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Psalm 22 - when

PSALM 22 – Trust in Pursuit of Purpose

For a leader, seeking enduring inspiration and guidance,

when guiding-light fades like the eastern star

at dawn, a song for you, dear one.

אֵלִ֣י אֵ֭לִי לָמָ֣ה עֲזַבְתָּ֑נִי רָח֥וֹק מִֽ֝ישׁוּעָתִ֗י דִּבְרֵ֥י שַׁאֲגָתִֽי׃

My God, God, my why eludes me!

Abandoned by connection and purpose,

the words linger but their meaning is mute.

אֱ‍ֽלֹקי אֶקְרָ֣א י֭וֹמָם וְלֹ֣א תַעֲנֶ֑ה וְ֝לַ֗יְלָה וְֽלֹא־דֽוּמִיָּ֥ה לִֽי׃

Source of my calling, are my cries unworthy of response?

Silence and stillness, the lifeblood of wisdom, are absent by day,

fleeting like rest on a sleepless night. I feel mission-less.

וְאַתָּ֥ה קָד֑וֹשׁ י֝וֹשֵׁ֗ב תְּהִלּ֥וֹת יִשְׂרָאֵֽל׃

And yet, holy shit! Here you sit, singing,

quietly praising the struggle itself,

blessing it with a new name, Yisrael,

בְּ֭ךָ בָּטְח֣וּ אֲבֹתֵ֑ינוּ בָּ֝טְח֗וּ וַֽתְּפַלְּטֵֽמוֹ׃

each letter a reminder, how our foremothers and fathers[1]

trusted the tests, invested in quest, learning

that only by losing our way do we find a new one.

אֵלֶ֣יךָ זָעֲק֣וּ וְנִמְלָ֑טוּ בְּךָ֖ בָטְח֣וּ וְלֹא־בֽוֹשׁוּ׃

They too tried and failed, cried out for help

and it came. In trusting another, One another,

in receiving support there is no shame.

וְאָנֹכִ֣י תוֹלַ֣עַת וְלֹא־אִ֑ישׁ חֶרְפַּ֥ת אָ֝דָ֗ם וּבְז֥וּי עָֽם׃

But the voice of shame is relentless, saying,

“I am more parasite than person; a blight on humanity,

despised by people and nations.

כָּל־רֹ֭אַי יַלְעִ֣גוּ לִ֑י יַפְטִ֥ירוּ בְ֝שָׂפָ֗ה יָנִ֥יעוּ רֹֽאשׁ׃

To see me is to mock me. See how they

furl their lips and shake their heads.”

גֹּ֣ל אֶל־ה’ יְפַלְּטֵ֑הוּ יַ֝צִּילֵ֗הוּ כִּ֘י חָ֥פֵֽץ בּֽוֹ׃

Go look again! Roll with it, trust

that the Force of Being and Becoming chooses you,

and wants you, needs what you alone have to offer.

כִּֽי־אַתָּ֣ה גֹחִ֣י מִבָּ֑טֶן מַ֝בְטִיחִ֗י עַל־שְׁדֵ֥י אִמִּֽי׃

Trust drew me from the womb,

and she taught-me-to-trust at my mother’s breast.

עָ֭לֶיךָ הָשְׁלַ֣כְתִּי מֵרָ֑חֶם מִבֶּ֥טֶן אִ֝מִּ֗י אֵ֣לִי אָֽתָּה׃

Thus I became your emissary since birth, my mission

from my mother’s womb, a messenger of trust.

אַל־תִּרְחַ֣ק מִ֭מֶּנִּי כִּי־צָרָ֣ה קְרוֹבָ֑ה כִּי־אֵ֥ין עוֹזֵֽר׃

Oh Trust, be not so far from me

when trouble is near, and help is nowhere seen;

סְ֭בָבוּנִי פָּרִ֣ים רַבִּ֑ים אַבִּירֵ֖י בָשָׁ֣ן כִּתְּרֽוּנִי׃

when I’m surrounded by conceit, or strong-armed

by its allies, encompassed by a fear of humiliation

פָּצ֣וּ עָלַ֣י פִּיהֶ֑ם אַ֝רְיֵ֗ה טֹרֵ֥ף וְשֹׁאֵֽג׃

opening wide its mouth to tear me up

like a ravenous lion;

