“He makes winds His messengers, burning fire His ministers (Psalms 104:4).” When I read this verse, what it immediately raised for me is symbolism. I, and I assume I’m not alone in this, sometimes find myself putting a lot of faith in symbols that I designate for myself:
If I see a formation of Canadian geese today, it means my Grandpa Irving agrees with my decision.
If it takes an even number of steps to get to that door, it’s going to work out.
That rainbow means he loves me.
And so on, and so forth. None of it has any basis in reality – I intellectually recognize that my successes and failures are in no way contingent on messages from birds, or circumstantial events. But if we’re told that God uses nature and our environments as messengers for His words and intentions, maybe I’m not so farfetched?
“Who forgives all your iniquity, Who heals all your illnesses (Psalms 103:3).” This verse jumped out at me right away because I’m hoping for some forgiveness right now. I made a mistake yesterday (sorry for the vague details), and I’m now waiting for the consequences. I don’t know what they’ll be, or how harsh, or what my different options are for fixing things. So right now, my ongoing prayer is for forgiveness and protection. I’m happy to do what I can to make up for my own actions, but I don’t want to be defined by my mistakes. I want to overcome them, and I hope to not be in limbo much longer – for better or worse, definitive answers always seem better to me than playing a waiting game.
“Let this be inscribed for the latest generation, and a [newly] created people will praise Yah (Psalms 102:19).” What creates a people? How is a new group forged? I’ve been thinking about that a lot lately, albeit on a much smaller scale. When I bring together new groups at work, the first thing that I generally want to do with them is engage in team-building. A huge part of that is the creation of a community culture, through shared norms, traditions, and practices. And while this is just for small, time-bound cohorts, it applies everywhere. The Israelites were forged into a people in the desert, bound together by the shared experiences of slavery and redemption, and given a shared goal and mission to work towards. I can apply those principles to my own groups, but how do they apply on a large-scale today? Do Americans have a shared national story and collective goals anymore?
“I shall concern myself with the way of integrity. When will it come to me? I shall walk with the innocence of my heart within my house (Psalms 101:2).” I’m drawn to this verse because of the use of the word integrity. I think that all of us should be concerned with integrity, both our own, and that of those we engage with. The primary definition of integrity is ‘the quality of being honest and having strong moral principles; moral uprightness.’ I want to ensure that I take an active role in being introspective about my own integrity. I want to stand strong on my principles, regardless of who is in the room, and to be fully whole in all contexts. I want to be outspoken about my beliefs in atmospheres of support, and those of opposition. For me, integrity is behaving as though everyone is watching when no one is watching, and keeping myself centered and grounded in all situations.
Wow. Today I’m reaching 100 psalms. I’m honestly overwhelmed by that number. When I began this book of Tanakh, I was beyond intimidated by the number of chapters in this particular book. 150 seemed like an overwhelming number, lasting multiple months more than any previous book, and with no overarching storyline to keep things moving along. And now, I’m more than halfway done, and reaching this major round number emphasizes that for me. After today we have 50 chapters left, which means there are still over two months to go in psalms, but it’s starting to feel like the end is in sight.
“For the Lord is good; His kindness is forever, and until generation after generation is His faith (Psalms 100:5).” I love that this verse emphasizes God’s faith, not just our faith in Him. There’s a comfort in knowing that God believes in us as much as we’re supposed to believe in Him. It’s a mutual relationship, which makes it all that much stronger. I personally tend to thrive the most when I know that someone believes in me and is invested in my success. So today my goal is to hold that feeling close by, that no matter what I’m doing, someone has faith in me and my actions.
“They will acknowledge Your great and awesome name, [that] it is holy (Psalms 99:3).” I just got back from a weekend at camp, where I had the opportunity to teach amazing groups of teens all about philanthropy. They got super into the material, which was great, and a lot of their questions got me thinking. Philanthropy is something that I firmly believe someone can engage with at any age, and at any level. But a lot of the time, it can feel like the only giving that’s acknowledged is the kind that gets your name on a plaque or a building. Major gifts are definitely important, and deserve all that they get in terms of recognition and honor. But as someone who hopes that everyone will engage in this holy work on the level that is accessible to them, I hope that organizations can work to find a way that every gift, large or small, can be acknowledged for its contribution.
“The sea and the fullness thereof will roar, the inhabited world and the inhabitants thereof. Rivers will clap hands; together mountains will sing praises (Psalms 98:7-8).” Today is a rainy day in DC, one of those days where it feels like the whole world is overflowing with water. I wish I were on the beach, and could hear the power of the water there, but instead I’m in my gray urban storm for the day. It shows me it’s all about perspective. I could be bummed about rain and the stormy sky, but instead I’m trying to be mindfully joyful. Rain means blessings for the earth, an excuse to wear warmer clothes for a day in the summer, and everyone huddled together.
“Rejoice, you righteous, with the Lord, and give thanks to His holy name (Psalms 97:12).” I love that in this verse, we’re not just recommended, but literally commanded to express joy. I want to be more mindful about bringing joy into my life on a regular basis. I’ve been focusing on gratitude, thinking of good things and things that I appreciate every day, and now I want to expand that into intentionally making space for joy every day. What are the things that each of us can do to make ourselves happy and to ensure that we have time and space to rejoice every day?
This is another example of a psalm that I already know very well. It’s recited during every Kabbalat Shabbat service that I’ve been to, and usually leads to singing and dancing in particularly energetic services. I have so many memories of Shabbats in Israel, with youth groups and friends, and reaching this point in the service, when people would get up and dance spontaneous horas and experience pure joy through Shabbat. “The heavens will rejoice and the earth will exult; the sea and the fullness thereof will roar (Psalms 96:11).” In those moments on Shabbat, joy is ubiquitous, and it feels like the whole world, people and nature alike, are caught up in it.
A double post today, since yesterday I was busy celebrating a dear friend’s engagement. It turned into a lovely, busy weekend, and I’m still catching up in a number of different areas. So, two quotes, from two psalms.
“Fortunate is the man whom You, Yah, chastise, and from Your Torah You teach him (Psalms 94:12).” This highlights one of God’s many attributes. In this case, He takes on the role of a parent to us, His children. I was lucky enough to spend yesterday with my parents, so this definitely hits home. No matter how old I’ve gotten, how mature, how independent, parents are still parents, in all of the best and most complex ways. Sometimes we need our parents to say the things to us that no one else will, and to come from a place of love to make us better.
“Come, let us prostrate ourselves and bow; let us kneel before the Lord, our Maker (Psalms 95:6).” This manifestation of God speaks to a less than relatable, parental attribute. In this verse, He is completely dominant and powerful, like an absolute monarch from another era. How are we supposed to reconcile both of these realities in the same being? When do we relate to God as one of these things, and when is He the other? Do we choose, or does He?