Psalm 136

Praise Adonai; for God is good, God’s steadfast love is eternal. (136:1)

An honest theology acknowledges that God, creator of a world in which both good and bad happen to every person, perforce must be the cause of both good and bad things. As Detero-Isaiah says, “I form light and create darkness, I make peace and create evil.” (45:7) Nonetheless, we also tend to believe that ultimately, the sum of our life experience, with all of its trials and travails, is beneficial. To put it another way, better to be born than never to have existed. Despite the suffering that we experience, the majority of our lives are pleasant, enjoyable, fulfilling, and peaceful. For this, we should be thankful.

The lesson embodied in this verse is to be grateful for the good, even if the good is not complete. Do not be the kind of person who looks for what is missing. There is always something missing. You can always find the imperfection if you look hard enough. If you are the kind of person who does this, ask yourself why you have this compulsive need to find the faults. If you choose, you can be the kind of person who looks at a bad situation and finds something positive. What lesson can I learn from this difficult situation? How can it make me a better person? How can I avoid getting entangled in this difficulty in the future?

Who would you rather spend time with – the person who finds the silver lining in the storm clouds, or the person who obsesses about the one cloud on an otherwise perfectly sunny day?

2 thoughts on “Psalm 136

  1. I feel great sorrow for the 40,000,000 babies aborted over the last 40 years in the United States who never knew life. As you say, “To put it another way, better to be born than never to have existed.”

    Where was the babies’ right to choose?


    • This isn’t the place for a full discussion of a Jewish view of abortion, so let me just note that with respect to abortion, halakha is not based on rights. I don’t know exactly what rights means in a Jewish or legal context for a unborn child. The halakha of abortion is based on preserving life and maintaining health, and a belief that the mother’s life takes precedence over the life in utero.


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