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.
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)
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.