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Shabbat Shalom: Updates, What we can do, Shabbat, and Psalms

As we ready for Shabbat, our first without services, I wish you a Shabbat Shalom.

A. The News: As of this writing the the number of cases in the US has grown to 14,250, up nearly 3,000 in the last 24 hours, and 205 deaths, up 48 in the last 24 hours. In Israel, still no reported deaths, but the number of cases has risen to 705.

Dr Fauci has recently said this will still take at least several weeks.

Since coronavirus does remain on surfaces -- different surfaces for different periods of time, Dr Sapphire opens her mail outside, discards what she doesn't need, and wipes the mail that she brings inside.

B. What can we do during these days of confinement?

1. The American Red Cross needs blood and platelet donors -- to make an appointment. Platelet donation takes about 2-1/2 to 3 hours, but is needed.

2. Organize in your house and clean out junk -- pack it for later disposal, recycling, etc.

3. Learn. I will be offering a class or two beginning next week on Zoom. Zoom allows me to be on video on your computer. If you download Zoom on your computer you will be able to join in. We will send out more details.

C. Shabbat.

Although our public religious services are suspended, we can maintain Shabbat in our home. During these times, Shabbat takes on an enhanced meaning. Despite our deep concerns about the world, a cleaned home, a Shabbat table and tablecloth with nice dishes, a special meal showing Shabbat in its honor, Shabbat candles in the background, reciting kiddush and ha-motzi over challah (which can be recited in English) -- all of these bind us to each other, to our glorious religious heritage, and remind us of what we have and what we can be. We can do this.

God has blessed us with much, even as these times are fraught with danger and anxiety. Shabbat is called a "sign" between God and the Jewish people. Signs makes powerful impacts, when we embrace them.

D. The early formal prayers were the Psalms. We retained 150. On special occasions, such as funerals, we recite / chant certain specific Psalms, the most famous being Psalm 23. At some point about 40 of these 150 Psalms became sort of the Billboard Top 40, and had a profound cultural impact.

During daily and Shabbat services, we recite Psalms at the beginning and at the end of services. For example, the end of Psalm 144 and all of Psalm 145 is known as "Ashrei," its first word. There is a Psalm for each day. We recite 9 during most weekday morning services and about 15 on Shabbat and holydays.

Below I am sending a small excerpt of some of my favorite lines from those that we recite. Consider making these words part of your morning routine. They are meaningful, spiritual, and rooted in more than 2,500 years of our people's heritage, beloved by others as well. (Of course, there is still the main service which includes the "Shema" and its three paragraphs, the Amidah, and the rabbinically composed berachot before and after the Shema, found in your siddur.).

God’s Torah is perfect, renewing life;

God’s mitzvot are radiant, giving light to the eyes.

They are more precious than fine gold, sweeter than honey drippings from the honeycomb.

(Psalm 19) (Recited on Shabbat and Holydays)

God is my shepherd; I lack nothing;

He renews my life; He guides me in the right paths.

Though I walk through a valley of deepest darkness,

I fear no harm, for You are with me.

(Psalm 23)

Who may ascend God’s holy mountain?

One who lives with integrity and does what is right,

who has clean hands and a pure heart.

he shall receive a berachah from God and a just reward.

(Psalm 24) (Recited when we return the Torah to the Aron Kodesh on weekdays; on Sunday mornings, and at funerals and stone dedications)

I seek Your presence, O God,

Do not hide Your presence from me;

It is Your presence that I seek.

(Psalm 27) (Recited from Elul to Sh'mini Atzeret)

Who is the person who desires true life,

loving each day to see good?

Guard your tongue from speaking evil

And your lips from speaking guile.

Turn from evil and do good;

Seek peace and pursue it.

(Psalm 34) (Recited on Shabbat and Holydays)

God is close to the broken-hearted,

And saves those who are crushed in spirit.

(Psalm 34) (Recited on Shabbat and Holydays)

Teach us to count our days,

that we may gain a wise heart …

Grant us joy corresponding to the days You have afflicted us,

for the times we experienced pain.

(Psalm 90) (Recited on Shabbat and Holydays, and at funerals)

No harm will befall you and no disease will touch your tent,

for He will send His angels to guard you wherever you go.

(Psalm 91) (Recited on Shabbat and Holydays, and after Shabbat)

When he calls on Me, I will answer him,

I am with him in his distress;

I will rescue him and bring him honor.

(Psalm 91) (Recited on Shabbat and Holydays, and after Shabbat)

The righteous will flourish like the date-palm,

and thrive like a cedar in Lebanon.

planted in the house of our God,

even in old age they will bear fruit.

(Psalm 92) (Recited on Shabbat and Holydays, also "the" Shabbat Psalm)

How many are Your deeds, O Lord,

You have made them all in wisdom;

The earth is full of Your creations.

(Psalm 104) (Recited on Rosh Chodesh, and included in daily Shacharit)

I lift my eyes to the mountains, from where is the source of my help?

The source of my help is God, the maker of heaven and earth.

(Psalm 121) (Recited funerals and stone dedications)

Unless God builds the house, its builders labor in vain.

(Psalm 127) (Recited when we affix a mezuzah, building dedications)

May God bless you from Zion,

And may you see the goodness of Yerushalayim -- all the days of your life.

And may you live to see the children of your children -- and peace over Israel.

(Psalm 128) (Some recite on Shabbat afternoon)

How good and pleasant it is when brothers and sisters dwell together. (Psalm 133)

(Some recite on Shabbat afternoon)

God is gracious and compassionate,

slow to anger and abounding in loving-kindness.

You open Your hand and satisfy every living being.

(Psalm 145) (Recited on weekdays, Shabbat and Holydays)

God is near to all who call upon Him, to all who sincerely call upon Him.

(Psalm 145) (Recited on weekdays, Shabbat and Holydays)

God secures justice for the oppressed.

God gives food to the hungry.

God protects the stranger

and gives courage to the orphan and the widow.

God thwarts the way of the wicked.

(Psalm 146) (Recited on weekdays, Shabbat and Holydays)

God declared His words to Jacob,

His statutes and laws to Israel.

He did not do so for any other nation -- Halleluyah!

(Psalm 147) (Recited on weekdays, Shabbat and Holydays)


Praise God with blasts of the shofar,

Praise Him with the harp and lyre.

Let all that breathes praise God -- Halleluyah!

(Psalm 150) (Recited on weekdays, Shabbat and Holydays)

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