Week of 15 February 2018 – Psalm 67

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 67 is unattributed, quite short at 8 verses, and not connected to any identifiable historic incident. It follows Psalms 65 & 66 which, according to some scholars, celebrated the miracle of the defeat of Sennacherib’s army.

Using the appearance of the word Selah as indicative of a change in subject, this Psalm contains 3 themes: 1) that G-d will be gracious to Israel, 2) that the nations of the world will recognise G-d, and 3) that the Earth will abundantly yield its produce, leading all humanity to be in awe of the Almighty.

Psalms 67 displays a universal praise of G-d. It employs a chiastic structure, where the earlier verses mirror the latter ones and where the 4th and 6th verses are identical, focusing the reader on the centre of verse 5; ‘let the nations be glad and sing with joy’.

There are hints in Verse 2 to the priestly blessing (‘Your face to shine towards us’). There’s also a notion that G-d’s graciousness to Israel will draw other nations to Divine worship.

אֱ-לֹהִים, יְחָנֵּנוּ וִיבָרְכֵנוּ; יָאֵר פָּנָיו אִתָּנוּ סֶלָה. G-d be gracious to us and bless us; cause Your face to shine toward us; Selah. (Psalms 67:2)

יוֹדוּךָ עַמִּים אֱ-לֹהִים: יוֹדוּךָ, עַמִּים כֻּלָּם. Let nations give thanks to You, O G-d; let nations give thanks, all of them. (Psalms 67:4)

In recognition of G-d’s mercies toward Israel and the miracle of their existence, other nations will be lead to pursue righteousness and to live in peace and happiness.

יִשְׂמְחוּ וִירַנְּנוּ, לְאֻמִּים: כִּי-תִשְׁפֹּט עַמִּים מִישֹׁר; וּלְאֻמִּים, בָּאָרֶץ תַּנְחֵם סֶלָה. O let nations be glad and sing for joy; for You will judge them with equity, and lead the nations upon Earth. Selah! (Psalms 67:5)

Rev A Cohen suggests that ‘the earth has yielded her increase’ is not to be taken literally, but is a metaphor for Messianic times when all nations will experience the morality of G-d’s world. In doing so, they will comprehend the purpose of Creation; for the highest spiritual accomplishment is when human beings are conscious, and in awe of, their Creator.

אֶרֶץ, נָתְנָה יְבוּלָהּ; יְבָרְכֵנוּ, אֱ-לֹהִים אֱ-לֹהֵינוּ. The earth has yielded her increase; may G-d, our own G-d, bless us. (Psalms 67:7)

יְבָרְכֵנוּ אֱ-לֹהִים; וְיִירְאוּ אוֹתוֹ, כָּל-אַפְסֵי-אָרֶץ. May G-d bless us; and let all the ends of the earth be in awe. (Psalms 67:8)

Because it has 49 words and the middle verse has 49 letters, there’s been a Kabbalistic fascination with this Psalm going back at least to the 14th century in which it is depicted visually as a 7-branched Menorah.

Psalm 67 appears frequently in our Tefillah (prayer liturgy). It is recited daily near the end of Pisukei D’Zimrah and at minha after the Amidah; it’s also recited on Saturday night at the conclusion of Shabbat, on Hanukkah after candle lighting and during Sefirat HaOmer.

Perhaps because of its Messianic association Psalm 67 has been put to music by artists of many backgrounds. Here are a few highlights for those who are ‘open minded’ to hearing (and seeing) varied performances. Jewish – ContemporaryMizrahi and S&P. Other renditions – EvangelicalAnglicanAmerican.

TRAGEDY IN AMERICA: Sadly, there was another in-school shooting in the United States yesterday senselessly taking the lives of at least 17 students in Parkland, Florida. It’s much too easy for people to acquire semi-automatic weapons in America. At some point, there will have to be legislation to prevent this. We share our profound sympathies with the families whose children were murdered.

OLYMPIC DIALOGUE: On a more upbeat note, the Winter Olympics 2018 got underway during half-term week, and despite complaints of severely cold temperatures and wind gusts, watching these remarkable athletes is mesmerising. Equally important was the effort of the unified Korean team, proving that perhaps ‘dialogue’ is a much better, safer way forward for this divided nation than threat and coercion.

ROSH HODESH ADAR: Finally, today and tomorrow are Rosh Hodesh Adar. In the Babylonian Talmud, if not earlier, there’s a statement ‘MiShenikhnas Adar Marbim BeSimha‘ (when Adar arrives Joy increases). We’re reminded that it’s only 2 weeks until Purim!