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.
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.