Thoughts for the Week 20 April

We trust you had an enjoyable Pesah holiday and have returned to normative work and school routines. We are now in the period of Sefirat HaOmer, counting the 50 days from Passover until Shavuoth. For a reminder of Customs & Laws related to the Omer, please click here. Today is the 9th day of the Omer which is 1 week and 2 days.

Also, please note that our annual Lag LaOmer BBQ will be on Sunday 14 May 2017, and that Rambam Sephardi is once again participating in the Maccabi GB Community Fun Run. To sign up to run with us, please click here.

The past week has seen several noteworthy decisions and announcements in the world of politics. The referendum victory in Turkey of President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and the announcement in the UK of a snap election for 8 June have captured headlines.

This coming Sunday’s run-off elections in France are also being watched carefully. So it felt a bit like the well-known Dickensian story – with ghosts of elections past and elections future haunting our imaginations.

The power grab by Turkey’s leader – which passed by a thin margin – seems largely unwelcome by Turkish citizens in the country’s major capitals as well as by Western leaders. While historically in the UK snap elections have more often than not dealt a different result than expected.

At the same time the power showdown between North Korea and the USA added a disconcerting degree of tension to the Passover/ Easter weekend. Recognising the potential cataclysm of nuclear holocaust, one can only pray for the fulfilment of G-d’s redemptive promise to our ancestors.

We beseech the Almighty to ensure humanity will refrain from destroying itself. Our constant hope is to see Isaiah’s prophesy realised (11:6-9, from Passover’s last Haftarah) – that there will come a time when all will learn to live together in harmony.

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 38: Psalm 38 is attributed to King David; it is considered a penitential prayer, filled with grief and remorse. Divisible into 5 themes, it begins with G-d’s abhorrence of sin and the resulting pain and self-revulsion David felt about his behaviour. It includes the unkindness and abandonment he experienced from relatives and friends, his enemy’s evil intentions during this period of vulnerability, and his own plea to G-d for repentance and salvation.

ה–אַל-בְּקֶצְפְּךָ תוֹכִיחֵנִי; וּבַחֲמָתְךָ תְיַסְּרֵנִי. O LORD, rebuke me not in Your anger; nor chasten me in Your wrath. (Psalms 38:2)

נַעֲוֵיתִי שַׁחֹתִי עַד-מְאֹד; כָּל-הַיּוֹם, קֹדֵר הִלָּכְתִּי. I am bent and bowed down greatly; I go mourning all the day. (Psalms 38:7)

The Rabbis of the Talmud (TB Berakhot) advised that when one is afflicted with suffering it is a sign to be introspective in identifying possible misdeeds and mending one’s ways. Such self-reflection and isolation can help one restore a sense of focus and centeredness.

But over time we’ve learned never to under-estimate the role of family and friends in helping mitigate the suffering of others. Sadly, many of us only offer help when times are easy and good, but we become scarce when difficulties arise.

אֹהֲבַי, וְרֵעַי–מִנֶּגֶד נִגְעִי יַעֲמֹדוּ;    וּקְרוֹבַי, מֵרָחֹק עָמָדוּ. Friends and companions stand aloof from my plague; and kinsmen stand afar off. (Psalms 38:12)

If one’s punishment is due to sinful behaviour, an antidote may be turning to G-d to repent misdeeds. Through Teshuvah (returning) one gains confidence to endure the discomfort of our affliction, knowing the torments will pass, and that we will again be restored into the Lord’s presence.

כִּי-לְךָ ה הוֹחָלְתִּי; אַתָּה תַעֲנֶה, אֲ-דֹנָי אֱ-לֹהָי. For in You, O LORD, do I hope; You will answer, O Lord my God. (Psalms 38:16)

אַל-תַּעַזְבֵנִי ה: אֱ-לֹהַי, אַל-תִּרְחַק מִמֶּנִּי. Forsake me not, O LORD; O my God, be not far from me. (Psalms 38:22)

Having just completed the Passover festival and re-experiencing the birth of our national freedom as well as reimagining that demoralizing sense of Egyptian enslavement, some may feel disheartened by the current state of our unredeemed world.

Psalm 38 addresses the issue of a seemingly endless Exile through the lens of David’s troubles, while offering solace as well as encouragement. This Psalm can also be recited by those who suffer personal tragedy and misfortune.