Psalm 110

“He raises his head.” (110:7)

The Psalmist is speaking of a person whose posture suggests that he is confident that he is under the protection of God, a hero, secure in his ability to succeed. This is in contrast to the person who advises “Keep your head down” or “Keep your nose to the grindstone,” who comes from the opposite perspective, suggesting that we keep a low profile and not call attention to ourselves.

During the most important Jewish prayers, we stand upright in an attentive, dignified posture. When addressing the Blessed Holy One, we want to present ourselves well. We do well to approach others with the same confident posture.


Psalm 101

“May a crooked heart be far from me.” (101:4)

A well known company which purports to make business decisions based on its Christian values was caught illegally buying antiquities on the black market and importing them into the United States using questionable shipping labels. Most famously, this company successfully sued the United States government to avoid including birth control coverage in their employees’ health insurance. Schadenfreude aside (for those who think they should have obeyed the Affordable Care Act mandate), this demonstrates how easy it is to compartmentalize and behave one way on the outside and entirely differently on the inside. The gold standard is tokho k’boro, one’s inside and outside should perfectly match.

Psalm 100

“God’s/His steadfast love is eternal.” (100:5)

If we measure love as a feeling, our love towards our siblings, spouse, parents, and children waxes and wanes. Psalm 100, however, does not consider love to be a feeling but rather a connecting strand. Our model for love is that no matter how God might “feel” about Israel at any given moment — exasperated, angry, joyful, loving, betrayed, happy — the connection of love is unbroken. If we behave with this understanding, then even when we are disciplining our children, we will temper it with love. When we are exasperated with our parents, we will respond with love. When we are angry at our spouse, we approach him or her with love.

Psalm 99

“You exacted retribution for their misdeeds.” (99:8)

“Frier” is Israeli slang for a sucker, a pushover, a chump. No one wants to be the person whom everyone walks over or gets the best of in a deal. When someone hurts us, insults us, or takes advantage of us, we want to get them back. If we can’t do it ourselves, we might say — or at least think — God will get you for that! As hard as it may be, be the mature one in the schoolyard fight. Stand proud and decline to continue the engagement. The cost of fighting the fight to the end is usually more than you expect.

Psalm 95

“Come, let us bow down and kneel.” (95:6)

Judaism incorporates some bowing into daily liturgy and a little bit of symbolic not-quite-kneeling. A few times a year, on Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur, traditional Jews take kneeling one step further into full prostration. Excessive bowing has the appearance of false, obsequious, groveling, but careful, judicious, but serious, bowing, is useful to one’s character to remind oneself that no matter how powerful we might feel, that our power is limited. We bow to show our humility before God, and we bow to remind ourselves to behave with humility before others