Psalm 25 verse 2: trust, shame, and overcoming resistance

A translation of the verse

my God, in You I rely completely. אלקי בך בטחתי

may I not be ashamed; אל אבושה

Let them not gloat, my enemies, over me. אל יעלצו אויבי לי

Perfect and Imperfect Verbs

Commonly understood time does not exist in Biblical Hebrew. Actions are either [perfect / complete / full] or [imperfect / incomplete / in process].

Biblical poetry relies on understanding verb tense without temporal reference.

Further, how negation occurs is important. Al, אל, negates imperfect verbs, indicating hope and desire for another (usually God) to not allow something to happen.

Trust, Shame, and Enemies

It is curious how many Jewish prayers plead to not be shamed and declare trust in God. I am never clear what the original intent of these sentiments was. Rabbinic authorities claim Jews felt shame for straying from halakha, Jewish law. What is the deeper shame indicated?

My shame revolves around how often I do not live up to the person I want to be. Yelling, pushing people away, getting stuck in anger loops. These are the things I struggle with.

Trusting in the Holy One completely? I am not always sure. I lose my connection to the Divine. My exhaustion and my anger often overwhelm me. The enemies I struggle with most are not external. My internal demons loom large in my daily reality.

Do my enemies exalt over me? Are they gloating at my defeats? Which enemies are we talking about? There is an organized space within me that is not me. This Shadow gloats at my defeats. I try to keep my shame at bay and trust in Goodness and Love.

Turning from Shame

This verse alone does not provide me the path to believe in it. My daily experience, my daily dread of pandemic living, cannot be overcome with the platitudes of this verse.

Rather, I must remember that I am strong. My strength, and God’s song, shall be my salvation. (Exodus 15:2). As Siddur Masorti explains: “the plain meaning of the text is actually that deliverance comes about through the combination of ‘my strength’ and ‘Yahh’s song.’ This sensibility is echoed by the rabbinic tradition which frequently affirms that: ‘One who comes to be purified is assisted by Heaven.’ (Talmud Shabbat 104a).”

My trust can begin with belief in my own strength. From there, I can form the will to overcome my destructive patterns. Daily, I snap at my son’s constant need for physical interaction. Daily, my demons overcome my best judgment. I do not need to wallow in shame. I can rise again, resolve to trust my strength and flow into the Goodness that surrounds us.

More sources

A good friend gave me one of the greatest gifts I have ever received: a copy of Siddur Masorti: An Egalitarian Sefardi Siddur. It is such a beautiful companion to weekday prayer. The insights are rich, universal, and deeply inspiring.

The Valley Beth Shalom weekday minyan introduced me to a beautiful melody for Exodus 15:2, which is part of Shirat HaYam, the Song of the Sea. Searching the internet, I learned it is a Shefa Gold chant. There is a gorgeous interpretation by the Valley Outreach Synagogue Young Adult Ensemble.

The Books


Image by mgnorrisphotos from Pixabay

Psalm 25 verse 1: The Divine, prayer, and me

Returning to my journey through Psalms

The ten days between Rosh HaShanah and Yom Kippur, 10 days of Teshuvah; of turning and returning to our essential selves. Cheshbon HaNefesh, accounting of the soul: clearly defining our vision and taking stock of how we have connected to that vision.

I started, then silently gave up, reading a psalm a day during the pandemic. Psalm 25 patiently waited for me to catch up. She took my breath away. I’ve been noodling for days how to do justice to this gorgeous explanation of all that draws me into Judaism. As the gates of Yom Kippur closed, my answer came. I shall write about one line per post until I have expounded on all of the depths she finds within me.

Psalm 25 begins

For David. לדוד

אליך ה״ נפשי אשא

Unto You, Cause of Being, my essence I lift.

Alter explication

Robert Alter translates this line “To You, O Lord, I lift my heart.” He explains: “The Hebrew noun used is nefesh, meaning “essential self” or “life breath. The clear meaning of the idiom is to pray fervently or plead.” (p84, The Book of Psalms)

Theology

Like many psalms, there is no doubt here that God exists. I cannot know with certainty whether scientific advances, human capacity for creating misery, or cynicism sowed the flourishing seeds of doubt that live among us.

Prayer and COVID-19

Reflecting on the plague we are surrounded by, my capacity for prayer waxes and wanes. At times, I plead with the universe for relief. More often, I am completely distracted by the responsibilities of parenting young children without respite.

Recently, I began attending weekday minyan — morning prayer service on days that are not holidays — with other students from the Academy for Jewish Religion, California. Learning the complete traditional prayer service has been enlightening. It returned the miraculous morning prayers to my consciousness: the beacons of light that whispered this path to me and push me towards a better version of myself.

Verse 1 Unfurls

Temerity: beginning a prayer to HaShem with a personal address. As if I have the right to speak to You directly.

Girded with the strength of The Essential Name, my essential self lifts towards You.

Seeking unity with the Divine flow beyond time and plague.

Fervently hoping for enlightenment and strength.

Daring to seek guidance on my journey.

Remembering You. By remembering You; returning to my essence.

Dive Further

Moving towards my future

This domain scares me. I want to be clear that I am still in the process of becoming a rabbi. My fifth year of rabbinical school started in August. With the help of HaShem, I am working towards May, 2023 ordination.

