall, a tottering fence?” (62:4)

The concept of a fence around the Torah is meant to protect and honor the Torah by not letting get too close to a violation of its restrictions. An example — light Shabbat candles 18 minutes before sunset, so if you are a few minutes late, you have not kindled fire on the Sabbath.

A fence which is not well maintained or which is routinely breached does not honor the property which it surrounds. The solution is not to build a wider fence or higher wall, but rather to repair the current boundary marker and make sure people understand why it is there.

Psalm 61

“Add days to the days of the king; may his years be from generation to generation.” (61:7)

The argument for term limits is that after a certain period of time, elected officials become difficult to remove because the thoughtless inertia of voters keeps them in office. Such officials no longer feel beholden to their constituents, and the only way to remove them is to limit the number of terms of office they are allow to hold.

The counter-argument is that learning how to be an effective leader takes time and experience, and thus we are best represented by long term elected officials. Better the experienced leader we know than the unseasoned novice we don’t.

Psalm 60

Heal its fractures because it is shaking. (60:4)

When there are fractures in a structure and it is agitated, the fractures will grow. This is true of both a piece of land and a community. Here is the Psalmist’s theology: The community which is fractured and unable to find stability in a relationship among the pieces will ignore its obligations to God, which will result in a destabilization of the land. Or perhaps, the community’s mistreatment of the environment will destabilize the land, angering God, and as a result the community will suffer and fracture. Either way, Torah teaches that a harmonious environment and a harmonious community are inextricably connected.

Psalm 59

“They come back each evening howling like dogs.” (59:7)

A dog barks when it feels threatened or it is protecting its pack. Small dogs bark more than large dogs, who need only growl to be taken seriously. Small dogs will bite more often precisely because their bark is not taken seriously enough. We can draw two lessons from this: First, when someone makes threats, take them seriously, no matter how much you believe that the individual is not serious. Second, just as under the right circumstances it is possible to make friends with most barking dogs, never forget that under the right conditions, almost every enemy can become a friend.

Psalm 58

“A deaf viper stops its ears so as not to hear the voice of charmers.” (58:5-6)

Our inner voice is generally good at telling us what we ought to do. The problem is that there are other voices around us that utter conflicting messages, tempting us to do what benefits us rather than what is right, or take the least challenging way over the path of virtue. Listen to your inner voice but if you hear yourself saying, “Don’t confuse me with the facts because I’ve already made up my mind,” be open to the possibility that it’s your inner voice that’s charming you and leading you astray.