This summer, we visited a few worship gathering at faith communities across the country. While we were there, I missed our feral community.
When we returned to that community this past Sunday, I realized how much I have missed reading the Psalms & praying together in common prayer. The Hebrew word , תהילים, or "praises" describes a set of songs & prayers that were bound into a book, providing a common tune & tongue for communities of faith & practice all the way to the time of time of David, the second king of Israel in approx. 1100-900 BCE.
That is 3,00 years of people singing & praying together, in poetry and mystery - rather than doctrine or statements of fact. In rabbinical traditions, there is a long history of emphasizing communal prayer - rabbis often say when prayers are offered in a congregation God will never reject them.
Yah! You are my light.
You are my savior.
Whom need I dread?
Yah, with you as my strong protector who can make me panic?
When hateful bullies gang up on me, wanting to harass me, to oppress and terrorize me
They are the ones who stumble and fall.
Even if a gang surrounds me my heart is not weakened.
If a battle is joined around me my trust in You is firm.
Only one thing do I ask of You, Yah:
Just this alone do I seek, I want to be at home with you, Yah,
All the days of my life.
I want to delight in seeing You.
Seeing You when I come to visit You in Your temple.
You hide me in your sukkah on a foul day.
You conceal me unseen in Your tent.
You also raise me beyond anyone's reach
And now, as You have held my head high despite the presence of my powerful foes
I prepare to celebrate and thrill, singing and making music to You, Yah!
Listen, Yah, to the sound of my cry
And, being kind, answer me!
My heart has said, I turn to seek you.
Your presence is what I beg for
Don't hide Your face from me.
Don't just put me down, You who have been my helper.
Don't abandon me, don't forsake me, God my support.
Though my father and my mother have left me
You, Yah, will hold me securely.
Please teach me Your way.
Teach me Your way and guide me on the straight path.
Discourage those who defame me
Because false witnesses stood up against me belching out violence.
Don't let me become the victim of my foes.
I wouldn't have survived
If I hadn't hoped that I would see, yet,
Your goodness, God, fully alive on earth.
So I tell you, my friends: you too hope to Yah! Be sturdy!
And make strong your heart. And most of all, keep hoping to Yah.
Psalm 27, as translated by Rabbi Zalman Schachter-Shalomi