Thoughts for the Week 18 May

It was very good to see so many of you last Shabbat at synagogue services and last Sunday at the Well End Scout Activity Centre.

Many thanks to the indefatigable Rivka Azair and her many assistants for a splendid Lag LaOmer celebration. To the Food Team and the Fire Team and all those who helped in any way, our sincere appreciation. Some of the many photos can be seen via our Rambam Sephardi website.

Our thanks as well to Rafi Lavi, Asher Moses and Gary Somers for conducting last week’s Shabbat services. We thank Michelle & Jonathan Bahar for sponsoring Kiddush in memory of Jonathan’s late father Emmanuel Bahar.

A planning application for Yavneh Primary has been submitted recently. It goes without saying how important it is to have a new primary school in our area. Please support the application (17/0767/FUL) by clicking here.

Our member Annette Henley (Wahnon) has been shortlisted for a Rising Stars Award 2017, an annual award scheme for women sponsored by Times Newspapers and other prestigious organisations. The aim of the awards is to promote gender equality by recognising talented women in a range of fields.

Annette was nominated for her work on mental health and wellbeing at the Home Office. The award process includes an element of public voting. We heartily endorse Annette for this well-deserved award. Unless you know any of the other candidates, please go to the website and vote for Annette in the Public Sector vote category.

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 42: Psalm 42 opens the new section of the Book of Psalms and is attributed to the Sons of Korah. It is one of 13 chapters dedicated to the Maskil (Chief Musician). The central theme is the deep pain of Exile and a yearning to be brought back into the Divine Presence. It ends with the hope of happier times, recalling memories of when G-d was close by.

Human aspirations aren’t truly satisfied unless we’re in direct relationship with our Creator. Nothing is worse than being distant and disconnected from the Almighty. Sin cuts us off from our true selves, and causes our soul to cry-out for better.

כְּאַיָּל, תַּעֲרֹג עַל-אֲפִיקֵי-מָיִם– כֵּן נַפְשִׁי תַעֲרֹג אֵלֶיךָ אֱ-לֹהִים. As the hart yearns after the water brook, so yearns my soul after You, O God. (Psalms 42:2)

מַה-תִּשְׁתּוֹחֲחִי, נַפְשִׁי– וַתֶּהֱמִי עָלָי: הוֹחִלִי לֵא-לֹהִים, כִּי-עוֹד אוֹדֶנּוּ– יְשׁוּעוֹת פָּנָיו. Why are you cast down, O my soul? And why moan within me? Hope in God; for I shall yet praise the salvation of [G-d’s] countenance. (Psalms 42:6)

Despite the psalmist’s overwhelming sorrow, hope is found in remembering G-d’s mercies. One’s worst fears can be overcome by realising the Almighty finds no joy in punishing the wicked but rather in their return to righteousness. Psalm 42 is useful in quelling one’s fears and doubts and instead focusing us on faithfulness.

יוֹמָם, יְצַוֶּה ה חַסְדּוֹ, וּבַלַּיְלָה, שִׁירֹה עִמִּי–תְּפִלָּה, לְאֵל חַיָּי. By day the LORD commands loving kindness, and at night, song shall be with me; a prayer unto the God of my life. (Psalms 42:9)

בְּרֶצַח, בְּעַצְמוֹתַי– חֵרְפוּנִי צוֹרְרָי; בְּאָמְרָם אֵלַי כָּל-הַיּוֹם, אַיֵּה אֱ-לֹהֶיךָ. As with a crushing in my bones, my adversaries taunt me; saying unto me all day: ‘Where is your God?’ (Psalms 42:11)

Others interpret this psalm as a longingly heartfelt call to G-d, while remembering past joys of visiting the Temple during the three Pilgrimage Festivals. The sound of running waters serves a two-fold purpose, one to remind ourselves how – like a nearby brook – the Almighty is close though still beyond our reach, the other to recall the tumultuous torrents that washed us away from our homeland.

This Psalm concludes on an up-note (verse 12 is a near exact repetition of verse 6) – that the Almighty’s plans are for our benefit and that we must always ‘hope in G-d’ for our salvation. In the Spanish & Portuguese Jews’ liturgical tradition, this chapter is evocatively chanted during evening services on the 2nd night of Sukkot.