Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Healing Psalms, Day Four

We continue praying the healing Psalms, the Tikkun HaKlali or "Complete Remedy" recommended by Rabbi Nachman of Breslov. I am praying these especially to accompany P., who is having major surgery tomorrow. He is Jewish and this form of prayer seemed most appropriate.

My friend P. leaves his house at 4:30 in the morning to get to the hospital and check in around 5:00 a.m. and get prepped for his coronary artery bypass. Surgery will last several hours. He'll be "under" most of the day. I expect to hear from his partner B. sometime during the day or evening. Recovery after will take some weeks. They get you up and walking pretty fast (my father had a slightly more complex verison of this in his 80s and I was there during his surgery and recovery) but there is long-term rehab and one's sternum has to heal, which takes a while.

I have had a long day (I'm writing this third paragraph at 1 a.m. after interrupting the composition of this post for several hours) so will keep this as short as I can.

The Psalm for today is Psalm 42. I wonder if any of you have thought of it as a "healing Psalm." I must say that I haven't, as I tend to focus as many of us do on the first verse or two of longing for Godde. But the commentator for today, Rabbi Charles Scheer, calls this "The Remarkable Faith of a Downcast Soul" in his chapter title. Or maybe that's what the editor of the book called it.

To the Chief Musician; Instruction to the Sons of Korah
Like a hind crying for spring of water,
***so my soul cries out for You, O God.
My soul thirsts for God,
***for the living El/Almighty;
***O, when will I come to appear before God?

My tears have been my food,
***day and night;
******my enemies taunt me all day, asking,
******"Where is your God?"

This I remember, and pour out my soul within me--
***how I used to walk with the crowd,
***moving with them, the festive throng, up to the House of God,*
*****with joyous shouts of praise to God
*********a multitude celebrating the festival!

Why so downcast, my soul?
***Why disquieted within me?
******Have hope in God!
*********For I will yet praise Him
*********for deliverance, for His presence.

My God, my soul is cast down within me;
***as I remember You in the land of the Jordan River,
******and Mount Hermon's peaks,
*********and the smaller mountain of Sinai.

Deep cries out to deep,
***the sounds of the opened sluices of heaven;
*******all your breakers and your billows
*******have swept over me.

By day, Adonai will command his Hessed/Loving-kindness,
***and at night, His resting place will be with me;
******This is my prayer to the Almighty, God of my life.
******I say to the Almighty, my Rock:
*********"Why have You forgotten me?
*********"Why must I walk in dark gloom,
***********oppressed by enemies?"

Crushing my bones
***my adversaries revile me,
***taunting me all day with,
******"Where is your God?"

Why so downcast, my soul?
***Why disquieted within me?
***Have hope in God!
******I will yet praise Him,
*********my ever-present Help,
***********my God

* Rabbi Scheer has a note here that the reference is to the festival pilgrimages to the ancient Temple in Jerusalem.

From Rabbi Scheer's commentary:

... [A]s the psalmist bares more of his tormented soul, he continues to use water as the organizing metaphor. Whereas earlier water was depicted as a nourishing agent, it now becomes a terrifying and destructive force. ...

... This psalm may hint at the only possible response we can make to overwhelming pain and loss. The psalmist asks himself, "Why so downcast, my soul? Why disquieted within me?" His answer is instructive. Having poured his heart out, he does not deny the reality of his pain nor does he present simple pieties to explain God's design. Instead, in the face of adversity, he presents a human response rather than an answer.

***The psalmist uses two words in the text that connect the faith of his past with hope for his future. In his concluding declaration of faith he says, ki od --"yet." This terminology suggest that, in the indefinite future, the exile will end. Although the current reality seems to preclude all reasonable hope, he reminds himself that there might yet be other options: "I will yet praise Him."

From Rabbi Simkha Y. Weintraub, C.S.W., ed. Healing of Soul, Healing of Body: Spiritual Leaders unfold the Strength and Solace of Psalms. Woodstock, VT: Jewish Lights Publishing, 1994.

See below (scroll down) for the first three posts on the healing Psalms.

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