Psalm 106

“They grumbled in their tents.” (106:25)

When my wife complains to me about something that happened in the supermarket, at work, or with the kids, she feels better. I don’t have to do anything. Simply by listening attentively, I can enable her to off-load the frustration. However, I have trouble refraining from trying to fix the problem and suggesting what she could have done or might yet do. I want to take action because “grumbling in the tent,” only soothes the complainer, it doesn’t make the rest of the world any better. On the other hand, I remind myself, if attentive listening alone makes a happier wife which leads to a happier me and a measurable increase in world happiness. So I shut up and listen.

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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 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!”

Psalm 78

“They ate till they were sated.” (78:29)

A weight loss diet should be simple. Eat until you are satisfied, and then stop eating. For the vast majority of us, our bodies tell us when we have eaten enough. Our problem is that we are not listening. Or we don’t want to listen, because the stimulation of taste, smell, and texture gives us so much pleasure that we shut down the internal voice yelling ‘Stop!’ and take another bite, another helping, and more dessert. The solution is simple and infinitely difficult. Practice active listening, both external, to loved ones, friends, and co-workers, and internal, to your own body.

Psalm 47

“All peoples, clap hands.” (47:2)

There is no better boost to your enjoyment of music than clapping hands to the beat (except if you are at the symphony listening to classical music). Sway, move your arms and legs, and dance. Let your body vibrate in tune with the music. During prayer, as well, let yourself transcend the intellectual experience of reading words on a page. At appropriate moments, sing along with the cantor and encourage your soul to vibrate to the tune of gratitude, thanksgiving, and dedicating yourself to God’s mitzvot (commands). Some prayers intend to move God to action. More often, prayer intends to transform the pray-er.