Thoughts for the Week 16 March

We live in very blessed but equally testing times. Never before has there been this much wealth in the world and at the same time such abject poverty. While we’re grateful to the Almighty for our many blessings here in the United Kingdom, we recognise the suffering of others in our midst and further afield.

Thanks to the generosity of many who attended Purim last weekend, funds for Matanot LaEvyonim were distributed to local families last Sunday. As a community which still depends on the support of our benefactors, it is good for us to also be donors.

Rebecca Singer, Communications Officer at World Jewish Relief, visited our community and helped set-up a charity bag-pack event this Sunday, 19 March, at the Tesco Extra Borehamwood.

WJR is looking for cheerful and enthusiastic volunteers to offer customers the chance for their groceries to be packed in support of World Jewish Relief. The 1.5 hour slots between 10:00 and 16:00 allow participants to choose a time that most suits them.

Separately, WJR are providing relief aid to countries in East Africa where recently it was reported that severe famine will harshly impact millions of people. For more information or to donate, please click here.

Finally, WJR is also sponsoring the pop-up meaty restaurant in JW3 ‘A Taste of Syria’ to raise funds for those caught-up in the Syrian humanitarian crisis. A portion of the cost of each meal will go to charity relief.


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 34: Psalm 34 is attributed to King David. It is an alphabetic acrostic (where each verse begins with the next letter of the Aleph Bet – except here the letter Vav is absent).

The themes of this Psalm include; offering blessing to the Almighty, acknowledging G-d helps those in need, being protected by Angelic forces, fearing the Lord and desiring life, an assertion that G-d supports the righteous while cutting-off evildoers, offering comfort to the broken spirited, and protecting worshippers from harm.

This Psalm specifically alludes to the period when David took refuge clandestinely among the Philistines while fleeing King Saul (I Samuel 21:14). When his identity was discovered by Akhish/ Abimelekh, David feigned insanity and was driven away.

Thus, David begins with praises to G-d for being rescued from death. This leads him to draw others into praising G-d’s greatness.

אֲבָרְכָה אֶת-ה בְּכָל-עֵת; תָּמִיד, תְּהִלָּתוֹ בְּפִי. I will bless the LORD at all times; praise will continually be in my mouth. (Psalms 34:2)

גַּדְּלוּ לַ-ה אִתִּי; וּנְרוֹמְמָה שְׁמוֹ יַחְדָּו. O magnify the LORD with me, and let us exalt G-d’s name together. (Psalms 34:4)

The follow-on is that those who contemplate the wonders of G-d’s world, will come to be in awe of the Almighty.

יְראוּ אֶת-ה קְדֹשָׁיו: כִּי-אֵין מַחְסוֹר, לִירֵאָיו. O fear the LORD, holy ones; for there is no want to them that fear G-d. (Psalms 34:10)

Nearly every verse in Psalm 34 is a pearl of wisdom that can stand on its own. The best known are the verses about guarding one’s tongue from evil. The rabbis differ whether the ‘life’ sought here, is in This World or the World to Come.

מִי-הָאִישׁ, הֶחָפֵץ חַיִּים; אֹהֵב יָמִים, לִרְאוֹת טוֹב. Who is the man that desires life, and loves days, in which to see Good? (Psalms 34:13)

נְצֹר לְשׁוֹנְךָ מֵרָע; וּשְׂפָתֶיךָ, מִדַּבֵּר מִרְמָה. Keep your tongue from evil, and your lips from speaking guile. (Psalms 34:14)

Psalm 34 reminds us to be positive when confronted with hardship and struggles. For, one can’t achieve righteousness without such challenges.

רַבּוֹת, רָעוֹת צַדִּיק; וּמִכֻּלָּם, יַצִּילֶנּוּ ה. Many are the ills of the righteous, but the LORD delivers him from them all. (Psalms 34:20)

פֹּדֶה ה, נֶפֶשׁ עֲבָדָיו; וְלֹא יֶאְשְׁמוּ, כָּל-הַחֹסִים בּוֹ. The LORD redeems the souls of those who serve; none who take refuge in G-d will be desolate. (Psalms 34:23)

Liturgically, in the Shabbat and Festival morning service, this chapter follows immediately after Chapter 33. Several verses are also found in other key parts of our prayer service.

Verse 4 is sung when taking out the Torah from the Heikhal (Ark). Verses 10-11 are found at the end of Birkat HaMazon (Grace after Meals). And verses 14-15 are part of the very final paragraph in the Amidah (silent prayer). Finally, verse 16 is prominent in the teachings of Chabad Hassidism, describing the ultimate goal of humanity – our Fear & Love of G-d.