“Our mouths shall be filled with laughter.” (126:2)
Judaism can a religion filled with the memory of tragedy, but nonetheless embraces “worship Adonai with gladness” as a fundamental principle, not only as a mode of prayer, but also as a way of life. Facing hardship with a positive attitude and trying to find laughter within pain is the reason that Jewish comedy is powerful. The ability to find humor in the presence of uncertainty, danger, and even evil, is a precious ability to cultivate. Jews cope with Pharoah and Haman by filling their mouths with laughter at the Seder and at Purim and, sometimes, can even laugh at Hitler.
Note to readers: I apologize for missing my normal thrice-weekly schedule in the last couple of weeks. I fell behind because of all of the fall Jewish holidays. I’ll do my best to keep up with the schedule because I’d like to complete this project of writing mini-reflections on each of the Psalms by the end of 2017. However, I leave for a week in Israel this coming Monday so I may miss a few more posts.
“May it be well with you!” (122:9)
Consider the simplicity of the Psalmist’s closing words to his family. “Be well!” The psalmists concludes with a prayer for peace and a prayer for goodness. He doesn’t mention wealth, fame, honor, beauty, power, influence, or any of the other things that dominate the lives of so many “important” people today. Goodness is a moral quality, so in wishing that family members are well, you might understand that the most important gauge of the quality of one’s life is moral.
“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.
“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.
“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.