Psalm 25

After a year in which all of the holidays have been “early,” we finally arrived at the month of Adar on February 1. In order to adjust the calendar so that Passover will fall in the Spring, this year is a leap year. This means that the month of Adar is doubled, and Purim is celebrated in the second month of Adar. Passover will begin on April 15. I guess we can all start complaining that the holidays are late again!

There are 150 chapters in the book of Psalms. I have now finished 1/6 of the book, 25 Psalms. The structure of Psalm 25 is an alphabetical acrostic; the theme is that of sin and forgiveness.

Let me know Your paths, Adonai; teach me Your ways; guide me in Your true way and teach me … (25:4-5)

Where do we look for wisdom? How do we know what God wants of us? There is no simple guidebook for life, easily searchable. There is no Siri for life, to whom we can ask, “Should I tell my boss I am not willing to be less than 100% honest with our customers if it might mean losing my job?” “Can I lie to get out of jury duty?” “Is it OK to choose not to aggressively treat my terminal cancer?”

For Jewish wisdom, we have Torah, Tanakh, and all of the literature of commentaries and Midrash and Mussar (ethical training) and ritual, civil, and criminal law that for centuries has grappled with such issues. Nonetheless, it is not as easy as finding a simple and direct answer in a book. The instruction to “Do what is right and good in the sight of Adonai” (Deut. 6:18) means that we ought to life a life of good character; engage in acts of hesed (love); celebrate the Jewish calendar; eat holy food; and continually engage in study of Torah.

It is the last item, Talmud Torah, Torah study, that is the key to the rest. It is a mitzvah to learn. Through learning in its broadest sense, we catch glimmers of wisdom that will serve to center us as we encounter the questions of life. We will have the wisdom and skill to examine the questions with equanimity, to analyze, to hear and learn from the sacred texts, find answers that we might ultimately reject. We will discover the values that inform our decision making, and use them to find a path illuminated by God’s ways.

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