In a rapidly changing world, how can we maintain balance, sanity, hope, resilience?
For millennia, millions of people from all families of the earth have recited psalms as a regular practice, to cultivate these and other essential qualities for showing up as our best selves.
The wisdom and depth of the psalms is timeless, but every generation must find new ways to access their nourishing waters.
Rabbi Daniel Raphael Silverstein, AJS Founder & Director, is also a spoken word artist and MC, and he has started translating some of our most powerful psalms into sacred raps. Appropriately for the current the moment, the first one to be shared is...
Psalm 91: The Song of Plagues
We may never have expected this psalm to be so relevant for our lives. The Talmud (Shevuot 15b) teaches that Psalm 91 is called "The Song of Plagues."
This psalm has long been recited at points of transition, for example when we leave Shabbat and enter the new week, before we go to sleep, and when we accompany the deceased on their journey to the hereafter.
It is often preceded by the last line of Psalm 90, which serves as the chorus for the rap version of the psalm below: "And may the pleasantness of the Lord our G!d be upon us, and establish for us the work of our hands, and the work of our hands - establish it!"
Our ancient rabbis teach that Moses blessed the people with this line when they completed the construction of the Mishkan (Tabernacle), and many communities recite it as an invocation before performing ritual acts such lighting Shabbat candles or blowing the Shofar (see Numbers Rabbah 12:9).
Many centuries later, the Ba'al Shem Tov taught that the line was recited at these key moments of ritual as a plea for our simple acts to be invested with greater sanctity than our conscious minds can grasp (see Ben Porat Yosef p.8).
This teaching offers us a powerful kavanah (intention) for all of our spiritual practice:
May our deeds have a positive impact even greater than we can imagine!