Thoughts for the Week 8 June

The tragic terror events of the past weeks have made it hard to focus on today’s election. But regardless of party affiliation, we urge you to exercise your right to vote. Polling stations close at 9:00pm.

From Friday 2nd – Sunday 4th June Limmud Italia was held in Florence, Italy. The 130 delegates came from throughout Italy, Israel, the UK & Australia. The programme included Shabbat in the Comunita Ebraica Firenze synagogue. Built in 1882, it must be one of the most beautiful synagogues in the world (photo). Many thanks to Natan Servi for recommending several members of the Borehamwood community to participate.

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 44: Psalm 44 is attributed to the sons of Korah. It’s in the style of a classical lamentation which has 5 parts. 1st it addresses G-d directly, 2nd it laments the misfortune befallen the Jewish people, 3rd it recalls historic circumstances where salvation was granted, 4th it implores the Almighty’s assistance, and 5th it includes a brief prayer of thanksgiving.

From verse 1-9 the Psalmist speaks to G-d, remembering favours of old and offering humble praise. This part mentions by inference the gift of the Land of Israel as well as the support received during innumerable occasions of Exile. Rabbi Samson Raphael Hirsch (Germany 1808-1888) suggests that were it not for G-d’s mercy, our oppressors would have long ago eradicated us.

אֱ-לֹהִים, בְּאָזְנֵינוּ שָׁמַעְנוּ– אֲבוֹתֵינוּ סִפְּרוּ-לָנוּ: פֹּעַל פָּעַלְתָּ בִימֵיהֶם, בִּימֵי קֶדֶם. O God, we heard with our ears, our fathers told us; the work You did in their days, in the days of old. (Psalms 44:2)

אַתָּה-הוּא מַלְכִּי אֱ-לֹהִים; צַוֵּה, יְשׁוּעוֹת יַעֲקֹב. You are my King, O God; command the salvation of Jacob. (Psalms 44:5)

בֵּא-לֹהִים, הִלַּלְנוּ כָל-הַיּוֹם; וְשִׁמְךָ, לְעוֹלָם נוֹדֶה סֶלָה. In God we’ve gloried all day, and we’ll give thanks to Your name for ever. Selah (Psalms 44:9)

Verses 10-19 illustrate the poignant circumstances of our too-frequent persecutions by the nations of the world. Yet, with great pathos, we’ve never lost hope in G-d’s providence. Unable to fathom the reason for our national suffering, we faithfully yearn for redemption.

תְּשִׂימֵנוּ מָשָׁל, בַּגּוֹיִם; מְנוֹד-רֹאשׁ, בַּלְאֻמִּים. You made us a byword among nations, a shaking of the head among peoples. (Psalms 44:15)

כָּל-זֹאת בָּאַתְנוּ, וְלֹא שְׁכַחֲנוּךָ; וְלֹא-שִׁקַּרְנוּ, בִּבְרִיתֶךָ. All this has come upon us; yet we’ve not forgotten You, neither have we betrayed Your covenant. (Psalms 44:18)

The final verses reflect upon how throughout history, the metaphor of the Jew ‘being taken out to slaughter like sheep’ has been all too realistic. The Psalmist concludes with a heartfelt plea to G-d; Awaken, remember us, reveal your Countenance and redeem us – for mercy’s sake, even if we’re unworthy.

לָמָּה-פָנֶיךָ תַסְתִּיר; תִּשְׁכַּח עָנְיֵנוּ וְלַחֲצֵנוּ. Why do You hide Your face, and forget our affliction and our oppression? (Psalms 44:25)

קוּמָה, עֶזְרָתָה לָּנוּ; וּפְדֵנוּ, לְמַעַן חַסְדֶּךָArise as our help, and redeem us, for Your mercy’s sake. (Psalms 44:27)

Psalm 44, sweepingly prophetic for more than 2000 years, is a song that accompanied the Jewish people during its long exile and wanderings.