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Psalm 23 in the wake of tragedy

A song for love’s sake: מ Mizmor l’David

When our Love’s[1] the guide by-my-side, Adonai ro’i

I want for nothing. lo ech’sar.

Chase me through lush meadows, ב Bin’ot desheh

set me adrift, stretched out yarbitzeini

on meandering waters al-mei

at ease with the current, menuchot

time stilling to all but the shore, yinahaleini.

Nephesh-soul will recover, like the land נ Nafshi yeshoveiv

Noah[2] reseeded with vines, revive like Hannah[3] Yancheini

spinning grace with tears upon the wheels v’maaglei-

that grind and weave and bend the arc of justice tzedek

revealing Your name’s sake. lema’an shemo.

Even when I descend ג Gam ki eilech

into valleys crowded with figures b’gei

of death and disgrace, tzalmavet

I will not succumb to fear, now knowing where lo ‘ira ra’

I am.[4] I am with You, I AM. ki atah imadi.

Ancestral staff in hand, courage and comfort shiv’tevha

blossom under the sun,[5] casting shadows

that reveal intangible time in melodies


measure for measure[6], these and these[7] heimah

harmonies lay my frets to rest. yenachamuni.

Patience[8] and perseverance play with polarity[9], ת Taaroch lephanai

stand and say, “Send me. Send me[10] before you; shulchan

tabling shame and sorrow for tomorrow neged tzorerai

that you may feast today, head anointed with oil, dishanta v’shemen

love’s cup pouring-over with plenty.” roshi, cosi revayah.

Gratefulness and lovingkindness א Ach TOV vaHESED

run me down and up, coursing through my veins yirdefuni

to live in my limbs and all my words and ways, col yemei chavyai

coming home at last to sit and sabbath v’shavti

in Your ever-presence, embodying, housing beveit Adonai

Loving Consciousness in space-time-and-soul. le’orech yamim.

[1] Gematria [numerical values of letters] invites the common sense correlation between the ineffable name of God [YHVH] and Love [AHBH]. Love/ahavah [13] shared between two doubles to become Adonai/YHVH [26]. The name David is also translated here as love, derived from yet another word mean beloved, as in Dodi li, my beloved is for me, from Song of Songs.

[2] The name Noah, means ‘at rest.’ In the Hebrew, the ‘name’ recurs throughout the psalm, and bring to mind the attribute of equanimity, or menuchat hanefesh, literally the soul at rest, like ark on shore or dove on olive branch.

[3] Hannah’s name means ‘grace’ and shares the same consonants as Noah’s, the order of the letters reversed. Both are archetypes of new life, grace, and equanimity in troubled times, heralding watershed moments of human and Hebrew civilizations.

[4] This verse is the hub and heart of the psalm. The three kabbalistic dimensions of existence intersect here – time, space, and soul, or when, where and who.

[5] Kohelet / Ecclesiastes “There is nothing new under the sun”

[6] Referencing the rabbinic principle, midah keneged midah, that lovingkindness and justice is meted out ‘measure for measure, inclining, like music towards harmony.

[7] Referencing the famous Talmudic dictum, that in mahlocket [debate or contention] for the sake of heaven, “these and these are the words of the living God.”

[8] The Biblical Hebrew expression representing patience and perseverance is erech apayim, employing the same Hebrew roots as the Hebrew here, la’aroch le’phanai. Another possible translation of this phrase is ‘Lengthen my capacity to be fully present.’

[9] Polarity play, central to the work of musar, is indicated by the Hebrew word neged, or opposite, found later in the verse.

[10] The Hebrew of the word shulhan [table] means “to send,” and a shaliach is an ambassador.

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