August 19, 2004
Teshuvah takes preparation. Just ask Rabbi Amy R. Scheinerman, who likens teshuvah to the process of painting her son's bedroom: "One who prepares the walls thoroughly for a week and a half has smooth painting for the day. One who prepares for teshuvah during the month of Elul, which precedes Rosh Hashanah, will find Rosh Hashanah far more meaningful and effective."
One of the traditional ways of preparing for Rosh Hashanah is reciting Psalm 27 daily during the month of Elul. Rabbi Scheinerman offers commentary on the psalm, in four parts, one for each week of Elul. Here's her commentary for this week, which centers on the theme of responsibility.
She's not alone in finding particular resonance in this psalm. Rabbi Benjamin Segal explores Psalm 27 in a short essay that articulates some of the psalm's tensions (between light and fear, assurance and searching) and explores how God's Oneness bridges the psalm's dialectic.
In addition to singing the psalm in the car and in the shower, I'm starting a new tradition of my own: listening daily to Reb Zalman Shachter-Shalomi's recording of Psalm 27, spoken in his own "heartful and prayerable" words. His voice works like a meditation bell for me, and I really like the language he uses.
In addition to being beautiful on its own, psalm 27 has served as a jumping-off point for writers and artists. Libi Astaire has created a decoupage piece inspired by the psalm, and poet Debbie Perlman published her own psalm on themes that Psalm 27 and its daily recitation evoke for her. Debbie worked as Psalmist-in-Residence at her shul: now there's a job I'd love to have!