“The mouth of liars will be stopped up.” (63:12)
We first tell a lie to avoid making ourselves look bad and then to make ourselves look better. A successful lie is an ego boost, causing the spotlight of adoration to swing our way. Lying becomes habitual when we feed our ego a series of little lies. The now overfed ego can no longer survive on a normal humble diet, but demands constant stroking and feeding. At this point, bending the truth is a way of life and we no longer notice whether people believe us or not, we thrive on the volume of their attention. The solution — close up the mouth, turn off the lies, and starve the ego into submission.
“Add days to the days of the king; may his years be from generation to generation.” (61:7)
The argument for term limits is that after a certain period of time, elected officials become difficult to remove because the thoughtless inertia of voters keeps them in office. Such officials no longer feel beholden to their constituents, and the only way to remove them is to limit the number of terms of office they are allow to hold.
The counter-argument is that learning how to be an effective leader takes time and experience, and thus we are best represented by long term elected officials. Better the experienced leader we know than the unseasoned novice we don’t.
“They were fearfully afraid” or “They feared, fearfully.” (53:6)
The repetition and rhythm of the Hebrew phrase pahadu pahad is difficult to capture. It could be rendered, “They feared fear” bringing to mind the line from Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s first inaugural address, “the only thing we have to fear is fear itself.” When we are afraid, we make bad decisions. Fear triggers the ‘fight or flight’ response, which discourages conversation, negotiation, or compromise as options. Fear, FDR goes on to say, paralyzes our efforts to advance our cause. When we are in the grips of fear, we should recall the words of Rabbi Nahman of Breslov, “the whole world is a very narrow bridge; the essence is not to be afraid.”
“Our ancestors have told us the deeds You performed in their time.” (44:2)
The sacred texts in our religious traditions are stories that have come to us from our ancestors. Archeology can confirm that there was a King David and draw maps of the city of David, but we can only learn the character of David, both good and bad, from Biblical stories. The Bible, even the Torah, is not as much a book of law (although it contains long passages of law) as it is a book of stories. We learn a set of values from the accounts of Biblical characters, God included, filtered through centuries of Israelite and Jewish life.
“Why so downcast, my soul?” (42:6)
A brief conversation with the soul: “Hey soul – it’s a beautiful day and I’d like to enjoy myself. Stop dragging me down with your nagging!”
“No problem. I’ll stop when you give some attention to these issues that you’ve been ignoring.”
“Those are your issues, not mine. I just need a break! Let me enjoy myself for once and I won’t be so angry.”
“Look – your problem is not your co-workers, your spouse, your children, or the driver who doesn’t accelerate fast enough. Your problem is deeper, a spiritual problem. You are looking for ways to experience the rush of anger because it makes you feel alive.”
Listen to your soul.