Friday, March 13, 2009

Healing Psalms, Day Seven: Crisis and Confidence

Continuing to pray with and for my friend P., who has just had a coronary bypass, and with all who need prayer and all who pray for others.

Psalm 90 is the seventh in this series of healing psalms according to Rabbi Nachman of Bratzlav, and the commentator today is Rabbi Eugene B. Borowitz.

Rabbi Borowitz speaks of "the simple shifts that are part of the quiet rhythm of the everyday. They raise us from the stability of routine to a warm feeling of confidence, or lower us into doubting that anything really matters or is worth our effort.

Our psalm speaks to me of this alternation of temper. We begin it confidently enough. After all, it is a psalm, part of our sacred literature, something Jews have recited for millennia and perhaps familiar from the early part of the Shabbat service. ..."

I am keeping the quotes from the commentary short because the Psalm speaks powerfully for itself.

A prayer of Moses, a man of God:
***Adonai, You have been a refuge for us
***in every generation.

Before the mountains were born,
***before You brought forth the earth and the inhabited world,
******from world to world--
*********You are the Almighty.

You bring people down
***from arrogance to contrition;
******You say,
*********'Return to Me, children of Adam and Eve!'

For a thousand years are in Your eyes
***like yesterday, which has just passed,
******like a watch in the night.
The stream of human life is like a dream;
***In the morning, it is as grass, sprouting fresh;
***In the morning, it blossoms and flourishes,
******but by evening, it is cut down and shrivels.

So are we consumed by Your anger;
***were are terrified by Your rage.
You have placed our sins before You;
***Our hidden misdeeds
******are exposed by the light of Your countenance.

All our days vanish
***in the glare of Your wrath;
***We have used up our years;
*******which pass like a word unspoken.

The days of our years may total seventy;
***if we are exceptionally strong, perhaps eighty;
******but all their pride and glory is toil and falsehood,
*********and, severed quickly, we fly away.

Who can know the force of Your fury?
******Your rage is as awful as our fear!
To count every day-- teach us,
******so we will acquire a heart of wisdom.

Return, Adonai--how long?
******Take pity, have compassion on Your servants.
Satisfy us in the morning
******with your Hessed/Lovingkindness,
******and we will sing and rejoice all our days!

Give us joy
***that will challenge the days of our affliction,
*********the years we have seen evil.

Let Your work be revealed to Your servants,
***let Your splendor be on their children.

May the pleasantness of my Master, our God, rest upon us,
***and may the work of our hands be established;
******Establish the work of our hands!

Rabbi Borowitz writes of the many shifts in mood in this psalm. He concludes:

"Will our prayer be answered? That is for God to determine. But in one sense, it already has been, for we end this prayer different from when we started it."

The sentence that strikes me is "Give us joy / that will challenge the days of our affliction, / the years we have seen evil." Is it not usually evil and affliction that challenge our sense of joy? Here the prayer is for Godde to do the opposite: to give us joy that challenges us! that challenges our past sorrows. That challenges even evil. And if we ask Godde for this, we must believe that it is possible. It will happen. Joy will challenge the worst of our memories, the deepest of our sorrows, the most terrible of evils. Joy will. Joy.

Photo: In the Woods (France), by Sébastien Lallement

1 comment:

Lisa Fox said...

I haven't commented on this series, but want to say "thanks." This has become part of my daily devotion.