Thoughts for the Week 15 June

2017 is going to be remembered in London as a year of horrible tragedies. How can one begin to imagine the horror of the residents of Grenfell Tower, a 24-storey building that burst into a conflagration of flames yesterday, taking many lives and leaving others homeless and void of all possessions.

Remarkably, within hours Jewish communities mobilised and are collecting food, clothing, necessities and children’s toys to be delivered to the survivors. Danine Irwin from Holland Park Synagogue who lives in Elstree will take items on Sunday morning 18 September. BES United at Croxdale Road collected items last night but you can contact the office to make further contributions.

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 45: Psalm 45 is about someone important. According to non-Jewish scholars it may have been a wedding poem written for the occasion of the royal marriage between Yehoram of Yehuda and Athalia, daughter of Ahab & Jezebel. Athalia reigned as queen from 841-835 BCE. According to R David Kimhi (Ra’dak– Provence 1160-1235), it is a description of, and metaphor for, the splendour and sovereignty of Messianic times.

This Psalm is divided into 5 parts; the Introduction, Portrayal of the King, Central Address, Description of the Bride, and Conclusion ensuring Heirs and Continuity).

If it was a song for kings and not about G-d’s anointed, this would be an example of a profane poem not intended for use in the Temple service nor for prayer.

יָפְיָפִיתָ, מִבְּנֵי אָדָם– הוּצַק חֵן, בְּשִׂפְתוֹתֶיךָ; עַל-כֵּן בֵּרַכְךָ אֱ-לֹהִים לְעוֹלָם. You are more handsome than the children of men; grace is poured upon your lips; therefore God hath blessed you for ever. (Psalms 45:3)

כִּסְאֲךָ אֱ-לֹהִים, עוֹלָם וָעֶד; שֵׁבֶט מִישֹׁר, שֵׁבֶט מַלְכוּתֶךָ. Your throne given of God is for ever and ever; a sceptre of equity is the sceptre of your kingdom. (Psalms 45:7)

Some suggest this poem was written for the wedding of a Jewish king to a foreign woman – for King Solomon when he married an Egyptian Princess.

שִׁמְעִי-בַת וּרְאִי, וְהַטִּי אָזְנֵךְ; וְשִׁכְחִי עַמֵּךְ, וּבֵית אָבִיךְ. Hear, O daughter, consider and incline your ear; forget also your own people and your father’s house. (Psalms 45:11)

The bride’s elaborate entourage would follow her into the marriage.

תּוּבַלְנָה, בִּשְׂמָחֹת וָגִיל; תְּבֹאֶינָה, בְּהֵיכַל מֶלֶךְ. They’ll be led with gladness and rejoicing; they’ll enter into the king’s palace. (Psalms 45:16)

אַזְכִּירָה שִׁמְךָ, בְּכָל-דֹּר וָדֹר; עַל-כֵּן עַמִּים יְהוֹדוּךָ, לְעֹלָם וָעֶד. I’ll make your name to be remembered in all generations; therefore shall people praise you for ever and ever. (Psalms 45:18)

Alternative Reading: In Ra’dak’s view, this Psalm shows G-d’s love for his anointed. The King, metaphorically, refers to Mashiah and the Queen to Bnei Yisrael. The reference to a dynasty lasting forever, to the war of Gog & Magog – to establish truth and righteousness, legitimacy and authority invested by G-d, the subservience of the nations, the exhortation to non-Jews to embrace the Torah, and the universal acceptance of G-d’s sovereignty, can all be inferred in the correct chronological order from these same verses.

Cited by Marcus Jastrow in his 1885-edited non-traditional Siddur Avodas Yisrael, spelling out Ashkenaz customs for public services throughout the year, he suggests this Psalm was read on Shabbat Hayei Sarah.

WOMEN IN HALAKHA: Last night the Montefiore Endowment hosted a panel discussion on Women in Halakha moderated by Rabbi Abraham Levy and including Rabbi Daniel Sperber, Rabbi Michael Rosenzweig and Rebbetsin Hannah Henkin. Representing the full spectrum from left to right in terms of progressive approaches to wear and how women can be involved in education, leadership and ritual, the evening allowed a sell-out audience to hear the respective cases of each proponent.

To the lay person, two points came across most significantly. First, the importance of dialogue with each other and the avoidance of drawing immutable red lines between views and branding each other heretics.  Second, was finding the necessary balance between tradition and innovation. Both are as necessary for a dynamic experience as breathing. Just as one can’t only survive on inhaling or exhaling, so too with religious experience.