Psalm 25

“May integrity and uprightness watch over me” (25:21)

We need that little voice to whisper in our ear when we are tempted to stray from the path of goodness and righteousness. When no one is watching, it is easy to talk ourselves into taking shortcuts, eating unwisely, and letting loose our selfish inclinations. We need to listen to the still, small, voice of our conscience telling us that even if no one else knows, we know whether we live with integrity or not. And when we succumb and habituate ourselves to giving in to evil in private, it will infect our public lives as well.

Psalm 24

“The earth is Adonai’s and the fullness thereof.” (24:1)

We are temporary residents of a world entirely belonging to the Blessed Holy One. Perhaps because we don’t own the world, we treat it as poorly as many apartment dwellers treat their living space. Homeowners tend to take care of their property better than renters. Perhaps the Psalmist should have written, “The earth, and everything in it, belong to you. If you want your investment to increase in value, take care of it.” Instead, he suggests that we are guests in someone else’s home. Only those who show honor to their Host deserve standing in God’s world as recipients of God’s blessing.

Psalm 23

“I shall not want.” (23:1)

The mantra of North America is “I want.” We eat too much, spend too much, acquire too much, and are never satisfied. The next time you are tempted to take seconds of dessert or buy a shiny new toy, adopt the mantra “I shall not want.” Try quieting the insistent voice of the yetzer hara inside you rather than feeding it. Focus on what you need, rather than what you want. You’ll discover that your true needs are much more modest than your desires, and your level of satisfaction will rise.

Psalm 22

“My heart is like wax.” (22:15)

In the Psalm, the melting wax heart denotes weakness. But taken in and of itself, a wax heart is the opposite of a hard heart. Rather than being hard-hearted and stubborn, isn’t it better to have a sensitive malleable heart? A hard-hearted person thinks of himself or herself first. Do these people really need my help? Why should I be the one to step in? How will I benefit? A soft-hearted person thinks of others first and looks for ways to ease their suffering. A heart of wax is the price we pay for being vulnerable and allowing ourselves to feel.

Psalm 21

“You have set upon his head a crown of fine gold.” (21:4)

We might understand the function of a kippah to be a mark of identification as a Jew and a reminder to the wearer of his or her Jewish responsibilities. A gold crown is a kippah, a thousand times heavier. Every person wears a crown denoting him or her as a being created in the image of God. It’s the ultimate participation trophy, with a twist. The crown is a weighty burden that functions as a constant reminder to live up to the responsibility and privilege of being human.