Thoughts for the Week 17 November

INTER-FAITH WEEK: In case you haven’t heard, this week is Interfaith Week – an opportunity to widen our circle of those working in the service of Goodness and in devotion to the Almighty, who we feel safe getting to know and befriending, regardless of whether we agree with their theology.

To mark the occasion, Chief Rabbi Mirvis & Archbishop Justin Welby launched ‘In Good Faith,’ a dialogue and social action initiative for local communities. More details here.

THE LATE LEONARD COHEN: In the excitement and anguish of last week’s USA election results, the media had little time to reflect on the passing of legendary singer/ poet Leonard Cohen.

Here are links to the article in this week’s Jewish Chronicle with quotations from the former Chief Rabbi Lord Sacks; to the Canadian Prime Minister’s statement, to a documentary on Cohen’s early music career and to his acceptance speech for the 2011 Prince of Asturias award.

A special Kaddish evening will be held at JW3 on 12 December. Tickets are available here.

Norwegian TV asked Cohen about returning from 6 years in a Zen Buddhist retreat to learn his trusted manager had embezzled his life savings. Cohen understatedly responded, ‘Money has a way of disappearing if you don’t watch it very closely.’

On a serious note, words can’t be found to express the feeling of immense bereavement for a proudly Jewish figure who made such a disarming impact over the past half century through profound poetry and music that often seared the soul while carving out a place of distinction for the imperfect.

RECITING PSALMS Introduction: 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. [Note: Quoted verses are taken from the Mechon Mamre website.]

Chapter 17: Authorship of the 17th Chapter of Psalms is attributed to King David who both beseeched G-d to take note of his righteousness and sought protection through G-d from his enemies. Here David longed to be part of G-d’s mercy and to bask in the glory of the Divine presence.

תְּפִלָּה, לְדָוִד: שִׁמְעָה ה, צֶדֶק– הַקְשִׁיבָה רִנָּתִי, הַאֲזִינָה תְפִלָּתִי; בְּלֹא, שִׂפְתֵי מִרְמָה. A Prayer of David. Hear righteousness, O LORD, attend my cry; give ear to my prayer from lips without deceit. (Psalms 17:1)

אֲנִי-קְרָאתִיךָ כִי-תַעֲנֵנִי אֵ-ל; הַט-אָזְנְךָ לִי, שְׁמַע אִמְרָתִי. As for me, I call upon You, for You will answer me, O God; incline Your ear to me, hear my speech. (Psalms 17:6)

David taught us that in praying to the Almighty one can only succeed through sincerity of heart, honesty and an absence of self-deception.

קוּמָה ה– קַדְּמָה פָנָיו, הַכְרִיעֵהוּ;פַּלְּטָה נַפְשִׁי, מֵרָשָׁע חַרְבֶּךָ. Arise, O LORD, confront him, cast him down; deliver my soul from the wicked, by Your sword; (Psalms 17:13)

אֲנִי–בְּצֶדֶק, אֶחֱזֶה פָנֶיךָ; אֶשְׂבְּעָה בְהָקִיץ, תְּמוּנָתֶךָ. As for me, I’ll see Your face in righteousness; I’ll be satisfied, when I awake, with Your likeness. (Psalms 17:15)

David asked the Almighty to heed not the plans and treachery of those who wished him harm, but rather grant him success during his lifetime and allow him the merit of being with G-d when his days were done.

[E.N.: Rashi interpreted this Psalm differently – as a lament – after David sinned with Bat Sheba. Contrite & broken in spirit, David prayed for forgiveness, protection from retribution and exoneration in the World to Come.]