This brief comment is in memory of my late mother (Brainah Leah bat Moshe Aharon) and for all those who read Tehillim for the sake of others.
The 4th Chapter of Psalms is also attributed to King David’s authorship. It focuses on sinfulness and repentance, and the solace gained from the latter. It appears to be a continuation of the theme from Psalm 3 – David’s lament about son Abshalom’s attempt to usurp the throne.
בְּקָרְאִי, עֲנֵנִי אֱלֹהֵי צִדְקִי–בַּצָּר, הִרְחַבְתָּ לִּי; חָנֵּנִי, וּשְׁמַע תְּפִלָּתִי.
Answer when I call, O God of my righteousness, You who set me free when I was in distress; be gracious to me, and hear my prayer. (Psalms 4:2)
The message in the psalm is that the victories of sinners are temporary and meaningless, and that only repentance can bring true happiness. It is a request to God for deliverance from past distress.
בְּשָׁלוֹם יַחְדָּו, אֶשְׁכְּבָה וְאִישָׁן: כִּי-אַתָּה ה לְבָדָד; לָבֶטַח, תּוֹשִׁיבֵנִי.
In peace will I both lay down and sleep; for You, LORD, make me dwell alone in safety. (Psalms 4:9)
Knowing King David was immensely grieved by Abshalom’s death, one might speculate that in this Psalm he had his son’s sinfulness and potential redemption in mind, as much as his own.
The book Scarcity; the New Science of Having Less and How It Defines our Lives, written in 2013 by two gifted academics Sendhil Mullainathan and Eldar Shafir, discusses the contemporary problem of not having enough time to complete everything we’d like to. It deftly points out how the human mind calculates trade-offs and demonstrates the benefits and shortcomings of the hectic life we all sometimes find we’re living.
The authors’ early premise is that in the short term, putting ourselves under deadline pressure achieves heightened productivity one wouldn’t reach by the lack of a target or goal. But it also illustrates how by living from deadline to deadline, project to project, we lose the ability to see the wider picture and discern between the forest and the trees. Thus, while being highly productive, we may be doing things inconsistent with or even a betrayal to our true selves.
In a world where we mostly are subject to the demands of others, it’s important to measure and control the amount of time we allocate to that which is essential. Perhaps the commodity that is most finite for all of us is time. Once past, there is no reclaiming how it was used.
A lesson from Psalm 4 might be to everyday ask ourselves, have we spent our time well. To lay down and awake with a sense of peace, requires self-honesty and the willingness to ‘repent’ and change the ways we allocate our time. To make sure we’re applying the right measure to the Scarcity we’re faced with, taking 5 minutes at the end of our day to reflect and then adjust our direction seems like a small but immeasurably valuable task.