Thoughts for the Week 22 June

There is no justification for the sickening attack on a place of worship, and certainly not the van attack on worshippers at the Finsbury Mosque late last Sunday night. Having attended an Iftar celebration in Southwark earlier in the evening with prominent members of the Jewish community, an event that brought together representatives of many different faiths, one can’t help but feel deep sadness for victims of yet another hate-inspired incident. This applies to the brutal stabbing of Hadas Malka in Jerusalem last week.

The Torah tells us all is in the hands of Heaven except for the Fear of Heaven. All we have is our humanity, the ability to choose goodness over evil, finding what we have in common rather than promoting hatred and separation. Our prayers are that sanity will return to this great country which has provided leadership to the world for hundreds of years.

On a more positive note, the public outpouring of support and donations following the deadly fire at Grenfell Tower was overwhelming. Rabbi Mino Lavi at Holland Park has been very involved in helping coordinate support from the Jewish community to the survivors. He mentioned there’s a request not to send any more donations or volunteers. Going forward there will be a need for experts in trauma therapy, child psychology and legal aid. Those interested in helping can register here via e-mail.


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 46: Psalm 46 is attributed to the Sons of Korah. It is comprised of 2 parts with a repeating refrain in verses 9 and 12. The first part praises the work of the Divine; G-d is our stronghold, protecting us from harm and calming our fears. The second part looks forward to a time when G-d will put an end to strife and warfare, when nations will live peacefully and recognise G-d’s presence.

אֱ-לֹהִים לָנוּ, מַחֲסֶה וָעֹז; עֶזְרָה בְצָרוֹת, נִמְצָא מְאֹד. G-d is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble. (Psalm 46:2)

עַל-כֵּן לֹא-נִירָא, בְּהָמִיר אָרֶץ; וּבְמוֹט הָרִים, בְּלֵב יַמִּים. Therefore will we not fear, though the earth shakes and the mountains move into the heart of the seas! (Psalms 46:3)

Metaphorically, the violent upheavals of powerful nations are described here through natural calamities. Yet, there will always be a place of tranquillity amid the raging turbulence, the place where the Divine Presence (Shekhina) rests.

הָמוּ גוֹיִם, מָטוּ מַמְלָכוֹת; נָתַן בְּקוֹלוֹ, תָּמוּג אָרֶץ. Nations were in tumult, kingdoms were moved; G-d uttered, the earth melted. (Psalms 46:7)

Ra’dak (France – 1165-1235) explains that in the darkness of the pre-Messianic arrival, even Jerusalem will be besieged, but at the dawn of the final redemption, the Almighty will come to its aid.

מַשְׁבִּית מִלְחָמוֹת, עַד-קְצֵה הָאָרֶץ: קֶשֶׁת יְשַׁבֵּר, וְקִצֵּץ חֲנִית; עֲגָלוֹת, יִשְׂרֹף בָּאֵשׁ. G-d makes wars cease to the end of the earth; breaking the bow, and cutting the spear asunder; burning the chariots in fire. (Psalms 46:10)

הַרְפּוּ וּדְעוּ, כִּי-אָנֹכִי אֱ-לֹהִים; אָרוּם בַּגּוֹיִם, אָרוּם בָּאָרֶץ. Let be, and know I am God; I will be exalted among nations, I will be exalted on the earth. (Psalms 46:11)

ה צְבָאוֹת עִמָּנוּ; מִשְׂגָּב-לָנוּ אֱ-לֹהֵי יַעֲקֹב סֶלָה. The LORD of hosts is with us; the God of Jacob is our high tower. Selah! (Psalms 46:12)

This Psalm is particularly relevant in tumultuous times. In the past it was read communally during periods of trouble (by both Jews and non-Jews alike). It follows nicely if we adopt the Messianic interpretation of Psalm 45 – may we live to see the fulfilment of this vision in our time!

Alternative Reading: As this week is also Parshat Korah, a note about the Sons of Korah. Some will ponder how is it possible that there were any survivors from the earthquake that swallowed up Korah and his followers?

A Midrashic interpretation suggests the sons of Korah survived because they stayed free of their father’s rebellious plot. Korah was a grandson of Kehat. Later, Samuel the Prophet was his descendant. Other relations were famed warriors, and some were musicians during the time of King David. It is suggested that verse 3 may be a subtle reflection on the failing of their original ancestor Korah.

Interestingly, an Australian contemporary folk-rock group calls themselves the Sons of Korah. A sample of their inspirational music can be heard here.