Thoughts for the Week 23 February

Again this week we remind you that we’re urgently appealing to readers to participate in a drive (to volunteer a saliva sample) to help Sipy Howard, a member of our UK Sephardi community suffering from blood cancer. The details of how to donate are attached. Please attend the 5 March remaining session at BES Synagogue or contact DKMS to get a free sample kit.

FOLLOW-UP ON SAD NEWS FROM BOREHAMWOOD: Shiva for 5-year-old Shani Berman finished yesterday. The outpouring of support from our local community was gratefully received by the family. Now begins the immensely difficult task of returning to the world of the living. For the past years during Shani’s illness, Simon wrote a blog ‘How Fragile We Are’. It offers a fragmentary glimpse of the continuous treatment and hope-filled struggle of a very brave 5 3/4 year-old child. We pray the family will be comforted by the Divine and learn to cope in the days and months ahead.

RECITING PSALMS Introduction: This brief comment is in memory of my late mother (Brainah Leah bat Moshe Aharon) and for all those who recite Tehillim for the sake of others. [Note: Quoted verses are taken from the Mechon Mamre website.]

For those who read Psalms regularly as a prayer for well-being, it’s interesting to note the 150 chapters are divided into 3 different partitions. There is the Days-of-the-Week division where one can recite roughly 20-30 Psalms per day completing the entirety within 7 days. There is a separate division based on the 30-day Calendar where one can read roughly 5 chapters per day and also finish the entirety within a month.

Then there is a division which comprises 5 books; Book 1 consists of Psalms 1–41, Book 2 of Psalms 42–72, Book 3 of Psalms 73–89, Book 4 of Psalms 90–106, and Book 5 of Psalms 107–150. This is referenced in the midrash as being modelled on the 5 Books of the Torah. Scholars have noted in the 5 books the unique use of the name for G-d. Books 1, 4 & 5 predominantly use the 4-letter name beginning with the letter Yod, while Books 2 & 3 more frequently use the name Elohkim.

Chapter 31: The 31st Psalm may have been written during David’s persecution by King Saul. Initially, it offers praise to the Almighty for providing him a place of spiritual refuge…

בְּךָ-ה חָסִיתִי, אַל-אֵבוֹשָׁה לְעוֹלָם; בְּצִדְקָתְךָ פַלְּטֵנִי.

In You, O LORD, have I taken refuge; let me never be ashamed; deliver me in Your righteousness. (Psalm 31:2)

בְּיָדְךָ, אַפְקִיד רוּחִי: פָּדִיתָ אוֹתִי ה–אֵל אֱמֶת.

Into Your hand I commit my spirit; You’ve redeemed me, O LORD, God of truth. (Psalm 31:6)

Then David turns to thank G-d for delivering him from personal afflictions and from his enemies.

אָגִילָה וְאֶשְׂמְחָה, בְּחַסְדֶּךָ: אֲשֶׁר רָאִיתָ, אֶת-עָנְיִי; יָדַעְתָּ, בְּצָרוֹת נַפְשִׁי.

I will be glad and rejoice in Your lovingkindness; for You’ve seen my affliction, You’ve recognised the troubles of my soul. (Psalm 31:8)

מִכָּל-צֹרְרַי הָיִיתִי חֶרְפָּה, וְלִשְׁכֵנַי מְאֹד– וּפַחַד לִמְיֻדָּעָי: רֹאַי בַּחוּץ– נָדְדוּ מִמֶּנִּי.

Because of all my adversaries I am a reproach; to my neighbours exceedingly, and a dread to my acquaintances; they who watch flee from me. (Psalm 31:12)

In exile, David was constantly betrayed to Saul, but G-d rescued him from mortal danger.

הָאִירָה פָנֶיךָ, עַל-עַבְדֶּךָ; הוֹשִׁיעֵנִי בְחַסְדֶּךָ.

Make Your face to shine upon Your servant; save me in Your lovingkindness. (Psalm 31:17)

מָה רַב-טוּבְךָ, אֲשֶׁר-צָפַנְתָּ לִּירֵאֶיךָ: פָּעַלְתָּ, לַחֹסִים בָּךְ; נֶגֶד, בְּנֵי אָדָם.

Oh how abundant is Your goodness, which You’ve prepared for those that fear You; which You’ve made for those who take refuge in You, in sight of the sons of men! (Psalm 31:20)

Our lesson, through hardship and challenging times, is to trust in G-d whose Divine Will determines the fate of each individual.

חִזְקוּ, וְיַאֲמֵץ לְבַבְכֶם– כָּל-הַמְיַחֲלִים, לַ-ה.

Be strong, and let your heart take courage, all who wait for the LORD. (Psalm 31:25)

This last verse in Psalm 31 is found at the end of U’Va L’Tsion.