“Your guardian will not slumber.” (121:3)
Think about parents who just brought home a tiny infant, helpless and demanding. Mom and Dad are understandably reluctant to leave this new member of their household unsupervised, even while the baby is sleeping. So no matter where they are in the house, there is a monitor, video or audio, connecting them to baby. When they themselves go to sleep, the lightest baby peep, the softest cry, is enough to wake them. And in fact often the lack of sounds, the thought that they can’t hear the baby breathing, is enough to rouse them in a panic. Such is the protective nature of love.
“Steadfast love overwhelms us.” (117:2)
At the end of a celebration of my 18th year as rabbi of my synagogue, the cantor asked me to stand in the middle of the center aisle of the sanctuary. He then asked the congregation to stand around me in concentric circles so they could either put their hands on my shoulders or on the shoulders of someone else who was connected to me. After the entire group was physically attached in this way, he led them in the Priestly blessing from Numbers, “May Adonai bless you and protect you ….” I was overwhelmed by the power of the congregation’s love.
“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.
“All my roots are in You.” (87:7)
When the Zohar or Hasidic mystical literature speak of returning to one’s roots, we need to imagine an inverted tree rooted in the supernal world above. The energy source that powers the sun, that sustains the world, comes from the infinite God and streams into our world in an ever-flowing channel. When we engage in mitzvot and acts of gemilut hasadim (loving-kindness), we widen the channel. When we engage in selfish non-loving behavior or sin, we narrow the channels. The result of love is an energy-filled, loving world. The result of hate is a cold, listless, fearful world.
“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.