Psalm 27 – a new translation by Rabbi Jamie Arnold

Here’s a new translation of Psalm 27 by Rabbi Jamie Arnold. Psalm 27 is traditionally recited daily during Elul, the month leading up to the Days of Awe… though the introspection and teshuvah work that this psalm cues us to do can be a meaningful part of spiritual practice all year long.

 

PSALM 27 – For love’s sake

the courage to live as if… / Bitachon

 

My deepest fear?

The energy illuminating everything

            cannot be seen or named.

When all I see is reflection and refraction,

who am I to be afraid

            of dark or light?

            of seeing, being seen, or not?

 

Silence is the mother of all sounds,

            syllables, names.

When a wisp of breath and unspoken incantation

guards the fortress of my life

            Who shall I fear?

            Which ‘I’ is the one that worries?

 

Fear and worry come fast, consuming my flesh from within,

            thieving me of ease and joy.

If only they would stumble, topple like the walls of Jericho.

For now, they have set up camp, settling in,

            starving head of sense

            and heart of wonder.

If you force upon me this unwanted war,

I will trust in… this, this mystery

            of light and sight, hidden forces

            made visible through masks of refraction.

 

My deepest desire?

One?  If granted one last wish,

this would be my re-quest:

 

To sample sabbath rest

            in the house of wonder

            every living day,

to see with eyes of equanimity and ease

            waking me to each new dawn

            in a palace of delight.

 

Point me north to find shelter from my worst fears

            under a blanket of stars-promising-progeny,

            winking at me through the leafy roof of a succah

Let me hide in the hidden folds of this makeshift shelter,

            tent turned tabernacle, sanctuary erected on

            and protected by a mountain of smooth, solid sandstone.

 

There now.

See my head rise above engulfing echoes of oys and veys

Releasing, sacrificing wants no longer suited for service

Fragmented breaths pressing through parsed lips into a horn

            transforming silent fears into jubilant song. Teruah.

I will sing. Zivchei teruah.

Atonement through attunement.

Shema qoli. Hear my voice

            turning silence to song

Choneini. Fill me with an easy grace

            in the face of my unfulfilled desires

Aneini. Gift me with a humble responsiveness

            to your unmet needs.

 

Your Deepest Desire?

Voice whispers through my heart and says,

            Seek my face.

I will seek your face, the hidden light,

             reflected in every face, revealing light.

Do not let anger distract me from seeing your majestic face

            tucked away in the creases of faces furrowed

            by anger in the face of injustice

            and a fear of being forgotten.

My father, my mother, yours, all beloved

            parental protectors will die.

            time will orphan me if I live that long.

And yet, magnetism prevails, a law of nature

            in-gathering, out-glowing

            showing all the wisdom of your ways

            paths paved by and for service and song

Don’t let worry distort these nefesh-soul, body-based truths

            with false testimonies, hyperboles, and half-truths

            blowhards fermenting fears to safeguard their power.

 

Our Declaration:

Lulei.  What if? What if it were not so?

Doubt. Division. Danger.  Death.  As if!

I choose to live as if I have the courage

            to act in the face of doubt

            to see the hidden connections and blessing

            to belong and be beholden to the living land, eretz chaim.

Together, let us draw new kinds of lines in the shifting sands.

I choose to trust you, to empower you, to re-see you,

            to celebrate your courageous heart, amatz lev

            to reshape this longing in your likeness.

 

Rabbi Jamie Arnold, who serves Congregation Beth Evergreen, is translating the psalms anew and posts his translations periodically at his blog. He participated in Bayit’s first online class for clergy, “Entering the Psalms.” (The next session of that class will begin in late October.)

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