I continue my soliloquy on the psalms... Is anyone listening? No matter, the psalmist speaks to my heart. That place is always the measure of true poetry.
13. How long, O Lord; will You ignore me forever?/ How long will You hide Your face from me?/ How long will I have cares on my mind,/ grief in my heart all day?
We begin with a lament. We continue with a prayer. We plead to God.
Look at me, answer me, O Lord, my God!/ Restore the luster to my eyes...
And we conclude with a song.
My heart will exult in Your deliverance./ I will sing to the Lord,/ for He has been good to me.
Often people come to services with broken hearts. They are drawn to attend to mark a yahrtzeit or because they are in mourning or because they wish to offer a Mi Shebeirach for friends or family who are sick. Rarely do people come because of the joy of Shabbat. It is difficulty and brokenness that compels people to pray. Like the psalmist we open with a cry, we begin with pain. If our prayer services work then that the pain and difficulty is transformed into song. We always conclude with songs of joy. The kaddish must never be our final word. We sing to Shabbat with the kiddush, Adon Olam, Ein Keloheinu. Our pain must be transformed into song. This is the journey of faith.
14. The fool says in his heart; there is no God.... The Lord looks down from heaven on humankind/ to find a person of understanding,/ a person mindful of God.
The fool is the person who believes that God does not take notice. The wise understand that God sees all of our actions. This is the theology of the psalmist. It is not here a matter of God creating the world, or redeeming the world, but instead a matter of taking note of human behavior. God is the God of justice. God is noted in human action. The fool is the person who says, "My actions do not matter. They have no significance." Or the mantra of our society, "...As long as he or she is happy." Happiness is not the concern of this psalm. It is instead about doing right and not doing wrong. Even though the wicked might seem to have the upper hand, God notes what we do and don't do. Our small, seemingly insignificant actions have cosmic significance. God sits with the righteous. God keeps company with those who do good. Our task is to do more good than bad. Think to yourself: Everything I do is not just about me but about others. What I do matters to the world. What I do matters to God.
Are they so witless, all those evildoers,/ who devour my people as they devour food,/ and do not invoke the Lord?/ They will be seized with fright,/ for God is present in the circle of the righteous.
15. In case you did not get the point of what the psalmist is trying to convey...
Lord, who may live in Your tent,/ who may dwell on Your holy mountain?/ He who lives without blame,/ who does what is right,/ and in his heart acknowledges the truth;/ whose tongue is not given to evil;/ who has never done harm to his fellow...
Why is religion defined more by ritual acts rather than ethical behavior? Is he religious means does he keep kosher, does he keep Shabbat? Why is the definition of religious not about business ethics? If one lies or cheats or steals one should never be called religious. You can pray all you want. And I do like to pray. But better, you should focus on the small details of how you treat others. These are the core of the religious life. They are the foundation of any faith. The psalmist has the final word:
The person who acts thus shall never be shaken.