Thoughts for the Week 29 December


Those who attended Limmud Conference this year will have been treated to a wonderful range of speakers and events. A copy of the Rabbi’s presentation on the Remarkable Life of Menasseh Ben Israel can be found here. Michie’s talks on the Moroccan Suleika and on Chiune Sugihara will soon be posted on the Rambam Sephardi website.

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 23: The 23rd chapter of Psalms needs no introduction. A Song to David, the Lord is My Shepherd is well-known throughout religious and secular circles.

In religious liturgy, it is recited on Friday night and Shabbat afternoon. Secularly, it was made popular in film, being intoned in English during graveside funeral services, and was also set to music on numerous occasions. 

This Psalm uses the imagery of G-d as a Shepherd, guiding and leading humankind.

מִזְמוֹר לְדָוִד: ה רֹעִי, לֹא אֶחְסָר. A Psalm of David. The LORD is my shepherd; I shall not want. (Psalms 23:1) 

David presumes sheep-like passiveness and submission, for the sake of G-d’s Glory.

בִּנְאוֹת דֶּשֶׁא, יַרְבִּיצֵנִי; עַל-מֵי מְנֻחוֹת יְנַהֲלֵנִי. He makes me lie down in green pastures; He leads me beside still waters. (Psalms 23:2)

נַפְשִׁי יְשׁוֹבֵב; יַנְחֵנִי בְמַעְגְּלֵי-צֶדֶק, לְמַעַן שְׁמוֹ. He restores my soul; He guides me in straight paths for His name’s sake. (Psalms 23:3) 

And in return, he expects from G-d, safety & well-being, for a Shepherd knows and provides the needs of each individual sheep.

גַּם כִּי-אֵלֵךְ בְּגֵיא צַלְמָוֶת, לֹא-אִירָא רָע– כִּי-אַתָּה עִמָּדִי; שִׁבְטְךָ וּמִשְׁעַנְתֶּךָ, הֵמָּה יְנַחֲמֻנִי.Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for You are with me; Your rod and Your staff comfort me. (Psalms 23:4)

Not just in the present but for eternity.

 אַךְ, טוֹב וָחֶסֶד יִרְדְּפוּנִי– כָּל-יְמֵי חַיָּי; וְשַׁבְתִּי בְּבֵית-ה, לְאֹרֶךְ יָמִים.Surely goodness and mercy will follow me all the days of my life; and I will dwell in the house of the LORD for ever. (Psalms 23:6)