Today I am beginning a sequence of prayer for a dear friend of mine who is having bypass surgery on Wednesday. (He is a rather private person, so I will just ask for your prayers for him by saying "pray for L." Which is not the initial of his name; I am being protective of his privacy unless or until he tells me otherwise. He is an occasional reader of this blog but doesn't post.)
Because my friend is Jewish, I told him that I would pray for him the traditional healing Psalms of Rebbe Nachman of Bratslav (a.k.a Breslov - same city). They are from the book of Psalms you all know, but Rebbe Nachman believed that reciting these ten Psalms brought about healing of body and soul. This practice has survived in Judaism. There is a fine contemporary book with commentary on these Psalms by both men and women rabbis from different movements (denominations) within the religious Jewish community and I am using it for these ten days of prayer.
I posted on those Psalms and that book here. (I'm finding that I am starting to refer to and recycle old posts - why not?) Have a look.
The first of the ten healing Psalms is Psalm 16.
The editor of Healing of Soul, Healing of Body, Rabbi Simkha Weintraub, writes in his introduction:
Viewed together, the Ten Psalms reflect and unfolding of many emotions and reactions common to those dealing with illness. Although every reader should approach the Ten Psalms from his/her own individual experience and vantage point --and may thus arrive at a different understanding and personal interpretation-- here is one sketch of each psalm's content, to aid in uncovering the flow of meaning and direction.
Psalm 16 starts with a powerful expression of trust and faith in God and gratitude for God's goodness. The psalmist feels the nearness of the Divine Presence and confidence in Divine protection.
These are among David's golden words:
Watch over me, God,
****for I seek refuge in You.
You said to the Lord:
****You are my Master,
******but my good fortune is not Your concern.
"Rather, the holy ones on the earth
****--You care for them
*******and for the great ones whom I should emulate.
"When their pain multiplies,
****they know to speedily turn to another.
**But I cannot even pour their libations because of guilt,
******I cannot even lift their names to my lips."
The Lord is the Portion, which is mine by right,
******You nurture my destiny.
Labor pains turn into pleasantness--
******so, too, I must see my inheritance of beauty.
I will bless the Lord who counsels me,
******though at night my conscience afflicts me.
I keep the Lord continually before me;
******because of God-Who-is-my-Right-Hand,
******I shall not break down.
So my mind is happy,
****my whole being joyful;
******even my body rests secure.
For You shall not abandon my soul
*****to the world of the dead,
*******nor let the one who loves You
********see his own grave.
Give me directions on life's road.
****With Your Presence,
*****I am filled up with joys,
*******with the delights that ever come
********from Your Strong Arm.
Rabbi Weintraub also writes:
****Rabbi Nachman taught that the Psalms can have minimal value in mere recitation --one must identify with their contents in a deep and meaningful way, and seek to apply the words to oneself, to find oneself in every psalm.
From the commentary by Rabbi Harlan Wechsler:
****...With this realignment, the possibility of a new direction, David blesses the Lord (v.7). From deep down in his being, he knows that the conflicts of conscience, the feelings of worthlessness that afflict him from time to time, do not tell the whole story. God does not want him to wallow in his sorrow. But rather it is a lofty, a pristine, and a powerful feeling to know deep inside that I am so close to God, so near to the Lord's purpose, God's power, and the beauty of my life which is the way God sees me, that I can do that which is best: bless the Lord. I might have felt bereft and without the ability to bless. I might have found myself more tempted to curse. But feeling God near, I am able to bless, even now in my pain.
.....God's strength is in my service. Now I am revived, human, myself. Ready.
Rabbi Simkha Y. Weintraub, C.S.W., Healing of Soul, Healing of Body: Spiritual Leaders unfold the Strength and Solace of Psalms. (Woodstock, VT: Jewish Lights Publishing, 1994).