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 office@rambam.org.uk 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.