PSALMS OF ASCENT – week 2 – PSALM 121- Part 2

Come to Him as a little child!

Come to Him as a ChildTranslation of Hebrew in picture:

Our Father in Heaven! Thank you for everything!
I will praise Your Name forever!

In reference to verses 1-4, Rabbi Samson Raphael Hirsch approaches them as a question. In essence, “To whom, or what, do I look to for help in my times of need or despair?” He answers, “I will NOT lift my eyes to any earthly power [whose intent is not for my personal good but has only selfish motives in all that is done]. I will gladly forego the favor and assistance which these powers deny me. There is One Who is higher still and surer, and it is to Him that I look for help.”*

All the forces that men employ are nothing more than physical and mechanical protection. They are powerful only on a superficial level and seem to provide security but they are limited and do not safeguard a man’s deeper moral course of life, which matters for eternity. While we definitely trust the Lord for the external elements of life – even our daily bread – it is in the matters of the soul that we more deeply trust that He is our Help and protector. With all our inherent weaknesses and imperfections, no person is immune to sin or error. We need constantly to be looking to G-d for guidance; trusting for His enabling and protection to keep walking in the way He has set and in doing what is pleasing to Him. He then assures us that, in His deep and tender love for each one, He never slumbers nor sleeps but is watching over us faithfully at all times.

verses 5-6  The shade of His Presence covers all that we do when it is for the sake of His Name and in love. Rabbi Hirsch compares the brightness of the sun to the “glitter of good fortune.” In other words, the time when all is going well and prospering financially. Then the Lord will shade you from being ‘dazzled’ by it and becoming arrogant in your own power and accomplishments. Also, during the dark times of “misfortune” His Presence will steadily shine, as the gentle light of the moon, to brighten the darkness of the night and to give hope that, in harmony with His plan and purpose, the sun will again rise with the birth of a new day.

Again, verses 7 – 8 assure us that His protection is not limited. He is with us every moment, through every circumstance good or bad, and He will keep us and bring us through as the keeper and guardian of our soul.

No evil aimed against you will harm your spirit and its purity for, dedicated to Him, it is in His powerful hands and tender care. Thus, Hirsch happily concludes, “You may go out confidently, even into the midst of a world that is opposed to you and cheerfully complete your journeys therein…and, one day, when you have been steeled and refined by the trials and experiences of your life on earth, He will lead you back to your own true home”… to the now incomprehensible blessing and glory of His Presence for all eternity.

HalleluYah!
~Keren Hannah

* Samson Raphael Hirsch, The Hirsch Psalms, Psalm 121

PSALMS OF ASCENT 2nd Step – PSALM 121

Model of TempleModel of the Temple on the Mount in Jerusalem:
Court of the Women and the 15 steps ascending to the Court of Israel.

This is a beautiful Psalm of consolation. It was my Mother’s favorite, especially through the last years of her life as she faced physical challenges bravely and with delightful humor. It also has a special place in my heart; especially when I sing it in Hebrew with a Carlebach-sounding happy melody. No matter the many troubles and dangers King David encountered on his journey, his soul continued to sing when he raised his eyes to Heaven – his constant and faithful source of help and strength.

Flying and rising, sing a song of delights;
a Song of Ascents.*

David can trust that God, who created the mountains and is above and beyond all creation and understanding, nevertheless sees his plight and, knowing all, in His love and care for him, will save him from adverse circumstances and the hand of his enemies. Every day, every moment, we too can raise a cry and a prayer to the Throne of glory and grace; confident that our Father in Heaven will hear and respond.

The Sages of Israel compare the ‘great mountain’ in Zechariah 4:7 – “Who are you, O great mountain?”- to King Messiah, saying:
“From where will he come? By way of the mountains. As it [the Tanakh – Hebrew Scriptures] says: “How beautiful on the mountains are the feet of him who brings good tidings” (Isaiah 52:7). This alludes to both the Messiah son of Joseph and the Messiah son of David… hence the plural form: “the mountains.”**

King David had come to the realization that there was no person around him who was able or willing to help him; he could only look up to the One who created heaven and earth through His Word of grace and mercy.

“For the world is built on loving-kindness” (Psalm 89:3).

Even though He usually works through intermediaries, the true Source of all life and help is God Himself.

In reference to verses 1-4, Rabbi Samson Raphael Hirsch*** approaches them as a question. In essence, “To whom, or what, do I look to for help in my times of need or despair?” He answers, “I will NOT lift my eyes to any earthly power [whose intent is not for my personal good but has only selfish motives in all that is done]. I will gladly forego the favor and assistance which these powers deny me. There is One Who is higher still and surer, and it is to Him that I look for help.”*

All the forces that men employ are nothing more than physical and mechanical protection. They are powerful only on a superficial level and seem to provide security but they are limited and do not safeguard a man’s deeper moral course of life, which matters for eternity. While we definitely trust the Lord for the external elements of life – even our daily bread – it is in the matters of the soul that we more deeply trust that He is our Help and protector. With all our inherent weaknesses and imperfections, no person is immune to sin or error. We need constantly to be looking to G-d for guidance; trusting for His enabling and protection to keep walking in the way He has set and in doing what is pleasing to Him. He then assures us that, in His deep and tender love for each one, He never slumbers nor sleeps but is watching over us faithfully at all times.

verses 5-6  The shade of His Presence covers all that we do when it is for the sake of His Name and in love. Rabbi Hirsch compares the brightness of the sun to the “glitter of good fortune.” In other words, the time when all is going well and prospering financially. Then the Lord will shade you from being ‘dazzled’ by it and becoming arrogant in your own power and accomplishments. Also, during the dark times of “misfortune” His Presence will steadily shine, as the gentle light of the moon, to brighten the darkness of the night and to give hope that, in harmony with His plan and purpose, the sun will again rise with the birth of a new day.

