*שויתי יי לנגדי כי מימני בל אמות
Tonight is the yahrzeit or anniversary of the death of Rachel bat Sa’adia, my mother. The little picture you see of her behind the candle is her father, Sa’adia was his Hebrew name, and my mother, whose secular name was Colette Rachel. She looks like a teenager on the picture, I think it was taken in 1952, so she was already in her twenties and probably celebrating a diploma or a graduation because there is champagne in front of them, and the background tells me that they were in the apartment I have known in Paris where my grandparents moved to in the fifties, before the start of the war in Algeria (which started in 1954).
*The verse that I chose on top of the picture is from Tehilim (Psalms) טז = 16
verse 8 and it is translated in the version I have under the eyes as “I have set the Eternal before me always be Adonai [the Eternel] is at my right hand, I shall not falter“.
The whole psalm is a very important part of the month of Elul, because it is a “special psalm” where King David speaks to God in such a close way, and the study of this psalm should allow us to the same type of closeness, a genuine approach, and request for help in our moments of difficulties.
When you feel lost at heart and insecure, you want to ask for protection and this is what this psalm – as most of them do – allows us to do with poetry and force, especially when we study the Hebrew words, with their root, their meaning, their pronunciation ~ and yes, this is what I probably marvel in the most ~ their grammar. This psalm is short, so I had all the time today during my journey to NYC to study, and although I had done it on previous occasions, during Elul of past years, this year it really took a totally new meaning of acceptance for me, because I was at the end of that year of bereavement, I suppose. Or maybe, because I was not too distracted as I was contained in a traveling wagon for an hour.
And suddenly, it was as if David’s words in the psalm where allowing me to feel the “glue”, what actually relates me with the spiritual dimension of the losses as actual presence, and not absence: by setting my mind into the Eternal and meditating on the words and concentrating on my breath, I could actually feel small but protected, humble but strengthened.
With the eighth verse I was reminded of this series of BlogElul, and what we had already said about action: we have to take an action to remove ourselves from the distractions and have that active kind of “conversation” with God if we want to feel the presence: God does not appear to us, like a movie character in a well-written screenplay, we set God in front of us, actively and deliberately, as an intention, or a firm decision for a moment and we call this moment “always”, but since we keep forgetting, we set appointments.
This is also why we inscribe this very same verse in our synagogues often, and in our siddurim (prayer books) as a reminder of the “always”, because, yes, indeed, we keep beeing distracted, we forget to save our work and the power or the connexion gets lost, or we leave the dinner in the oven too long, or we miss a train, or… fill in the blank of all the things you do every day while you rush and forget to be focused!
There is no way to avoid being confronted by harsh things and disappointment, and sadness, and loss, and abuse and violence, and fear and feeling despaired. But we always have that possibility to deliberately choose to place ourselves in a space where we put our hopes and our rock, space where we have experienced strength and protection and we can feel it again by just recreating it in our mind. And there, we replenish.
This year, I have committed to a daily blog in English to participate in @imabima’s project of Elul. I will dedicate my endeavor for the רפואה שלמה complete healing of מרדכי אלעזר בן חנה מרים (Mordechai ben Chanah).
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