“You overwhelm my soul with strength.” (138:3)
Most people are capable of handling whatever set of challenges they receive. It is not so much that “God doesn’t give you more than you can handle” than it is simply that most of us do what we need to do. We might not have thought that we were capable of handling such a challenge, and in hindsight, we might wonder how we accomplished it. We did it because we had no other choice, and because at any point that we thought we could do no more, we summoned the extra strength to finish the job because we had to.
“Who stand nightly in the house of Adonai …” (134:1)
For those who want to build a strong spiritual core, there is no substitute for doing the hard work of prayer, study, and meditation, along with taking care of their physical self with good nutrition and exercise. This is a daily regimen of spirit-building, training themselves to be aware of their place in the world as beings created in the image of God. Goodness and connectedness do not come naturally, but only over time do they develop an innate sense of what is right and true.
“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.