Again, verses 7 – 8 assure us that His protection is not limited. He is with us every moment, through every circumstance good or bad, and He will keep us and bring us through as the keeper and guardian of our soul.

No evil aimed against you will harm your spirit and its purity for, dedicated to Him, it is in His powerful hands and tender care. Thus, Hirsch happily concludes, “You may go out confidently, even into the midst of a world that is opposed to you and cheerfully complete your journeys therein…and, one day, when you have been steeled and refined by the trials and experiences of your life on earth, He will lead you back to your own true home”… to the now incomprehensible blessing and glory of His Presence for all eternity.

HalleluYah!
~Keren Hannah

*[from a poem by Rabbi Elazar haKalir]
** The Torah Anthology. The Book of Tehillim [Psalms] V. pg. 164.
*** Samson Raphael Hirsch, The Hirsch Psalms, Feldheim Publishers

PSALMS OF ASCENT – 1st Step – Psalm 120

PSALM 120 PART 1


Breslev Israel

Pic: Breslev Israel

INTRO:
The Psalms, penned by King David and other psalmists, have been termed “harps of God” and it has been proven that when we read, recite or sing them, and meditate upon them, the healing, restoring and strengthening power of God is released through these His inspired Words.

There are 15 Psalms of Ascent, that correspond in number to the 15 steps that ascended from the Women’s Court in the Holy Temple in Jerusalem, designed by King David according to God’s blueprint, to the Court of Israel. The Levitical priests would ascend these stairs playing numerous musical instruments and would pause, as they ascended, on each step and sing each of these Psalms composed with musical accompaniment by King David.

As we take a little quiet time, each morning or whenever possible, to focus our attention on each consecutive Psalm – read it, think about it, sing it if you can – we can trust that our spirits will be ascending in the light and warmth of the Spirit of holiness and drawing closer and closer to the source of God’s wisdom and healing.

Let us, then, begin… and please feel free to share your thoughts in your own unique and creative way (without routine-type preaching OK? Allow our Creator to inspire fresh perspectives from His Hebrew Scriptures) – a picture, a poem, an idea, a thought.

1. PSALM 120

v.1 In my distress I called to the L-rd, and He answered me.

Interesting that the first step up is taken with the lifting of a cry of distress to Heaven. Also, it’s a lonely, personal cry. That’s very reassuring, reminding us that even in the midst of the whole community and wider population, God’s ear is tuned to each individual heart’s cry. That’s where we begin in our relationship with Him, actually… in realizing our own human weakness and all the pain and distress that we encounter in life. We need Him to lift us up, to give us direction and to give us the strength we need to climb up to His Presence.

v. 2-4 A great source of strife and pain is that of “lying lips” – two lips, which we can see as someone deliberately saying things that can be understood two ways (hence hypocritical and duplicitous) and “a deceitful tongue” – the tongue is generally hidden, so this can be seen as those who say good things to one’s face, but think evil in their hearts. [ Ref: ‘The Torah Anthology’ The Book of Tehillim V, pg 156]
May our words always be a clear reflection of the goodness in our hearts, and may HaShem protect and save us from those whose words do not.

We pray God’s same protection for Israel, whose enemies employ both these hate-filled devices to bring destruction to her and to further their own selfish ends.

As we will be staring each new Psalm on Motzei Shabbat (Saturday evening/Sunday) I will post some thoughts on the rest of Psalm 120 tomorrow.

 

PSALM 120: Part 2

emet - truth

Rabbi S. R. Hirsch, in his wonderful commentary ‘The Hirsch Psalms’ looks beyond the individual and highlights the connection with Israel, as a people, who cry to the L-rd as they have done through history and He faithfully brings deliverance – albeit sometimes in hidden and mysterious ways.

Words he wrote in 1882 still ring true today! “As a spokesman for the truth [of G-D], Israel meets with widespread hostility; it is insulted and expelled from the community of nations as a disturber of the peace. In this sad situation Israel can say: “Rejected by men, I can take refuge in the L-rd.”

Those who hate truth will also hate peace because Shalom cannot be built on false communication and unworthy motives. Thus King David bemoans the fact: “My soul has had its fill of dwelling with those who hate peace. I represent peace even when I speak. But they are for war” (v.6-7). Israel today continues to face an enemy who spin a narrative of lies, violence and war – sometimes veiled by hypocritical gestures of peace.

We can rejoice, as we will see joyously confirmed in the following Psalms of Ascent, that deliverance, Redemption and true Shalom ultimately will come – the birth pangs of which we are experiencing even now – when Messiah, the Son of David, the Sar Shalom – Prince of Peace will come in glory and establish G-d’s Kingdom in all the earth.

As it has been, and we now happily see in our own generation, and will be then, in accord with the prophet Isaiah: “The mountain of the L-rd’s house shall be established…and all nations shall flow to it. Many people shall come and say, “Come, let us go up to the mountain of the L-rd, to the house of the G-d of Jacob; He will teach us His ways and we shall walk in His paths. For out of Zion shall go forth the Torah and the Word of G-d from Jerusalem” (2:2-3)

Baruch HaShem!  Praise His Name!

~Keren Hannah

THE 15 PSALMS OF ASCENT

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PSALMS 120 – 135  

Shalom to all who may be inspired to join this ascent of the Psalms and share in the wisdom and the pain, the despair and the joy, of this great gift of King David’s to mankind.

With trust that the Beloved of our souls will raise us up and strengthen us in the purposes He has fore-ordained for our lives and, more importantly, in drawing us closer to Himself – all for the glory of His Holy Name, in Love.

Keren Hannah