כַּמַּ֥יִם נִשְׁפַּכְתִּי֮ וְהִתְפָּֽרְד֗וּ כָּֽל־עַצְמ֫וֹתָ֥י הָיָ֣ה לִ֭בִּי כַּדּוֹנָ֑ג נָ֝מֵ֗ס בְּת֣וֹךְ מֵעָֽי׃

when my sense of mission spills away like water from an upended cup;

when the bones of my being dislocate,

and my heart, like wax, melts before my eyes;

יָ֘בֵ֤שׁ כַּחֶ֨רֶשׂ ׀ כֹּחִ֗י וּ֭לְשׁוֹנִי מֻדְבָּ֣ק מַלְקוֹחָ֑י וְֽלַעֲפַר־מָ֥וֶת תִּשְׁפְּתֵֽנִי׃

when the power of my words dries up like parched shards of stone,

slick tongue stuck to palate, lips laced with the taste of death’s dust;

כִּ֥י סְבָב֗וּנִי כְּלָ֫בִ֥ים עֲדַ֣ת מְ֭רֵעִים הִקִּיפ֑וּנִי כָּ֝אֲרִ֗י יָדַ֥י וְרַגְלָֽי׃

when will the hounds disperse – Call off their menacing attack,

one, ten, a hundred, amplified like lion’s roar[2] echoed by canyon walls,

multiplied like hands and feet to fingers and toes.

אֲסַפֵּ֥ר כָּל־עַצְמוֹתָ֑י הֵ֥מָּה יַ֝בִּ֗יטוּ יִרְאוּ־בִֽי׃

As I count them, they eye my bones, my fear sees them gnawing at me,

יְחַלְּק֣וּ בְגָדַ֣י לָהֶ֑ם וְעַל־לְ֝בוּשִׁ֗י יַפִּ֥ילוּ גוֹרָֽל׃

divvying up my clothing, casting lots on the little that covers my shame.

וְאַתָּ֣ה ה’ אַל־תִּרְחָ֑ק אֱ֝יָלוּתִ֗י לְעֶזְרָ֥תִי חֽוּשָׁה׃

Still, you, Trust, though doe-like, stay close, a quiet strength,

dawning a hope to help me now,

הַצִּ֣ילָה מֵחֶ֣רֶב נַפְשִׁ֑י מִיַּד־כֶּ֝֗לֶב יְחִידָתִֽי׃

to save this nefesh-soul from the sword of judgement,

this singular life from the canine-clutches of greed,

ה֭וֹשִׁיעֵנִי מִפִּ֣י אַרְיֵ֑ה וּמִקַּרְנֵ֖י רֵמִ֣ים עֲנִיתָֽנִי׃

to rescue me from the mouth of pride,

from the horns of arrogance, freed by humility.

אֲסַפְּרָ֣ה שִׁמְךָ֣ לְאֶחָ֑י בְּת֖וֹךְ קָהָ֣ל אֲהַלְלֶֽךָּ׃

I shall be a trust-teller, for the sake of love restored through fraternity and family,

weaving community, shuttling accountability on strings of joyous song.

יִרְאֵ֤י ה’ ׀ הַֽלְל֗וּהוּ כָּל־זֶ֣רַע יַעֲקֹ֣ב כַּבְּד֑וּהוּ וְג֥וּרוּ מִ֝מֶּ֗נּוּ כָּל־זֶ֥רַע יִשְׂרָאֵֽל׃

The calling?

“Be amazed! Sow seeds of wonder, Yaakov, ambitious seeker, sojourner.

Plant them in the dignified[3] soil of a trust that can transform mere human fear from a strange, consuming fire[4] into a perpetual, wondrous light.”

כִּ֤י לֹֽא־בָזָ֨ה וְלֹ֪א שִׁקַּ֡ץ עֱנ֬וּת עָנִ֗י וְלֹא־הִסְתִּ֣יר פָּנָ֣יו מִמֶּ֑נּוּ וּֽבְשַׁוְּע֖וֹ אֵלָ֣יו שָׁמֵֽעַ׃

Trust neither mocks nor spurns, but loves

the sometimes-sorrowed cry of one humbled by life.

