Note to readers: I apologize for missing my normal thrice-weekly schedule in the last couple of weeks. I fell behind because of all of the fall Jewish holidays. I’ll do my best to keep up with the schedule because I’d like to complete this project of writing mini-reflections on each of the Psalms by the end of 2017. However, I leave for a week in Israel this coming Monday so I may miss a few more posts.
“May it be well with you!” (122:9)
Consider the simplicity of the Psalmist’s closing words to his family. “Be well!” The psalmists concludes with a prayer for peace and a prayer for goodness. He doesn’t mention wealth, fame, honor, beauty, power, influence, or any of the other things that dominate the lives of so many “important” people today. Goodness is a moral quality, so in wishing that family members are well, you might understand that the most important gauge of the quality of one’s life is moral.
“Your guardian will not slumber.” (121:3)
Think about parents who just brought home a tiny infant, helpless and demanding. Mom and Dad are understandably reluctant to leave this new member of their household unsupervised, even while the baby is sleeping. So no matter where they are in the house, there is a monitor, video or audio, connecting them to baby. When they themselves go to sleep, the lightest baby peep, the softest cry, is enough to wake them. And in fact often the lack of sounds, the thought that they can’t hear the baby breathing, is enough to rouse them in a panic. Such is the protective nature of love.
“Save my soul from a lying lip.” (120:2)
Rabbi Ishmael said: “One who engages in lashon hara (gossip) is guilty of a sin equal to the three prohibitions for which a Jew must accept death–idolatry, adultery, and murder” (Talmud Arakin 15b). The very essence of my being is attacked when I am the subject of gossip. If the lashon hara is false, the damage to reputation is obvious. But even if it is true my soul suffers terribly, for the gossiper has damaged my opportunity to benefit from fully repenting. Even if I ultimately do teshuvah (repent) for whatever it is that I did, the gossip will most likely have spread much faster and farther than my repentance.
“In my heart I treasure your word.” (119:11)
The words of the person or persons who are the elders of our community or whom we consider to be our mentors are gold. We treasure them and store them away in our hearts. Long after the person is gone, we take out their words in times of need and the words comfort us and give us wisdom to solve the problems. We freely pass them along to others who might benefit. A body passes away, but when we share words of wisdom, they live forever.
“The stone that the builders rejected has become the capstone.” (118:22)
The capstone is the topmost stone that joins the two halves of the arch. With it in place, the arch stands firm; without it, the stones in the arch would fall. The person who is ignored in high school, left out, unpopular, should not despair. He or she will have another chance. There is always another chance. The person who does not fit in one setting just hasn’t found the place where her talents will shine. To that person, I say, “Don’t get discouraged if it takes time to find the right fit. There is a place in which you will flourish and without you in that place, the structure will collapse.”