“Halleluyah, Hallelu.” (150:1)
One year.150 mini-reflections on Psalms. Goal accomplished.
A good goal is one which you need to stretch a bit to achieve, but it has to be within reach. A goal to eat at least one meal a day is not very useful for most people, because typical, healthy, individuals can achieve it without any effort. Setting a goal for my 5’ 6”, over fifty year old body to play in a Super Bowl is not useful, because this goal is simply not achievable.
When you accomplish the task that you’ve set before you and learned something in the process, you should feel good and celebrate. And so the Psalmist concludes his work with the refrain of Halleluyah, Thank God!
“Every day I will bless You.” (145:2)
It is not enough to say ‘thank you’ once and expect that it will serve to affirm one’s gratitude for an indeterminate period of time. The world does not owe us anything; the debt goes the other way. We owe the world, and we ought to cultivate the mindset that we justify our existence when we spend our lives giving. So any time that we receive, we bless the giver in order to remind ourselves of our obligation to show gratitude for all that the Giver of life has given us.
“Like a bird escaped from the fowler’s trap.” (124:7)
Upon recovery from a serious illness or surviving a life-threatening crisis, Jewish tradition suggests that we recite the blessing, “You are the source of blessing, Adonai our God, eternal ruler of the universe, who bestows goodness upon the undeserving, who bestowed favor upon me.” The blessing is recited in public, so those who hear can respond, “May the One who bestowed favor upon you continue to favor you with all that is good.” It is not enough to survive and breathe out a private “thank God!” Judaism prefers that we express our gratitude publicly.
“I recall Your wonders.” (77:12)
I love my wife. I confess, however, that I do not spend my days obsessing over why I love her, whether it makes sense to continue to love her, what it means to love her, whether the love is reciprocal, or how I should best express the love from moment to moment (note to self: I would do better if I did spend more time on the last question). For me, it is enough that I see her and remember the wonders of our life together; this sense of wonder and gratitude defines our loving relationship. And so it is with God.
“Adonai, who supports my life.” (54:6)
The human body, or any living system, plant or animal, is a miracle of complexity. Whether by evolution or by the word of God, life is a wonder. The individual life-form, from its cellular level functions to its large-scale interaction with its environment, has to function nearly perfectly in order to survive. I choose to express my gratitude for my existence to a God who created me and infused me with a life-force and sustaining energy. When the time comes for my life to end, I will gratefully return both my physical and metaphysical being to the Creator.