PSALMS OF ASCENT – 1st Step – Psalm 120


Breslev Israel

Pic: Breslev Israel

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

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