Monthly Archives: January 2018

Week of 25 January 2018 – Psalms 64

This 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. [To see the full Mechon Mamre text, please click here.]

Psalm 64, also attributed to David, is a continuation of the darker theme of the previous Psalm. Here the author again decries the work of evildoers and maintains his hope in the salvation of the Almighty.

It contains 3 basic themes: a prayer to be protected from the harmful intentions of his enemies and detractors, a description of the low character of those out to harm him, and a forecast of their eventual failure which would by association lead the righteous to give praise to G-d.

There are those who see parallels between the language employed here and that of other Psalms describing Saul’s persecution of David.

שְׁמַע-אֱ-לֹהִים קוֹלִי בְשִׂיחִי;    מִפַּחַד אוֹיֵב, תִּצֹּר חַיָּי. Hear my voice, O G-d, in my complaint; preserve my life from the terror of the enemy. (Psalms 64:2)

Seeking to have his voice ‘heard’ by G-d is David’s way of reassuring himself that his prayer will be answered.

יְחַזְּקוּ-לָמוֹ, דָּבָר רָע– יְסַפְּרוּ, לִטְמוֹן מוֹקְשִׁים; אָמְרוּ, מִי יִרְאֶה-לָּמוֹ. They encourage one another in evil matters; they converse secretly about laying snares; they ask, who would see them. (Psalms 64:6)

Despite their concerted efforts, clandestine plotting and evil machinations, G-d will take no notice of them.

וַיֹּרֵם, אֱ-לֹהִים: חֵץ פִּתְאוֹם–הָיוּ, מַכּוֹתָם. But God shoots them with an arrow suddenly; hence are their wounds. (Psalms 64:8)

One of the spiritual axioms of life is that harm intended by evil doers against their victims will be revisited upon them by G-d. In Jewish law we find this represented by the case of Edim Zomemim (Witnesses giving Corrupted Testimony). Their punishment is exactly what would have been given to the person they testified against.

וַיִּירְאוּ, כָּל-אָדָם: וַיַּגִּידוּ, פֹּעַל אֱ-לֹהִים; וּמַעֲשֵׂהוּ הִשְׂכִּילוּ. And all men fear; they declare the work of God, and understand His doing. (Psalms 64:10)

As he draws the chapter to a close, David informs that only when men fear G-d will there be moral restraint and an end to unrighteous behaviour.

יִשְׂמַח צַדִּיק בַּי-הוָה, וְחָסָה בוֹ; וְיִתְהַלְלוּ, כָּל-יִשְׁרֵי-לֵב. The righteous will delight in the LORD, and take refuge in Him; and all the upright in heart will offer glory. (Psalms 64:11)

When the righteous see that wrongdoing has no benefit or place in the world, they will joyously give thanks to the Almighty.

An oft-repeated message is that creating a safe, supportive world for all humanity is the task of human beings. It’s not for us to blame G-d when we fail in our mission.

Week of 18 January 2018 – Psalms 63

This 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. [To see the full Mechon Mamre text, please click here.]

Psalm 63 is attributed to King David and was composed in exile in the Judean wilderness. In this Psalm, David’s love and yearning for G-d is expressed in simple, short, clear verse.

The main themes include: thirsting for G-d’s presence, being in awe of G-d’s strength, seeking G-d’s lovingkindness, desiring to bless G-d, showing gratitude for having been rescued and wishing for the defeat of his enemies.

Psalm 63 was likely written after David had been anointed King by the Prophet Samuel. He would have left everything behind, immediately fleeing the murderous intent of King Saul.

אֱ-לֹהִים, אֵלִי אַתָּה– אֲשַׁחֲרֶךָּ: צָמְאָה לְךָ, נַפְשִׁי– כָּמַהּ לְךָ בְשָׂרִי; בְּאֶרֶץ-צִיָּה וְעָיֵף בְּלִי-מָיִם. O Lord, You are my God, earnestly will I seek You; my soul thirsts for You, my flesh longs for You, in a dry and weary land, where no water is. (Psalms 63:2)

The early verses are filled with warmth and devotion, yet David’s passionate loneliness as he adjusts to isolation, persecution and being cast out is clear. Moreover, David teaches that only by experiencing the Divine presence are we truly alive. G-d doesn’t need our blessings; we benefit from blessing G-d which elevates and nourishes our souls.

