Thoughts for the Week 1 December

The rabbi returned from Vienna inspired by the completion of the KAICIID programme on Conflict Resolution & Peace Building. In total, 43 delegates from 20 countries participated in the closing training which emphasised the importance of Dialogue. Photo highlights can be found here, here & here.

In a world where communication has become instantaneous, and where the volume of every kind of information available is in the hands of the lay person, we’re challenged to think beyond our parochialism and our prejudices. There is a spirit within each of us that wishes it were possible to live without hatred and violence, without selfishness and strife.

In many religions this is anticipated in the equivalent of a Messianic period that has thus far never materialised. And according to some views, humanity will never reach that point without making the compromises required. It used to be fashionable to discuss utopian lifestyles but these days we’re far more preoccupied with the polity’s shift toward nationalism.

With regard to the difficult issues, of saving our environment, of helping refugees, of youth radicalisation, many of us have adopted a NIMBY policy – not in my back yard, or I’m too busy to be involved, or ‘aren’t there more qualified people looking after this?’.

But neglect and avoidance are unsuccessful strategies. By comparison, this happens with regard to personal health. How many times have we noticed some small thing not going right in our bodies but then can’t find time to visit the GP to have it examined?

With so much political movement to the right, isn’t it time we asked ourselves ‘what’s really going wrong and what can we do to find a new sense of balance?’

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 19:

Authorship of the 19th chapter of Psalms is credited to King David. It is a meditation – and it contains a two-fold message. In the first part, King David extols the works of Nature which allow us to perceive the wonders of G-d’s creation.

הַשָּׁמַיִם, מְסַפְּרִים כְּבוֹדאֵל; וּמַעֲשֵׂה יָדָיו, מַגִּיד הָרָקִיעַ. The Heavens declare the glory of G-d, and the Firmament shows His handiwork. (Psalms 19:2)

The second message from verse 8 onwards is that through G-d’s revelation to Bnei Yisrael at Sinai, we can have a relationship with our Creator.

 תּוֹרַת ה תְּמִימָה, מְשִׁיבַת נָפֶשׁ; עֵדוּת ה נֶאֱמָנָה, מַחְכִּימַת פֶּתִי. The law of the LORD is perfect, restoring the soul; the testimony of the LORD is sure, making wise the simple. (Psalms 19:8)

The final verses then beseech G-d’s protection in keeping us from going astray.

 גַּם מִזֵּדִים, חֲשֹׂךְ עַבְדֶּךָאַליִמְשְׁלוּבִי אָז אֵיתָם; וְנִקֵּיתִי, מִפֶּשַׁע רָב. Keep back Thy servant also from presumptuous sins, that they may not have dominion over me; then shall I be faultless, and I shall be clear from great transgression. (Psalms 19:14)

This Psalm may be familiar because it is read on Shabbat morning during Zemirot (Pisukei D’Zimrah). And, its last verse is said silently and at least thrice daily at the end of each Amidah.

יִהְיוּ לְרָצוֹן אִמְרֵיפִי, וְהֶגְיוֹן לִבִּי לְפָנֶיךָ: ה, צוּרִי וְגֹאֲלִי. Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable before You, O LORD, my Rock, and my Redeemer. (Psalms 19:15)