Week of 15 March 2018 – Psalm 70

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 70 is attributed to David and is only 6 verses in length. There are 3 main themes. They are: 1) Asking G-d’s deliverance, 2) Seeking for one’s enemies to be shamed, and 3) Wanting all people to rejoice in the Lord.

Known as a Cry for Help, Psalm 70 repeats almost verbatim Psalm 40: 14-18. Unique to this Psalm is the appearance of the word ‘remembrance’ in the opening sentence, for it is not G-d who needs to remember but human beings.

We will observe examples of the similarity in verses:

This initial pair differs only in the first two words. Where verse 40:14 seems like a gentle request, our verse 70:2 implies a slightly greater tone of urgency.

אֱ-לֹהִים לְהַצִּילֵנִי; יְ-הוָה, לְעֶזְרָתִי חוּשָׁה. O G-d, to deliver me; O LORD, make haste to help me. (Psalms 70:2)

רְצֵה יְ-הוָה, לְהַצִּילֵנִי; יְ-הוָה, לְעֶזְרָתִי חוּשָׁה. Be pleased, O LORD, to deliver me; O LORD, make haste to help me. (Psalms 40:14)

In the second set of pairs, again only 2 words differ: ‘together’ and ‘to sweep it away.’ The ‘shame’ being wished upon his enemies is so they will realise their evil deeds and cease.

יֵבֹשׁוּ וְיַחְפְּרוּ, מְבַקְשֵׁי נַפְשִׁי: יִסֹּגוּ אָחוֹר, וְיִכָּלְמוּ; חֲפֵצֵי, רָעָתִי. Let them be ashamed and abashed who seek after my soul; let them be turned backward and brought to confusion who delight in my hurt. (Psalms 70:3)

יֵבֹשׁוּ וְיַחְפְּרוּ, יַחַד– מְבַקְשֵׁי נַפְשִׁי, לִסְפּוֹתָהּ: יִסֹּגוּ אָחוֹר, וְיִכָּלְמוּ– חֲפֵצֵי, רָעָתִי. Let them be ashamed and abashed together who seek after my soul to sweep it away; let them be turned backward and brought to confusion who delight in my hurt. (Psalms 40:15)

In the third set of pairs, the only difference is the author’s choice of the Divine name. In encouraging all to seek the Divine Presence and find joy in relationship with G-d, the author demonstrates an alternative to the path of oppressing others.

This echoes the Messianic tone at the end of Psalm 69. This idea further corresponds to another well-known principle found in the Ashrei prayer that ‘G-d is close to those who call out to the Lord in truth’.

יָשִׂישׂוּ וְיִשְׂמְחוּ, בְּךָ– כָּל-מְבַקְשֶׁיךָ: וְיֹאמְרוּ תָמִיד, יִגְדַּל אֱ-לֹהִים– אֹהֲבֵי, יְשׁוּעָתֶךָ. Let all those who seek You rejoice and be glad, and let those who love Your salvation say continually: ‘Let G-d be magnified.’ (Psalms 70:5)

יָשִׂישׂוּ וְיִשְׂמְחוּ, בְּךָ– כָּל-מְבַקְשֶׁיךָ: יֹאמְרוּ תָמִיד, יִגְדַּל יְ-הוָה– אֹהֲבֵי, תְּשׁוּעָתֶךָ. Let all those who seek You rejoice and be glad; let those who love Your salvation say continually: ‘The LORD be magnified.’ (Psalms 40:17)

Some suggest this shortened form of Psalm 70 may have been intended for liturgical use in the Temple – with the verses taking on a ‘national’ application rather than a personal plea. Other observers suggest that Psalm 70’s similarity to the end of Psalm 69, makes it appear as an addendum. An American contemporary version put to guitar can be found here.


Our Kahal enjoyed the wonderful experience of the visit of the Israeli Ambassador HE Mark Regev who joined our Shabbat service last week. The Ambassador’s talk on ‘Three Reasons to be Hopeful about Israel’ made a deep impression on our Kahal. Additionally, our teenagers appreciated his very down-to-earth style during the separate discussions they shared.

That the highest representative of the State of Israel in the UK also spends his time visiting synagogues around the greater London area, in and of itself, strengthens our bond to Israel and gives us hope. It was a particular honour for us that Ambassador Regev read the Prayer for the State of Israel.

Victor Itzhak’s brilliant presentation this week on Emotional Well-Being reinforced the need to step back, be a bit less serious, and look at ourselves in a more relaxed way. His talk focused on positive mental health awareness and the ‘Zones of Regulation’ tool kit. Participants identified a desire within the community to set-up support groups for our children and for adults. Stay tuned for more exciting programming!

Here are a few other gentle reminders:

This week we’re looking forward to hosting Aaron Hass as hazan and scholar-in-residence at Rambam Sephardi. Aaron will be leading Kabbalat Shabbat services and delivering the drasha on Shabbat morning. There will also be a Seudah Shilishi (without Motsi) at 6pm at the home of the Wahnon Family.

RACHEL COHEN BON VOYAGE: This week we also acknowledge her contribution to Rambam Sephardi and thank Rachel Cohen who’s been a dedicated volunteer in our community for 3 years. Rachel recently moved to Hendon and we felt it was appropriate as a community for us to share our bon voyage wishes with her. Please join us!

Uniquely, we will be using 3 Sifrei Torah this week because it is Rosh Hodesh Nisan and also Parshat HaHodesh. One Torah is used for VaYikra, one for Rosh Hodesh and one for Parshat HaHodesh. This phenomenon of 3 Torah scrolls being used during services only occurs on a few occasions during the year.

UK-RUSSIA DIPLOMATIC CRISIS: There is concern that diplomatic equilibrium between the UK and Russia may change drastically and unpredictably in the coming days. It would strengthen Prime Minister Theresa May’s case on the world stage to release evidence proving the direct link between Last Sunday’s attempted assassination of Sergei Skripal and his daughter Yulia in Salisbury and the traceable source of the nerve agent’s manufacture.

More deeply troubling is the growing awareness that a wider scale chemical attack could be randomly copied elsewhere. What used to be dark imaginings of Sci-Fi films from the 1970’s is becoming a credible scenario in our time. There’s clearly a global need for greater diligence in identifying and limiting the production of such agents. We pray in the immediate future for a calmer, more responsible worldview to prevail.

We note with sadness the passing of world-renowned mathematician and cosmologist Stephen Hawking this week. Overcoming the debilitating affect of motor neuron disease (a form of ALS), Hawking in 2016 credited his success to having a sense of humor. ‘It’s also important not to become angry, no matter how difficult life is, because you can lose all hope if you can’t laugh at yourself and at life in general.”