Nor does she hide her face from those willing to lean in, listen, and learn.

מֵ֥אִתְּךָ֗ תְֽהִלָּ֫תִ֥י בְּקָהָ֥ל רָ֑ב נְדָרַ֥י אֲ֝שַׁלֵּ֗ם נֶ֣גֶד יְרֵאָֽיו׃

Trust is the song of every truly great community,

a promise fulfilled when fear of dependence gives way to wonder.

יֹאכְל֬וּ עֲנָוִ֨ים ׀ וְיִשְׂבָּ֗עוּ יְהַֽלְל֣וּ ה’ דֹּ֣רְשָׁ֑יו יְחִ֖י לְבַבְכֶ֣ם לָעַֽד׃

Humility turns to trust for sustenance. If you seek meaning,

sow trust like grape-seeds into vineyards of song.

Your trusting heart smiles perpetually.

יִזְכְּר֤וּ ׀ וְיָשֻׁ֣בוּ אֶל־יְ֭הוָה כָּל־אַפְסֵי־אָ֑רֶץ וְיִֽשְׁתַּחֲו֥וּ לְ֝פָנֶ֗יךָ כָּֽל־מִשְׁפְּח֥וֹת גּוֹיִֽם׃

Remind the world of this. Go to the ends of the earth.

Tell every family and clan, culture and nation,

each a small indispensable part of this larger whole:

“the haughty heads that state that they alone are great,

that self is sufficient, they must learn again to bend and bow.”

Both freedom and friendship are founded in trust.

כִּ֣י לַ֭ה’ הַמְּלוּכָ֑ה וּ֝מֹשֵׁ֗ל בַּגּוֹיִֽם׃

She alone sustains the fortunes of nations and states.

אָכְל֬וּ וַיִּֽשְׁתַּחֲוּ֨וּ ׀ כָּֽל־דִּשְׁנֵי־אֶ֗רֶץ לְפָנָ֣יו יִ֭כְרְעוּ כָּל־יוֹרְדֵ֣י עָפָ֑ר וְ֝נַפְשׁ֗וֹ לֹ֣א חִיָּֽה׃

Stop feeding on fear. No matter how fertile and ripe this year’s crop,

every fruit, coin, crown, and knee eventually drop to the dirt.

Nefesh-soul, identity, is but a form, empty vessel filled with Life-force, chiyut.

זֶ֥רַע יַֽעַבְדֶ֑נּוּ יְסֻפַּ֖ר לַֽאדֹנָ֣י לַדּֽוֹר׃

Water each relationship with trust

that connection will count and service endure.

יָ֭בֹאוּ וְיַגִּ֣ידוּ צִדְקָת֑וֹ לְעַ֥ם נ֝וֹלָ֗ד כִּ֣י עָשָֽׂה׃

Come here. Fear monger no more.

Be a trust-teller to the people, for the sake of justice and kindness.

You were born for it. And so it is.

[1] The name Yisrael [Israel], or YYiSRRAeL, functions as an acronym for the seven patriarchs and matriarchs: Yiizchaq [Isaac], Yaaqov [Jacob], Sarah, Rivqah [Rebecca], Rachel, Avraham [Abraham], and Leah.

[2] This incompleteness of this sentence invites creative interpretation. The numerical values of Hebrew letters of word ארי [lion] are 1, 10, and 100 and the next verse begins with “I will count…”

[3] Kab’du’hu, verb form of kavod, meaning honor, dignified, substantial.

[4] A reference to the story of Aaron’s sons Nadav and Avihu (from Leviticus, parashat acharei mot), and a word-play on zera’, zar meaning strange or alien and ra’ meaning ‘bad’ or self-serving. The Hebrew word ‘guru’ is uncommon. The root could be related also to the word ger, ‘stranger, or sojourner,’ which as a verb means, paradoxically, ‘to settle, reside, or live.’ I am drawn to the idea that Yirah, which is often translated as ‘fear,’ but also means wonder or awe, could be offered here as an antidote to unwanted or unhelpful fear.

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