Sunday, June 12, 2011

The Story in Shir Shel Yom (Part 1)

Do the seven chosen psalms of the shir shel yom have anything in common? Is there a specific reason that psalms 20, 48, 82, 94, 81, 93 and 92 were chosen as the final song to be sung by the Levites at the end of the morning service?

Avot Derabbi Natan, a Tannaitic addition to the Ethics of the Fathers, offers some thematic unity based on the connection to the days of creation:
"The first day what does he say? To God belongs the earth--for He acquired the world and judges it; the second day? God is great, praised in the City of God...for He divided and ruled over His creations; the third day? God stands amidst the congregation...for He created the sea, the land--and so it continues describing the creation of the sun, moon, stars, animals, Man, etc.

The midrash focuses on the progression of creation but it only uses the first verse of the psalm and it makes only an oblique reference to the psalm. What about the main content of each psalm? Can we offer a different perspective?

Consider the theme of each day:;
Sunday--creation and how man can ascend the mountain of God
Monday--depiction of the ideal place of God, the City on High--Jerusalem.
Tuesday--establishing a justice system and the realization that some judges are corrupt.
Wednesday--confronting evil minded people who mock your ways and laugh at your God.
Thursday--praying for God's immediate revelation and God's sudden response.
Friday--God descends from the heavens and comes down to Man.
Saturday--beginning with praise of God, turns into diatribe of evil, but ultimately evil will dissipate and the righteous will flourish.

I believe the 'shir shel yom' psalms tell a story--our story.
A story about the spiritual intellectual journey we traverse in our lives.
It begins with a seed of revelation--belief in God and the understanding that our revelation is bound by responsibility and rewards, both of which meet at the same concluding point--imitatio dei, emulating God.
Like Abraham of old, our revelation is intertwined with a destination where a high concentration of divine presence presides. Our epic destiny has indeed a home base, one in which we are charged to develop physically and spiritually into a universal sanctuary of spirit and social excellence.
The process requires a system of justice, as any society must have, but one which adheres to a higher standard of ethics and morality.
And yet, we should caution our optimism of our burgeoning redemptive state and recognize that evil still exists and thrives at our expense. We still suffer, sacrifice and are forced to confront such evil without divine support. Our job is to maintain composure especially when crisis strikes.

At some point in the story, though, we falter. We submit to our fears, do not find the courage to continue the struggle, we sin, we turn off the path and spiral down into despair. What happens then? What is our next step and how does God respond to us?

The week marches on and our predicament at its nadir must find a way to resurge.