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,
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.
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
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.
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.)