כִּי-טוֹב חַסְדְּךָ, מֵחַיִּים; שְׂפָתַי יְשַׁבְּחוּנְךָ. For Your lovingkindness is better than life; my lips shall praise You. (Psalms 63:4)

כֵּן אֲבָרֶכְךָ בְחַיָּי; בְּשִׁמְךָ, אֶשָּׂא כַפָּי. So will I bless You as long as I live; in Your name will I lift up my hands. (Psalms 63:5)

No longer able to access the presence of G-d so readily found in the Mishkan Sanctuary, the reference to ‘wings’ could be the conjuring-up of the Cherubim in the Holy of Holies. Being supported by G-d’s ‘right arm’ gives David added confidence in his distress.

כִּי-הָיִיתָ עֶזְרָתָה לִּי; וּבְצֵל כְּנָפֶיךָ אֲרַנֵּן. For You’ve been my help, and in the shadow of Your wings do I rejoice. (Psalms 63:8)

דָּבְקָה נַפְשִׁי אַחֲרֶיךָ; בִּי, תָּמְכָה יְמִינֶךָ. My soul cleaves to You; Your right hand holds me fast. (Psalms 63:9)

The intensity and purity of language suggests this exile was an abrupt change to what was previously David’s ability to engage with family, home and nation. The stark bitterness and anger reflected in the final verses appears vengeful and disturbing.

וְהֵמָּה–לְשׁוֹאָה, יְבַקְשׁוּ נַפְשִׁי; יָבֹאוּ, בְּתַחְתִּיּוֹת הָאָרֶץ. But those who seek to destroy my soul, shall go to the underpart of the earth. (Psalms 63:10)

וְהַמֶּלֶךְ, יִשְׂמַח בֵּא-לֹהִים: יִתְהַלֵּל, כָּל-הַנִּשְׁבָּע בּוֹ– כִּי יִסָּכֵר, פִּי דוֹבְרֵי-שָׁקֶר. And the king shall rejoice in God; those who swear by [G-d] shall glory; for the mouth of liars shall be stopped. (Psalms 63:12)

Phrases from Psalm 63 have been adapted to Jewish contemporary inspirational music. It was also scored by Antonin Dvorak in his 1894 Biblical Songs collection and was used by Michel-Richard de Lalande in a service at the Royal Chapel of the Chateau of Versailles for King Louis XIV in the late 1600s.


In co-operation with JAMI, this week we will participate in HEAD On, the UK annual Mental Health Awareness Shabbat. Chosen because of its association with the plague of darkness that appears in Parshat Bo, the weekend is about showing understanding and support for Mental Health issues.

At least 25% of the adolescent population will experience a mental health incident during their school years. An equal percentage of adults will face a mental health issue during their lifetime. This might include exam-related stress, feelings of hopelessness, postpartum depression, career-related anxiety, bereavement, loneliness or a host of other situations.

The purpose of HEAD ON is to bring up discussion about this enormously important but often avoided topic. JAMI’s aim is for mental health to be as freely discussed as any other category of our health. Please join us for a thoughtful presentation at the end of services.

IT ONLY TAKES A MOMENT: Luke Akehurst, the director of We Believe in Israel, is organising an E-mail campaign to get MPs to attend a Commons debate on 25 January to call for the banning of the political wing of the terrorist organisation Hezbollah. To contact your MP, please click this link to the Israel Britain Alliance, add your name and post code, and an e-mail will appear which you can read, edit or just send as is to your local MP. It takes less than a minute to participate!

Moishe Gotlieb has taken the initiative to set-up a Rambam Sephardi hospitality What’sApp group. It’s purpose is to create a regular support network for those seeking meals on Shabbat & Festivals. Please be in contact with Moishe if you’d like further information.

Joshua de Sola Mendes has gone to great effort and expense to create a directory of S&P communities around the world. It is a compact, very handy travelling resource. Copies are available via Amazon. You can find the S&P Central website here.

It is said the only thing which holds back a synagogue from growing is the number of its volunteers. Thankfully, we have an ambitious programme for 2018. Beginning with Tu BShvat on 30 January and continuing through to this summer’s Camp Rambam, there are numerous opportunities to get involved. Please contact the Rabbi, Brian, Derek, Lea or Rivka if you’d like to help.

Week of 11 January 2018 – Psalm 62

Sunday, 7 January, was the anniversary of the Rambam’s death. Widely known as Rabbi Moses Maimonides (1135-1204), he was a great leader whose impact on Torah study, while not fully appreciated during his lifetime, has grown immensely over the past 800 years.

Known for his vast work, the Mishneh Torah, Maimonides pioneered the codification of Halakha. His works on Jewish philosophy also won him great fame. He died in Egypt and was buried in Tiberias. (For more about his life, please click herehere, or here.)

