Thoughts for the Week 22 December


Hardly could we hope the year to end differently than it began. How sad for those innocently killed while holiday shopping in Berlin! Though it may be hard to believe, the times in which we live are safer today than at any other point in history (TED Talk). But for those who lose loved ones in ideological battles of another place and era, our hearts break for the decades of sorrow they will have to endure.

This coming week is Limmud Conference 2016. Once again, the Rabbi and his wife will be presenting talks. Please consult the Limmud schedule if you’re planning to be in Birmingham and drop in to say hello. The Rabbi will speak about the Life & Labours of Menasseh Ben Israel. Michie will be giving 2 well-researched talks on the Moroccan Suleika and on Chiune Sugihara.


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 22: Authorship of the 22nd chapter of Psalm is credited as a Song to David. The opening words Ayelet HaShahar (Fawn of the Morning) connect this Psalm to Purim. The speaker is a royal figure of the calibre of King David – or in this case Queen Esther.

לַמְנַצֵּחַ, עַל-אַיֶּלֶת הַשַּׁחַר; מִזְמוֹר לְדָוִד. For the Leader; upon Ayelet ha-Shahar. A Psalm of David. (Psalms 22:1)

This Psalm is 32 verses long and follows previous patterns of 1) crying out to G-d for salvation and 2) thanking G-d for being rescued.

אֵ-לִי אֵ-לִי, לָמָה עֲזַבְתָּנִי; רָחוֹק מִישׁוּעָתִי, דִּבְרֵי שַׁאֲגָתִי. My God, my God, why have You forsaken me, You are far from my help, the words of my cry? (Psalms 22:2)

Verse 4 and verse 29 appear in our daily liturgy.

וְאַתָּה קָדוֹשׁ– יוֹשֵׁב, תְּהִלּוֹת יִשְׂרָאֵל. Yet You are holy, O You that are enthroned upon the praises of Israel. (Psalms 22:4)

כִּי לַ-ה, הַמְּלוּכָה; וּמֹשֵׁל, בַּגּוֹיִם. For the kingdom is the LORD’S; who is Ruler over the nations. (Psalms 22:29)

Some commentaries further suggest this Psalm prophetically is relevant to, and resonates with, the long experience of Jewish exile and eventual redemption. The beginning reference to dawn implies optimism – the outbreak of a new day.

יָבֹאוּ, וְיַגִּידוּ צִדְקָתוֹ: לְעַם נוֹלָד, כִּי עָשָׂה. They shall come and declare G-d’s righteousness to a people who shall be born, that it is done. (Psalms 22:32)

Written mostly in the 1st person, this Psalm can be read by anyone in personal distress. It recalls our agony of being distant from G-d, and reminds us of G-d’s ‘pain’ in being separated from us.

We pray for a speedy end to our long exile.