Yet, I claim the title in my domain

I did check with my advisor at the Academy for Jewish Religion, California before moving my blog. Our seminary is very clear about not referring to yourself by a title you have not earned. Nevertheless, the journey is a process. Some people use the title “student rabbi.” Others, “Rabbi-in-training.” And sometimes, community members will use “rabbi” regardless of your ordination status. This is true across religions — people confer the title they need you to assume in the moment.

I take this process very seriously. It took me six years from feeling the call to attending rabbinical school full-time. At times, I still have trouble believing I am actually doing this. As a person in mid-career transition, I am very aware how privileged I am to be able to spend these years sinking into the depths of Jewish wisdom, hoping to become a better version of myself, and helping others along their journeys.

Fundamentally, this domain helps me live into the person I am becoming.

What kind of Judaism?

Trans-denominational, rabbinic Judaism. Movements are a relatively new phenomena, and unlikely to remain stable for many generations to come. I learn the tradition on its own terms. Reading texts from original intent. Exploring their influence on later generations of Jews.

Simultaneously, I draw from my wider understanding of the human condition. I graduated from Wellesley College with a bachelor’s degree in Peace and Justice Studies. Perennial interest in how people interact on a communal, national, and global scale.

My influences

I grew up at Temple Ramat Zion, where I was a Bar Mitzvah tutor and adult choir member as a teenager. As an adult, I returned to Judaism through Rabbi Mordechai Finley’s teaching at Ohr HaTorah. Rabbi Finley was a co-founder of the Academy for Jewish Religion, California, where I am studying to become a rabbi.

I graduated from the Davennen Leadership Training Institute, a two-year program sponsored by ALEPH: alliance for Jewish Renewal. Attended two trans-denominational rabbinical student retreats hosted by Rabbi Sid Schwarz. I earned a unit of clinical pastoral education, doing most of my clinical hours at a local community hospital. This provided me the opportunity to work alongside Christian chaplains and provide spiritual care to a wide breadth of individuals. I volunteered with Ruach, a Jewish emotional and spiritual support service.

Conservative, Orthodox, Reform, Reconstructing, Renewal, and secular humanist Judaism have all contributed to my appreciation and understanding of Jewishness.

Previously, I worked in community organizing, advertising and marketing, and at a software company.

I do not speak for any organization or institution.

My vision: ethical mysticism

I am a work in progress. In particular, this website is part of the process of refining my vision and explaining myself more concretely and more simply. My partner believes my words are still too complex to attract readers. Nevertheless, they are the only ones I have at the moment to describe my vision.

Ethical mysticism: honoring my soul and the souls around me. Understanding myself in order to become a better version of myself. Using my higher self to observe my ego-self. Communicating with my Inclination towards Destructiveness, my Yetzer HaRa. Recognizing the difference between my ego and my soul. Creating space for my soul to flow into the soul of the universe.

My path in ethical mysticism is firmly rooted within the Jewish tradition. Reading and dissecting the ideas of this civilization is a deep honor. Yet, Jewishness does not exist in a vacuum. From neo-Platonic philosophy to neuroscience, I attempt to incorporate all of my learning into my life’s journey.

Rabbi Max Kedushin, z”l, in Rabbinic Mind described Judaism as an intellectual organism. I love this metaphor. We are all part of the process of keeping this organism alive and helping it to evolve.

Picture by Johannes Plenio via Pixabay.

Ruth Bader Ginsburg and 5781

Lighting storm over water, expressing shock of the day and the year

Beloved Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg died on the eve of a new year. As we all struggle to make sense of this year, it is capped with the overwhelming loss of a giant legal mind, and a formidable member of the Supreme Court. Nevertheless, 5781 arrives: with expectations for returning, reflection, and resolve.

Elul, the Jewish month preceding Rosh HaShanah, the Jewish New Year, ends. My Elul broke and shattered by COVID-19 before this news. It is hard to be upbeat and joyous when it has been months since you’ve hugged someone who doesn’t live with you. The last time I saw a significant number of family members was during my uncle’s passing from this world to the next, in early June. 

Choosing joy

And yet, despite my anxiety regarding the future of my country, I am determined to find joy in this spiritual New Year. I am profoundly grateful to know my children on a deeper level than was possible before. Sinking into the depths of their innocence is a revelation. I do not remember ever being so pure and naive — perhaps because my siblings are five and seven years older than me; perhaps because James Bond and Poltergeist are two movies I distinctly remember from when I was their age. 

So we will dip apples in honey and wish each other a sweet year. We will continue to dream of all the adventures we will go one once this virus passes. The idea of a vacation involving airplanes and restaurant food for every meal enamors them.

A prayer: turning towards ourselves

I will have grace with myself and the world. Our lives turned upside down. Especially to my fellow parents: may we roll into each day with gratitude for the people around us and the village we know is near us spiritually. Let us not judge ourselves by the social media vision of other people’s lives. Let us resolve to be the best versions of ourselves we can be in this moment. And as we mourn what cannot be, let us find a way to relish in the companionship that is. 

Image by Benjamin G.E. Thomas from Pixabay