Psalm 90

“Let the work of our hands prosper!” (90:17)

Whether we sit at a keyboard and produce words, mold clay into aesthetically pleasing or useful shapes, or work with glass, metal, plastic, or wood, in the end we might hope that the product produced by our hands adds value to the world. The knowledge that the increase in value came from the interaction between our own hands and the raw materials is eminently satisfying. It makes us feel useful and this is emotionally satisfying. However, the artist and the inventor who go one step beyond, who create something that has never before existed in the history of the world, might feel the march of human progress through their very hands. How exciting is that!

Psalm 89

“Happy is the people who know the festive shout.” (89:16)

Some of my most powerful and positive Jewish memories are those that take place at summer camp and involve “music.” The word “music” is in quotation marks because the sounds being produces might also be fairly described as noise — yelling, the sound of a jet engine taking off, or an elephant’s mating call. However, there is no doubting the enthusiasm in the voices and the joy on the faces of the young campers producing the cacophony of sound. It is pure energy and rises straight up to heaven where we can be sure that it rocks God’s throne!

Psalm 88

“I stretch out my hands to You.” (88:10)

Human beings are social animals. We need contact with others. In particular, God created us in pairs, to be in relationship with another. To reach out to another person is either to show our vulnerability and admit that we need help, or to notice that the other is in need and offer assistance. The image in this Psalm is particularly poignant. The seeker of aid needs to stretch, reach beyond his or her comfort zone, to plead for assistance.

Psalm 87

“All my roots are in You.” (87:7)

When the Zohar or Hasidic mystical literature speak of returning to one’s roots, we need to imagine an inverted tree rooted in the supernal world above. The energy source that powers the sun, that sustains the world, comes from the infinite God and streams into our world in an ever-flowing channel. When we engage in mitzvot and acts of gemilut hasadim (loving-kindness), we widen the channel. When we engage in selfish non-loving behavior or sin, we narrow the channels. The result of love is an energy-filled, loving world. The result of hate is a cold, listless, fearful world.

Psalm 86

“In my time of trouble I call You, for You will answer me.” (86:7)

When it comes to medical issues and men, we tend to ignore the problem and hope it goes away. Minor problems can heal without intervention, but significant issues rarely disappear without attention. Untreated, we might at some point find ourselves in serious trouble asking God for help. God’s response might very well be, “I send you that twinge of pain or that questionable blood test for a reason. That was my answer to your question even before you asked it. Get yourself to the doctor, do not ignore your body’s symptoms!”