Thoughts for the Week 27 April

Many congratulations to Borehamwood & Elstree residents, Damien Schogger (3’17”) and Paul Deacon (4′ 40′) for finishing last Sunday’s London Marathon.

In advance of the race, of great interest was the conversation about mental health that helped launch a new charity initiative, Heads Together, whose patrons are members of the Royal Family. Click here for a very open discussion about bereavement, addiction and loss between the Duke & Duchess of Cambridge and Prince Harry.

We’re now in the period of Sefirat HaOmer, counting the 50 days from Passover until Shavuoth. For a reminder of Laws & Customs related to the Omer, please click here.

Thursday 27 April is the 16th day of the Omer or 2 weeks and 2 days.

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 39: Psalm 39 is attributed to King David. It’s a reflection on the frailty of the human condition. There are 4 points raised in this Psalm; the struggle to keep control over one’s thoughts, words and actions; the all-too short-lived and unpredictable nature of life; a request by David for deliverance from sin; and a petition for spiritual protection until his demise.

The Psalm opens with a dedication to the leader, Yidutun, either a reference to one of the sons of Merari (a descendant of Levi) or a kind of instrument – for in the days of the Temple many of the Psalms were sung by the Levites with choral accompaniment.

אָמַרְתִּי– אֶשְׁמְרָה דְרָכַי, מֵחֲטוֹא בִלְשׁוֹנִי: אֶשְׁמְרָה לְפִי מַחְסוֹם– בְּעֹד רָשָׁע לְנֶגְדִּי. I said: ‘I’ll take heed to my ways that I sin not with my tongue; I’ll keep a curb upon my mouth, while the wicked are before me.’ (Psalms 39:2)

If suffering is sent to chastise and afflictions meant to stir-up prayer and awaken the soul, David urges the penitent to refrain from protest. For the value of silence is often greater than the imaginary relief coming from complaint.

הוֹדִיעֵנִי ה, קִצִּי–וּמִדַּת יָמַי מַה-הִיא; אֵדְעָה, מֶה-חָדֵל אָנִי. LORD, make me to know my end, and the measure of my days what they are; let me know how short-lived I am. (Psalms 39:5)

As much as one who is suffering prays for a speedy end to their pain, similarly, is it wise to contemplate the vanity of one’s labours and the transience of human life.

אַךְ-בְּצֶלֶם, יִתְהַלֶּךְ-אִישׁ– אַךְ-הֶבֶל יֶהֱמָיוּן; יִצְבֹּר, וְלֹא-יֵדַע מִי-אֹסְפָם. Surely man walks as a mere semblance; for vanity they are in turmoil; he heaps up riches, and knows not who shall gather them. (Psalms 39:7)

David emphasises that, like those who came before us, we are mortal and thus strangers and sojourners in a drama that began before we were born and which will continue long after we are gone. Living as a ‘temporary-resident’ enables us to concentrate our attention on that which is spiritually relevant, transcendent and eternal.

שִׁמְעָה תְפִלָּתִי ה, וְשַׁוְעָתִי הַאֲזִינָה–אֶל-דִּמְעָתִי, אַל-תֶּחֱרַשׁ: כִּי גֵר אָנֹכִי עִמָּךְ; תּוֹשָׁב, כְּכָל-אֲבוֹתָי. Hear my prayer, O LORD, and give ear unto my cry; keep not silence at my tears; for I am a stranger, a sojourner, as all my fathers were. (Psalms 39:13)

Only in the fleeting moments that comprise one’s life can we accomplish that which will define our existence. David’s final words in this Psalm are a plea to the Almighty to stop his suffering, enabling him to yet recover his strength before death descends.