President’s Message – April 2012, Nissan-Iyyar 5772 –
Spring is Here with the words of the Psalms
I write this message from Toby’s Resort, at the beginning of the Hip Strip in downtown Montego Beach during Eastern’s spring break. Bob Wolf is also down here on the north coast of Jamaica with a group of social workers visiting and social services agencies and doing research for a community. I am here with a colleague from Eastern’s Physical Education Department and 18 students, spending 3 days at an infant school, primary, and junior high school and visiting a teachers’ college and 3 high schools. We are also finding time to go to the beach.
Spring is arriving this week and we head into our season of liberation with Pesah sederim in our homes and our community seder on Thursday evening, April 12. The month ends with Israeli Remembrance Day and 64th Independence Day. It will be a month of joy and reflection.
In my self-declared tradition of reading a book from the Bible beyond the Torah each month, there is no better book than Psalms to read during this month of challenges and joys. Coincidentally, the Psalms are one of the most popular parts of the Bible among followers of the Rastafari movement, an influential religion in Jamaica. Psalms refers to songs sung with stringed instruments. In Hebrew, Tehillim are songs of praise. Although it is traditional to connect the 150 psalms to King David with about half (73) starting with l’David – by or for David, some psalms are also linked to choir masters, to be sung in their style. Some believe that the Tehillim were developed in an evolutionary process over several centuries. The psalms are a diverse form of literature, poems that may be divided into books that parallel the five books of Moses in theme. The shortest psalm is Psalm 117, with 2 verses –
א הַלְלוּ אֶת-יְהוָה, כָּל-גּוֹיִם; שַׁבְּחוּהוּ, כָּל-הָאֻמִּים.
|1 O praise the LORD, all ye nations; laud God, all ye peoples.|
ב כִּי גָבַר עָלֵינוּ, חַסְדּוֹ– וֶאֱמֶת-יְהוָה לְעוֹלָם:
|2 For God’s mercy is great toward us; and the truth of the LORD endureth for ever. Hallelujah.|
and the longest is Psalm 119, with 176 verses, in sets of eight verses, each set beginning with one of the 22 Hebrew letters.
In our congregation, we recite groups of psalms to start the Shabbat on Friday evening, to celebrate together in the early sections of the Saturday morning service, during the praise service of Hallel (Psalms 113-118), and too often read Psalm 23 – “The Lord is my Shepherd…”, read at the passing of a loved one.
My best wishes to you and yours for a joyful Pesah, reflective and hopeful Israeli Independence Day and season, and a lovely spring. – David Stoloff, 2011-2012 President, Temple Bnai Israel, Willimantic, CT