Thoughts for the Week 15 December

In a week when news reports describe the unimaginable trauma suffered by those living in Aleppo, Syria, under the hands of brutal military forces, it’s hard not to feel despondent.

Rabbi Joel Finkelstein of Memphis Tennessee wrote insightfully. “We said ‘never again’ after the Holocaust; and then came Sarajevo and then came Rwanda, then came Somalia, then came Allepo. Now we realize that ‘never again’ is a prayer, not a statement of fact. Let’s pray harder.”

As Hanukah approaches we can remind ourselves that the miraculous victory of the Maccabees was more than a one-day flask of oil lasting for 8 days. It was the victory of a small nation who believed in G-d and who believed that man has a responsibility with G-d’s assistance to build a world of light, goodness and spirituality.

History will call out and judge those who commit atrocities against humanity. Genesis 9:6 states  ‘Whosoever sheds the blood of man, by man shall his blood be shed, for you are created in the image of G-d.’ (Gen. 9:6).

Especially in an age where news is transmitted instantaneously, we must remind ourselves that our role is to be co-creators with the Almighty in a celebration of life and community and not of death and destruction.

It isn’t often that one can praise the work of the United Nations General Assembly, but recently through the efforts of R Yaacov D Cohen, it was declared that going forward every 28 November will be recognised as the Universal Noahide Ethics Day.The 7 Noahide Laws are believed to be the ancient framework upon which contemporary civil law is based.

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.


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 21: The 21st chapter of Psalms is credited to King David. Surprisingly, it is a wholly unfamiliar chapter – the verses do not appear elsewhere in our liturgy.

This Psalm is about the privilege and protection G-d bestows upon kings and the Holy wrath shown to their enemies. It expects a reciprocity of devotion from the king; trusting that only through G-d’s assistance can victory be achieved.

כִּי-תְשִׁיתֵהוּ בְרָכוֹת לָעַד; תְּחַדֵּהוּ בְשִׂמְחָה, אֶת-פָּנֶיךָ. For You make him most blessed for ever; You make him glad with joy in Your presence. (Psalms 21:7)

כִּי-הַמֶּלֶךְ, בֹּטֵחַ בַּ-ה; וּבְחֶסֶד עֶלְיוֹן, בַּל-יִמּוֹט. For the king trusts in the LORD, yea, in the mercy of the Most High; he shall not be moved. (Psalms 21:8)

Some suggest this poetic imagery goes beyond David’s kingship to include a lineage extending until the Messiah. And while referring to the days of the Messiah, Psalm 21 metaphorically highlights not only mortal strife between King and Enemy but the larger existential struggle between Good and Evil – and how it will be resolved at the End of Days.

תִּמְצָא יָדְךָ, לְכָל-אֹיְבֶיךָ; יְמִינְךָ, תִּמְצָא שֹׂנְאֶיךָ. Your hand shall be equal to all your enemies; thy right hand shall overtake those that hate thee. (Psalms 21:9)

תְּשִׁיתֵמוֹ, כְּתַנּוּר אֵשׁ– לְעֵת פָּנֶיךָ: ה, בְּאַפּוֹ יְבַלְּעֵם; וְתֹאכְלֵם אֵשׁ. You make them as a fiery furnace in the time of Your anger; the LORD will swallow them up in His wrath, and the fire shall devour them. (Psalms 21:10)

A variant interpretation of Verse 10 suggests G-d has made our enemies an instrument for the punishment we incur but, eventually, our persecutors will be consumed by their own contempt.

רוּמָה ה בְּעֻזֶּךָ; נָשִׁירָה וּנְזַמְּרָה, גְּבוּרָתֶךָ. Be exalted, O LORD, in Your strength; so will we sing and praise Your power. (Psalms 21:14)