Thoughts for the Week 25 May

[Please note there will be no entry next week due to the Shavuoth holidays.]

MANCHESTER TERROR ATTACK: This week we stand in compassionate solidarity with the people of Manchester. Statements have been issued by every major organisation decrying the worst terror attack in the UK since 7 July 2005. The explosion, after Monday night’s Ariana Grande music concert, thus far has taken the lives of 22 people and injured more than 60, mostly teenagers and their parents.

Many are outraged by the barbaric act of a suicide bomber who could turn on the city that raised him and randomly massacre the innocent. Words no longer describe the immense suffering caused by these foreign-trained, delusional, most-often young, men who blow themselves up in the name of idolatry. Some may seek to blame the communities in the UK they come from, but we know that truly faithful Muslims are as eager to prevent this as the rest of us.

So what can we do with our indignation? The immediate cycle of response is always to call for calm, to help the afflicted families and to reach out to build trust and express our love for humanity. In Elstree/ Borehamwood, the Hertsmere Forum of Faith works as a bridge between our different faith communities. Perhaps a first step for some is to engage with HFoF and reach out to those we have less in common with. We believe doing kindness (hesed) is one step forward in counteracting this horrific feeling of pain and grief.

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 43: In writing style and form, Psalm 43 appears to be a continuation of Psalm 42. At only 5 verses and without attribution, it is assumed to be from the sons of Korah. The theme is three-fold; a lament over the injuries caused by one’s enemies, the deep pain of separation and a yearning to be brought back into the Divine Presence, and the hope for G-d’s redemptive salvation. Due to its brevity, we quote the entire chapter below.

שָָׁפְטֵנִי אֱ-לֹהִים, וְרִיבָה רִיבִי– מִגּוֹי לֹא-חָסִיד; מֵאִישׁ מִרְמָה וְעַוְלָה תְפַלְּטֵנִי.

Be my judge, O God, and plead my cause against an ungodly nation; Deliver me from deceitful and unjust men. (Psalm 43:1)

R Samson Raphael Hirsch (Germany – 1808-1888) comments on the hypocrisy of nations who profess dedication to the ideals of humanism but fail to show the same to the Jewish people.

כִּי-אַתָּה, אֱ-לֹהֵי מָעוּזִּי– לָמָה זְנַחְתָּנִי: לָמָּה-קֹדֵר אֶתְהַלֵּךְ, בְּלַחַץ אוֹיֵב.

For You are the God of my strength; why have You cast me off? Why go I mourning under the oppression of the enemy? (Psalm 43:2)

שְׁלַח-אוֹרְךָ וַאֲמִתְּךָ, הֵמָּה יַנְחוּנִי; יְבִיאוּנִי אֶל-הַר-קָדְשְׁךָ, וְאֶל-מִשְׁכְּנוֹתֶיךָ.

Send Your light and truth; let them lead me; let them bring me to Your holy mountain and to Your dwelling-places. (Psalms 43:3)

Here R Hirsch suggests that as Jews in exile our prayers are for G-d’s enlightenment so we can truthfully understand the correct path set out in the Torah which we’re expected to follow. To that extent, the light of Torah dispels the surrounding darkness and gloom.

וְאָבוֹאָה, אֶל-מִזְבַּח אֱ-לֹהִים– אֶל-אֵ-ל, שִׂמְחַת גִּילִי: וְאוֹדְךָ בְכִנּוֹר– אֱ-לֹהִים אֱ-לֹהָי.

Then will I go to G-d’s altar, unto God, my exceeding joy; and praise You with the harp, O God, my God. (Psalms 43:4)

מַה-תִּשְׁתּוֹחֲחִי, נַפְשִׁי–וּמַה-תֶּהֱמִי עָלָי:הוֹחִילִי לֵא-לֹהִים, כִּי-עוֹד אוֹדֶנּוּ–יְשׁוּעֹת פָּנַי, וֵא-לֹהָי.

Why are you cast down, my soul? Why do you moan within me? Hope in God; for I shall yet praise, the salvation of my countenance and my God. (Psalms 43:5)

At times it seems our aspirations are out of sync with those of the Divine. The truest fulfilment of our soul’s aspirations is to understand G-d’s plans – and how they are in our best interest.

Those with a careful eye will note that verse 43:5 is exactly the same as verse 42:12 and virtually identical to verse 42:6. Perhaps, musically, this was used as a refrain when the Psalm was sung.