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PRAYER PING #12

Before we plunge into the פסוקי דזמרא, the section comprised (mostly) of selections from the book of Psalms, it's worth taking a look at what we're doing in this section from 30,000 feet up.  While it is tempting to satisfy ourselves with Rav Simlai's comment in the Talmud that as a matter of simple protocol we must "speak the praises of God before praying [to Him]", let us instead follow the footsteps of our Sages who probed the matter further. Beyond just satisfying Rav Simlai's formalities, let's aspire to ride the Psalms as an eagle rides the wind, to arrive at heights from which we can see  a great deal more than we could have seen from the ground.

The 15th century Sage Rabbi Yitzchak Abuhav playfully  -  yet earnestly - taught that we should  understand the root of the word "zimra" in the phrase  פסוקי דזמרא,  not to be "zemer" meaning "song", rather to be "mazmer" meaning "pruning hook". (Think about swords and ploughshares...) His idea is that when we recite these poems, which describe the expansiveness and eternity of God, the awe and wonder of Creation, we will be come to see so many of the dumb things, the trivial nuisances, and the petty annoyances that we allow to consume too much of our moral and spiritual bandwidth, for what they really are - dumb, trivial, petty. "God creates heaven and earth, the sea and all that is in it.  God preserves Truth for the world, creating Justice for the exploited, giving Food to the hungry, providing Insight to the blind." And I'm still mad that the Rams went 5 - 11 ?!  Or that my teenager accused me of tripping [again]? It's through these precious psalms that we come to realize that what it means to be created in God's image, is to save our passion for the problems that God is passionate about.  פסוקי דזמרא  - the verses of pruning away the trivial and the petty -  before we get to Prayer.

Rav Kook saw פסוקי דזמרא as the opportunity to fulfill that for which King David was yearning when he famously requested to be able לחזות בנועם ה'   , to behold the pleasantness of God.  "God heals the broken-hearted and binds up their wounds". "God is good to all, and His compassion extends to all living things". "God is close to all who all Him, who call Him in truth".פסוקי דזמרא - the verses through which we are reminded of the pleasantness and of the beauty that can exist in this God-inspired place .... if, for starters, we know what to pray for.

The Shulchan Aruch rules that the songs of פסוקי דזמרא should be said reflectively and slowly. But "a little more reflectively and a little more slowly than I said them yesterday", is a great place to start. 

--Rav Yosef

Wed, August 21 2019 20 Av 5779