Adonai is my light and my help. Whom shall I fear? Adonai is the strength of my life. Whom shall I dread? When evildoers draw near to slander me. When foes threaten – they stumble and fall. Though armies be arrayed against me, I have no fear. Though wars threaten, I remain steadfast in my faith. One thing I ask of Adonai – for this I yearn: To dwell in the House of Adonai all the days of my life – to behold God’s beauty, to pray in God’s sanctuary. Hiding me in God’s shrine, safe from peril, God will shelter me beyond the reach of disaster, and raise my head high above my enemies.
Adonai, hear my voice when I call; Be gracious to me, and answer. It is You whom I seek, says my heart. It is your presence that I see, Adonai. Do not hide from me; do not reject your servant. You have always been my help; do not abandon me. Forsake me not, my God of deliverance. Though my father and my mother leave me, Adonai will care for me.
Teach me your way, Adonai. Guide me on the right path, to confound my oppressors. Do not abandon me to the will of my foes, for false witnesses have risen against me, purveyors of malice and lies. Yet I have faith that I shall surely see Adonai’s goodness in the land of the living. Hope in Adonai. Be strong, take courage, and hope in Adonai.
I enjoy reading psalms. I’ve learned to appreciate them as metaphors for my life, as poetic expressions of the difficulties human beings encounter. One of the psalms that gives me the most comfort is Psalm 27, a very personal intimate psalm, which is traditionally read daily during month of Elul until end of Sukkot. The connection between this psalm and the High Holidays was interpreted by the Sages this way: “Adonai is my light” (Psalm 27:1) – on Rosh Hashanah, the day of judgment; “And my help” (Psalm 27:1) – on Yom Kippur, when God saves us and forgives all our sins; “And God will hide me in God’s tabernacle…” (Psalm 27:5) – on Sukkot.
I find myself in this psalm – it reflects my anxieties, my ego, my fears. At a time when I felt estranged from friends, the line “false witnesses have risen against me, people who breathe out lies,” assured me that God would ultimately protect me. “Though my father and mother leave me, God will care for me” assured me that I was not alone. “Oh God, hear my voice when I call be gracious to me and answer” spoke of my trust that God was listening to the cries of my heart. When I was frightened by illness, the enemies and wars in the psalm was infection attacking me.
For your mitzvah assignment, read the psalm several times (daily?) during this week.
Try to let the words really speak to you, see if you can find one truth for yourself. Be mindful of a word or a phrase that resonates with you. Accept that this psalm, like the other psalms in the Book of Psalms is a metaphor and poetry. Go beyond the literal and find the deeper meaning for yourself. It is read during this month of Elul because it will prepare you for the Holy Days ahead.
May this be a week of blessings and a Shabbat of peace.
Rabbi Debbie Israel