Dr Tali Loewenthal pointed out that the true value of a Jewish leader is the ability to arouse within us a desire to explore our spiritual vitality. ‘Deep within each of us is a spiritual quality, a profound level of the soul which seeks to connect our entire being with G-d. It is the essence of our ‘Good Desire’, the voice of our conscience which warns us when we are about to make a mistake, and can sometimes be felt tugging at us to try to repair any spiritual damage we have caused.’

Just as Maimonides did in his lifetime, our Rambam Sephardi Synagogue aspires to create a community that encourages its members to unite with their passions and to reach towards this lofty leadership ideal.

It is said the only thing which holds back a synagogue from growing is the number of its volunteers. Thankfully, we have an ambitious programme for 2018. Beginning with Tu BShvat on 30 January and continuing through to this summer’s Camp Rambam, there are numerous opportunities to get involved. Please be in contact with the Rabbi, Brian, Derek or Rivka at if you’d like to help.

This 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. [To see the full Mechon Mamre text, please click here.]

Psalm 62 is attributed to King David beginning with instruction to the choirmaster Yedutun (I.e. see Chapter 39). It is a meditation in favour of fervent hope and salvation in the Divine, and against reliance on human beings who are unworthy of absolute trust.

This Psalm delivers its message in a pattern using a repeating middle refrain (I.e. see Chapters 24, 29, 46 & 56). Not rooted in any particular incident or period of time, it seems part lament; weaving a theme that only G-d can be fully trusted.

A person whose bedrock is having Faith in the Almighty will always rise-up, no matter the challenges or calamities faced.

אַךְ אֶל-אֱ-לֹהִים, דּוּמִיָּה נַפְשִׁי; מִמֶּנּוּ, יְשׁוּעָתִי. Only to G-d does my soul wait in stillness; from [G-d] comes my salvation. (Psalms 62:2)

אַךְ-הוּא צוּרִי, וִישׁוּעָתִי; מִשְׂגַּבִּי, לֹא-אֶמּוֹט רַבָּה. Only [G-d] is my rock and my salvation, my high tower, I shall not be greatly moved. (Psalms 62:3)

David exposes the duplicitous, murderous intent of interlopers, comparing an association with them to the mortal danger of a toppling wall. They appeal to their victim’s naivety by saying one thing, yet plotting another in their hearts, crushing them in their trap.

עַד-אָנָה, תְּהוֹתְתוּ עַל-אִישׁ– תְּרָצְּחוּ כֻלְּכֶם: כְּקִיר נָטוּי; גָּדֵר, הַדְּחוּיָה. How long will you set upon man, slaying him, all of you, as a leaning wall, a tottering fence? (Psalms 62:4)

אַךְ מִשְּׂאֵתוֹ, יָעֲצוּ לְהַדִּיחַ– יִרְצוּ כָזָב: בְּפִיו יְבָרֵכוּ; וּבְקִרְבָּם, יְקַלְלוּ-סֶלָה. They only devise to thrust him down from his height, delighting in lies; they bless with their mouth but curse inwardly. Selah (Psalms 62:5)

This constricted view sees another’s success as a threat to their own aspirations. Thus they employ deceitful means to reach for eminence; surrendering their spirit to perpetual lies, foolishly believing that oppressing others brings power and delight. They’re equally blinded by greed.

אַךְ, הֶבֶל בְּנֵי-אָדָם– כָּזָב בְּנֵי-אִישׁ: בְּמֹאזְנַיִם לַעֲלוֹת; הֵמָּה, מֵהֶבֶל יָחַד. Men are vain and sons of men lie; laid in the balance, they’re lighter than vanity. (Psalms 62:10)

אַל-תִּבְטְחוּ בְעֹשֶׁק, וּבְגָזֵל אַל-תֶּהְבָּלוּ: חַיִל כִּי-יָנוּב– אַל-תָּשִׁיתוּ לֵב. Trust not in oppression, and put not vain hope in robbery; if riches increase, set not your heart thereon. (Psalms 62:11)

Yet David understood that an omniscient, benevolent G-d knows all that drives us and motivates our hearts. In the end, there’s punishment for evil and reward for righteousness.

וּלְךָ-אֲ-דֹנָי חָסֶד: כִּי-אַתָּה תְשַׁלֵּם לְאִישׁ כְּמַעֲשֵׂהוּ. And to You, O Lord, belongs kindness; for You render to every man according to his work. (Psalms 62:13)

Psalm 62 implores us to know ourselves, understand our innermost passions, hopes and desires; and that we need to include G-d consciousness in how we engage with the world. Insincerity and deceit will take us away from the Divine, and those who prey on others will at some point be held to accountability. It directs us to see there’s a Divine plan for each of us, but we must search for it by trusting in G-d in both good times and bad.

