Psalm 64

“Their tongue shall be their downfall.” (64:9)

Sir Walter Scott wrote, “O what a tangled web we weave when first we practice to deceive.” One lie builds on the next and on the next. Eventually, the whole ungainly pile falls down under its own weight.

Sometime in the first half of the 19th century, a Reverend Mr. Stuart, advised three questions to be put to ourselves before speaking evil of any person: “Is it true? Is it kind? Is it necessary?” Whether it is the tongue or the fingers we are exercising, we would be wise to heed Mr. Stuart’s advice.

Psalm 63

“The mouth of liars will be stopped up.” (63:12)

We first tell a lie to avoid making ourselves look bad and then to make ourselves look better. A successful lie is an ego boost, causing the spotlight of adoration to swing our way. Lying becomes habitual when we feed our ego a series of little lies. The now overfed ego can no longer survive on a normal humble diet, but demands constant stroking and feeding. At this point, bending the truth is a way of life and we no longer notice whether people believe us or not, we thrive on the volume of their attention. The solution — close up the mouth, turn off the lies, and starve the ego into submission.

Psalm 62

“Like a leaning wall, a tottering fence?” (62:4)

The concept of a fence around the Torah is meant to protect and honor the Torah by not letting get too close to a violation of its restrictions. An example — light Shabbat candles 18 minutes before sunset, so if you are a few minutes late, you have not kindled fire on the Sabbath.

A fence which is not well maintained or which is routinely breached does not honor the property which it surrounds. The solution is not to build a wider fence or higher wall, but rather to repair the current boundary marker and make sure people understand why it is there.

Psalm 61

“Add days to the days of the king; may his years be from generation to generation.” (61:7)

The argument for term limits is that after a certain period of time, elected officials become difficult to remove because the thoughtless inertia of voters keeps them in office. Such officials no longer feel beholden to their constituents, and the only way to remove them is to limit the number of terms of office they are allow to hold.

The counter-argument is that learning how to be an effective leader takes time and experience, and thus we are best represented by long term elected officials. Better the experienced leader we know than the unseasoned novice we don’t.

Psalm 60

Heal its fractures because it is shaking. (60:4)

When there are fractures in a structure and it is agitated, the fractures will grow. This is true of both a piece of land and a community. Here is the Psalmist’s theology: The community which is fractured and unable to find stability in a relationship among the pieces will ignore its obligations to God, which will result in a destabilization of the land. Or perhaps, the community’s mistreatment of the environment will destabilize the land, angering God, and as a result the community will suffer and fracture. Either way, Torah teaches that a harmonious environment and a harmonious community are inextricably connected.