Thoughts for the Week 11 May

Thankfully, North Korea seems to have taken a step back from its aggressive, belligerent rhetoric over the past 7 days. And to the relief of many, the election result in France didn’t result in any surprises.

Late last week Buckingham Palace announced the retirement of Prince Phillip Duke of Edinburgh at the age of 95 – having served in his duties for nearly 70 years. Asked what he would do in his spare time, Prince Philip replied with the type of witty remark he is well-known for.

Of course, the royal family lives a level of privilege that might appeal to most of us. But who’s prepared to work for 30 years beyond statutory retirement! We wish H.E. the Duke of Edinburgh a well-earned rest.

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 41: Psalm 41 is attributed to King David during a period of severe illness. While lamenting the maliciousness of his enemies, David declares his faith in G-d’s closeness even at the worst moments in his life. This Psalm completes the first major section of the Book of Psalms, ending with praises for the Almighty and the words Amen veAmen.

In the introductory verses David describes the merits accruing to those who help the poor. Even in their distress they won’t be abandoned by the Almighty.

ה–יִסְעָדֶנּוּ, עַל-עֶרֶשׂ דְּוָי; כָּל-מִשְׁכָּבוֹ, הָפַכְתָּ בְחָלְיוֹ. LORD, support him upon the couch of illness; You turn all his lying down into sickness. (Psalms 41:4)

Then he moves from 3rd person to 1st person to echo a sense of bitter frustration in which even those who were trusted seem to have betrayed him.

אוֹיְבַי–יֹאמְרוּ רַע לִי;    מָתַי יָמוּת, וְאָבַד שְׁמוֹ. My enemies speak evil of me: ‘When shall he die, and his name perish?’ (Psalms 41:6)

גַּם-אִישׁ שְׁלוֹמִי, אֲשֶׁר-בָּטַחְתִּי בוֹ– אוֹכֵל לַחְמִי; הִגְדִּיל עָלַי עָקֵב. Yea, my own familiar friend whom I trusted, ate my bread and lifted his heel against me. (Psalms 41:10)

Convinced of his righteousness, though, David is willing to rely on G-d’s protection in thwarting the threats of his enemies.

בְּזֹאת יָדַעְתִּי, כִּי-חָפַצְתָּ בִּי: כִּי לֹא-יָרִיעַ אֹיְבִי עָלָי. By this I know You delight in me, that my enemy doesn’t triumph over me. (Psalms 41:12)

בָּרוּךְ ה, אֱ-לֹהֵי יִשְׂרָאֵל–מֵהָעוֹלָם, וְעַד הָעוֹלָם:  אָמֵן וְאָמֵן. Blessed be the LORD, God of Israel, from everlasting to everlasting. Amen, and Amen. (Psalms 41:14)

We live in a busy and distracting world. Often, not until we experience illness does one take opportunity to draw closer to G-d. This Psalm reminds those who suffer that their efforts are not wasted, and that prayer can bring deeper spiritual understanding at such times.