Week of 4 January 2018 – Psalms 61

Thankfully a new calendar year has begun – perhaps quieter in some corners and louder in others – but with much opportunity for reflection. My favourite aspect to New Years is the world wide fireworks countdown shown in a 3-minute collage. If you missed it, please feel free to click here.

Some may think it isn’t ‘Jewish’ to celebrate the secular new year. But in places other than the UK, the calendar year also serves as the tax year. So it’s at least a date with financial if not religious significance. As all beginnings are an opportunity for taking account and planning ahead, we hope 2018 will bring us closer to living the kind of lives we aspire to.

Our dear friend Renee W forwarded a link to former Chief Rabbi Lord Jonathan Sacks’s new year reflections for 2018. He focuses on 5 simple themes that everyone can benefit from – Dreaming, Following one’s Passion, Asking what life wants from Us, Making space for what matters and Working Hard (click here to read more). His thoughts have a profundity that is appreciated by millions around the world!

This 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. [To see the full Mechon Mamre text, please click here.]

Psalm 61 introduces a musical variation known as Neginah, or string music (I.e. see Psalm 67). As many Psalms were adapted to be sung by the Levites in the Beit HaMikdash (Jewish Temple), it’s not surprising that they begin with musical instruction. For those unaware, until today, a musical tradition is daily maintained by those of another faith.

At only 9 verses, Psalm 61 is brief, containing 3 basic themes. They are; Calling upon G-d as Protector, as Provider and as the source of Continuing Favour. It is attributed to David, and like many in this recent series, it begins in sadness and ends in hope. [To see the full Mechon Mamre text, please click here.]

שִׁמְעָה אֱ-לֹהִים, רִנָּתִי; הַקְשִׁיבָה, תְּפִלָּתִי. Hear my cry, O G-d; attend unto my prayer. (Psalms 61:2)

מִקְצֵה הָאָרֶץ, אֵלֶיךָ אֶקְרָא- בַּעֲטֹף לִבִּי; בְּצוּר-יָרוּם מִמֶּנִּי תַנְחֵנִי. From the end of the earth will I call to You, when my heart faints; lead me to a rock that is too high for me. (Psalms 61:3)

The Artscroll comment on this Psalm informs that, though designated king, David had to flee into exile from those who would destroy him. His personal experience prophetically served to parallel Israel’s national plight. Thus, this Psalm embraces that wider meaning as well.

אָגוּרָה בְאָהָלְךָ, עוֹלָמִים; אֶחֱסֶה בְסֵתֶר כְּנָפֶיךָ סֶּלָה. I will dwell in Your Tent for ever; taking refuge in the cover of Your wings. Selah (Psalms 61:5)

כִּי-אַתָּה אֱ-לֹהִים, שָׁמַעְתָּ לִנְדָרָי; נָתַתָּ יְרֻשַּׁת, יִרְאֵי שְׁמֶךָ. For You, O God, have heard my vows; have granted heritage to those who fear Your name. (Psalms 61:6)

R Samson Raphael Hirsch suggests the phrase ‘add days to the King’s days’ contains a far-reaching eternal aspiration of David. Not only did he want his earthly days to be extended, but he wanted his Psalms to be recited by many generations of those seeking hope, internal peace and closeness to G-d. In this way, whatever he might accomplish in life through poetic inspiration and good deeds, would continue to endure after his demise.

יָמִים עַל-יְמֵי-מֶלֶךְ תּוֹסִיף; שְׁנוֹתָיו, כְּמוֹ-דֹר וָדֹר. May You add days unto the king’s days! May his years be as many generations! (Psalms 61:7)

יֵשֵׁב עוֹלָם, לִפְנֵי אֱ-לֹהִים; חֶסֶד וֶאֱמֶת, מַן יִנְצְרֻהוּ. May he be enthroned before God for ever! Appoint mercy and truth, that they may preserve him. (Psalms 61:8)

Inevitably, at some point in all of our lives, we ponder – if not struggle over – the question ‘what impact will I make on the world’. Psalm 61 leads us to understand that the way we each live, the moral integrity with which we conduct ourselves and the effort we make in seeking closeness to G-d in all of our daily experiences, will be what remains after we’re gone. Most everything else is unlikely to last very long.