Thoughts for the Week 8 December

December is the month for year-end celebrations and office parties. It signals the winding down of business activities and summing up of another year past.

Facebook has a very clever App showing all the posts one has submitted throughout the year and, in attractive graphics, the total of one’s annual activity. The posh credit card companies will soon be circulating a full summary of one’s spending.  There are many ways to monitor our productivity for the year 2016.

Interestingly, it’s hardly more than 2 months since Rosh Hashanah. Wouldn’t it be nice if we could also set-in place some form of monitoring system for our spiritual achievements!

Those of us who struggle to find meaning in our day-to-day routines, especially during these dark winter months, a daily Mishna, Talmud page (subscribe to: or other Torah study plus a small act of Hesed each day can be a remarkable inspiration – especially when seeing them add up over time.

What will you do to measure your spiritual progress?


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 20: Authorship of the 20th chapter of Psalms is credited to King David. There is much written about it because it appears prominently in our Tefillah. The entirety of Psalm 20 is recited most days between Ashrei& Uva LeTsion toward the end of the Morning Shaharit service.

The Babylonian Talmud advises that one should pray for redemption after acknowledging salvation comes from G-d. Chapter 19 concluded with the words, ‘The Lord is my Rock & Redeemer,’ and appropriately, Chapter 20 begins with a plea to G-d to ‘answer us in the day of our troubles’.

יַעַנְךָ ה, בְּיוֹם צָרָה; יְשַׂגֶּבְךָ, שֵׁם אֱ-לֹהֵי יַעֲקֹב. May the LORD answer you in the day of trouble; the name of the G-d of Jacob set you on high. (Psalm 20:2)

Further, we find the famous quotation which has kept Jewish morale high over the millennia. While others rely on physical numbers and weaponry, we survive through G-d remembering us.

אֵלֶּה בָרֶכֶב, וְאֵלֶּה בַסּוּסִים; וַאֲנַחְנוּ, בְּשֵׁם-ה אֱ-לֹהֵינוּ נַזְכִּיר. Some trust in chariots, and some in horses; but we mention the name of the LORD our God. (Psalm 20:8)

The last verse appears ubiquitously; in the Penitential Tahanun prayer, the beginning of the Evening Arbit Service and in Havdalah – to name just a few locations.

ה הוֹשִׁיעָה: הַמֶּלֶךְ, יַעֲנֵנוּ בְיוֹם-קָרְאֵנוּ. LORD, save; let the King answer us in the day we call. (Psalm 20:10) 

Uniquely, Psalm 20 has 70 words; some say this is associated with the 70 years of exile between the 1st and 2nd Jewish Temples, while others say with the 70 cries of child birth. There are few Psalms recommended specifically for times of distress; Psalm 20 can be recited during personal, communal or national calamities.