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Thank God and call out in God's name! Make God's deeds known among the nations and speak of God's wonders!


Search for God; continuously seek God's presence. Remember the wonders God once did, and the laws that emanated from His mouth. Remember God's covenant.

Now I'm confused.

The above are the consecutive verses that open the P'sukai D'zimra. They are enough to bend you into a theological pretzel. How do you sing of a God for whom you are still searching? How do you celebrate God's deeds in the great and not-yet-convinced public square, while you are continuously toiling to remember these deeds yourself? How do you act as an ambassador, for a monarch whose presence you are not even sure you are in?

What kind of sport are these verses making of us, here as we open our davening?

Almost as soon as Avram arrived in the land of Canaan, he built and alter "and called out in God's name". If we leave the Midrashic accounts of Avram's zealous youth aside and stick with what the Torah's text tells us, we see here a picture of an altar-builder who barely knows the God whose name he is calling out. A man who knows full well that he still has so much to learn about the mysterious God of "Lech licha", whose beneficence and wonder he is already trying to impress on others. Avram is at once singing and seeking, celebrating and searching.

Though come to think of it, doesn't this sound kind of familiar? Have you not lustily sung Hallel at the Pesach Seder while grappling with whether and when God intervenes for the oppressed who roam the earth today? Or declared your Shabbat-observance publically and openly, while very much still seeking to understand God's role in the ongoing unfolding of creation? Or instructed others (children, for example) to always be conscious of God, while you'd be satisfied if you could just find Him sometimes?

We all do it. Like Avram did. Sing and seek. Celebrate and search. Know with confidence, and labor to remember why. This is the religious life. Restless, scuffling, and committed.

How else then would we want to open the Morning Prayer? Prayer, after all, is the center ring of the entire noble struggle.

--Rav Yosef

Mon, July 13 2020 21 Tammuz 5780