Psalm 88

“I stretch out my hands to You.” (88:10)

Human beings are social animals. We need contact with others. In particular, God created us in pairs, to be in relationship with another. To reach out to another person is either to show our vulnerability and admit that we need help, or to notice that the other is in need and offer assistance. The image in this Psalm is particularly poignant. The seeker of aid needs to stretch, reach beyond his or her comfort zone, to plead for assistance.

Psalm 87

“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.

Psalm 86

“In my time of trouble I call You, for You will answer me.” (86:7)

When it comes to medical issues and men, we tend to ignore the problem and hope it goes away. Minor problems can heal without intervention, but significant issues rarely disappear without attention. Untreated, we might at some point find ourselves in serious trouble asking God for help. God’s response might very well be, “I send you that twinge of pain or that questionable blood test for a reason. That was my answer to your question even before you asked it. Get yourself to the doctor, do not ignore your body’s symptoms!”

Psalm 85

“Truth springs up from the earth; justice looks down from heaven.” (85:12)

The biblical parallel suggests that truth and justice are two sides of the same coin, just as heaven and earth form the entirely of the world (please excuse the bible’s geocentric picture of the universe). To create a community of justice, we have to be willing to accept the truth, even when it is unpleasant; and to be able to speak the truth, we have to live in a place which values justice for all, not only for those who agree with the majority.

Psalm 84

“How lovely is Your dwelling-place!” (84:2)

What makes a home beautiful is subjective. It may be stunning architecture, lavish furnishings, engaging art on the walls, a lived in look with pictures of family on every surface, a collection of interesting knick-knacks on the coffee table, or the presence of children and toys strewn about everywhere. Any home can be cold and sterile, and any home can be lovely. It is the people in the home, by their welcoming embrace or their cold demeanor, that make the crucial different between a lovely home and a depressing home.