This psalm is opened with the following: “Concerning Solomon. O God, give Your judgments to a king and Your righteousness to a king’s son (Psalms 72:1).” This frames a chapter that goes into great detail on wishes for a righteous king, in this case, Solomon, David’s son and eventual heir. The king is charged with being just, righteous, and caring of the poor as well as the rich. He will be blessed, and envied by other kings and rulers for his greatness. And then the psalm ends. “The prayers of David the son of Jesse are completed (Psalms 72:20).” Now obviously the book of Tehillim, largely attributed to David, is not over yet. There are still 78 psalms to go (but who’s counting?). But it’s interesting that after this list of blessings and hopes for his son, it’s as though his work is finished. I’m not a parent yet, but I imagine that what others say is accurate, and our greatest hopes are for our children, and that we’re fulfilled when they’re successful. Therefore, it makes sense that this is the proverbial end of David’s prayers, because when they’re fulfilled, his son is set up for only goodness.
“Do not cast me away at the time of old age; when my strength fails, do not forsake me (Psalms 71:9).” Right now, this verse may not apply to me directly. I’m twenty-seven, and I know that, God willing, I have a long life ahead of me. But I do spend a lot of time with the elderly – my grandparents, grandparents-in-law, and members of my community. Particularly with my grandparents, I see the vulnerability of age. It can make you dependent, lonely, and unmoored from the person who you were and maybe still see yourself as. As people age, they need even more support, care, and connection. So this verse can be applied to God, and as a cry to fellow human beings. It’s too easy to forget those who aren’t physically present, to not leave a place for them, or to not go out of our way to include and appreciate them. We need to appreciate and honor these members of our families and communities, rather than abandoning them in their times of need.
The verse for today is pretty straightforward, in a kind of self-serving way. “May those who seek my life be shamed and humiliated; may those who desire my harm turn back and be disgraced (Psalms 70:3).” To me, this seems pretty on point, if not slightly selfish. But honestly, it doesn’t bother me. I understand the idea of looking out for yourself, and for your own, above others, or even at their expense if it comes to it. Sometimes I wish I were a better, more altruistic person, but I completely get the idea of wanting revenge, or to get back at those who wrong us. I’m lucky that I haven’t had many situations where this has come up in real life, so for now, I’m happy to leave it in the theoretical realm.
Today, my family celebrated several simchas. We had a party for two of our cousins, celebrating their respective 90th and 88th birthdays, and their 68th wedding anniversary. Tomorrow is my first wedding anniversary, and it’s nothing short of inspiring to see these two amazing people and role models still so in love and best friends after a lifetime together. Both of them are Holocaust survivors, and to see them today, happy and healthy and prosperous, surrounded by an extended family full of life, is the ultimate win and joy. In today’s psalm, it says, “Answer me, O Lord, for Your kindness is good; according to Your abundant mercies, turn to me (Psalms 69:17).” That verse seemed to totally fit for today, for survivors and the success they’ve achieved through their legacy.
“In congregations bless God the Lord, from the womb of Israel (Psalms 68:27).” I’m interested in delving into the concept of the womb of Israel. The womb, obviously, is the origin source, the birthplace of all of humanity, and of the nation in this case. So when I think about blessings that come from this core place, they’re the purest, most innocent of all. Do babies bless God? I know He blesses them, but can the relationship between children and God be mutualistic as well?
“The earth gave forth its produce; God, our God, will bless us (Psalms 67:7).” Today, many people, including me, live our lives considerably disconnected from the earth. I control the temperature in my apartment so that I can stay comfortable regardless of what the weather is like outside. I’m able to eat any food I want all year round, without relying on what’s in season at any given time. So it’s hard to fully grasp the wonder and amazement of treating the earth as God’s blessing to us. In nature, produce is a miracle of science and faith, and we’d all do better if we recognized it and expressed more gratitude for the wonders around us.
In a complete juxtaposition to yesterday’s words about silence, we have this chapter. It has lots of references to using our voices in prayer, speech, and song to honor God. “Sing the glory of His name; make glorious His praise (Psalms 66:2).” So while I fully stand by everything I wrote yesterday about the beauty of quiet and peaceful contemplation, I want to fully embrace the benefits of being vocal and loud in our relationships with God. Prayer, song, and freeform words can all be holy things in the right context and with the right intention. So many of the sounds we make are thoughtless or insignificant. They’re mainly filler. But when we take a step back and speak with purpose, we infuse our conversations and relationships with meaning. Any interaction between people can be a sacred act if it’s entered into with the right mentality, and the words we speak are agents of change and impact.
“Silence is praise to You, O God in Zion, and to You a vow is paid (Psalms 65:2).” Silence is something incredibly challenging to come by, particularly today. We are constantly experiencing sound – people, vehicles, phones, computers, everything. Even when I’m having downtime, I constantly feel like I need background noise. When I read, I leave brainless TV shows on as well; ones that I don’t actively listen to, but have filling up the space of the silence. There are very few people that I can sit in silence with – I feel an obligation to fill that perceived void. When I’ve tried meditation before, the whole idea of focusing on breath and silence is very intimidating. But in moments of natural silence, there’s something sacred. When I was able to be alone in nature a few weeks ago, it was beautiful. Silence allows for openings of holiness and it’s something I want to allow in much more.
This is another chapter that I had a hard time finding a verse to connect with in. The chapter as a whole talks about evildoers, and luckily, it’s not something that I can relate to or that resonates with me. So it’s hard to find personal meaning in the words. “To shoot at the innocent in secret places; they shoot at him suddenly and do not fear (Psalms 64:5).” That seems to me to be the ultimate summary of pure evil. To intentionally attack the innocent and without fear or remorse is the complete essence of an act of evil. How can someone be that one-sided? I’d like to hope that even with evil people, there are layers of meaning and complexity. But this chapter doesn’t involve that – it’s just about evil people doing atrocious things. Hopefully tomorrow’s reading will involve more emotions, and more things to relate to.
This chapter has a theme that we’ll definitely come back to in other Psalms, and particularly when we get to Shir HaShirim, the Song of Songs. It makes love of God an almost lustful longing, something like missing and wanting a lover. It’s all-encompassing, passionate, and almost reckless in its search for fulfillment. “O God, You are my God, I seek You. My soul thirsts for You; my flesh longs for You, in an arid and thirsty land, without water (Psalms 63:2).” See what I mean?
It’s definitely a weird way for me to think about God. While I definitely believe that healthy relations are holy, and that there’s nothing wrong, and indeed everything right, with consenting sex, I don’t think about it in a God-context. Should I?