Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Join Me!

There are many ways to express ourselves individually in this religion. Our personal relationship with God is just that, personal. Our Torah learning need not take place with more than one, and our prayer is perfectly legitimate as a "soul's sincere desire" to connect with its maker. There is one area, however, which requires many and not one will suffice--the greatest mission of all, to proclaim the name of God as One over the entire world. In actualizing the ה אחד ושמו אחד prophecy, one lone voice will not reach the multitudes. True, in today's cyber-technic world where information travels close to the speed of light one blog, or site, or video can reach hundreds of thousands, even millions. However, when attempting to present something more than sensationalism and sound bytes the effort requires a grander scale. In this regard, King David has one message to his friends--join me!
Psalm 34 stands in contrast to many other psalms in Tehillim in that there is no direct call to God at all. It is a psalm to his friends, his countrymen, his nation and maybe mankind. It is a call for all of God's faithful to partake in the holiest of endeavours of raising God's name to all. Verse 3 initiates the message: גדלו לה אתי ונרוממה שמו יחדו "Render God great with me, and we will lift His name together". We are familiar with this verse for two reasons. First it is recited every time the Torah is removed from the ark (except Shabbat morning) when the community is about to read the Torah in public. The Torah, God's recipe for an enlightened life, cannot be read by an individual, it is a public affair, requiring at least a quorum and often many more to set it in motion. (The second is as a source for a zimmun, three to bless God's name, see Berachot 7).
The psalm continues as David describes the ways in which God delights in His followers and the vital characteristics a person must have in order to be worthy of standing together with David to publicly spread the name of God throughout the world.
At a time when much of the world focuses on the individual success it is a comforting knowledge that sometimes in Judaism, we can only go at it together.