Psalm 82

“Judge the wretched and the orphan, vindicate the lowly and the poor.” (82:3)

Reminder: These reflections do not necessarily represent the original or contextual meaning of the verse.

We are called to judge and to vindicate, but this does not mean that the purpose of judging is to vindicate. It is not a kinder, gentler version of “give ‘em a fair trail and then hang ‘em!” We are called to hold everyone accountable, even those who are at a disadvantage. And we are also called to remember that all too often the poor suffer greater punishment than the wealthy because they lack the resources to present the best defense.

Psalm 81

“For it is a law for Israel.” (81:5)

What makes us Israel is a shared sense of law, of obligation. We are Israel when we clean our homes and celebrate Passover. We are Israel when we are conscious of the contents of the food which we put into our bodies. We are Israel when we rest from creative acts on Shabbat. We are Israel when we join a Jewish community for prayer. We are Israel when we celebrate a boy’s birth with circumcision, celebrate puberty with bar or bat mitzvah, celebrate marriage with a huppah, and commemorate a death with Shiva.

Psalm 80

“You cleared a place for it.” (80:10)

When we have a messy work space and want to set out some papers or books for a new project, we need to clear a place. The same thing is true for our minds. When our minds are crowded and occupied with projects, concerns, fears, and plans, we don’t have room to focus on the immediate things that are in front of us. We need to pause for a few moments and focus on taking several breaths, calming and clearing our mind so we have the space to pay attention to that which is right before our eyes.

Psalm 79

“… with none to bury them.” (79:3)

Burial is a fundamental Jewish mitzvah (God-commanded obligation). Along with procreation, brit milah (circumcision), and refraining from eating the sciatic nerve of a kosher animal, it is one of a small handful of mitzvot one can learn from the book of Genesis.* Many Jewish communities, in fact, began with the formation of burial societies and the purchase of land for a cemetery. Planning for one’s burial in a Jewish cemetery can and should be a proper Jewish behavior.

*The mitzvah of burial is normally derived from Deuteronomy 21:23, but I am learning it from Abraham’s burial of Sarah in Genesis 23.

Psalm 78

“They ate till they were sated.” (78:29)

A weight loss diet should be simple. Eat until you are satisfied, and then stop eating. For the vast majority of us, our bodies tell us when we have eaten enough. Our problem is that we are not listening. Or we don’t want to listen, because the stimulation of taste, smell, and texture gives us so much pleasure that we shut down the internal voice yelling ‘Stop!’ and take another bite, another helping, and more dessert. The solution is simple and infinitely difficult. Practice active listening, both external, to loved ones, friends, and co-workers, and internal, to your own body.