Ps. 27: A Questioning Faith
Rabbi Edward Feld is senior editor of the new Siddur Lev Shalem and of its sister volume Mahzor Lev Shalem, published by the Conservative Movement’s Rabbinical Assembly. His two books, The Spirit of Renewal: Faith After the Holocaust (Jewish Lights) and Joy, Despair and Hope: Reading Psalms (Cascade Books) have been widely praised.
There are times when we are sure of ourselves, and then questions arise, our sense of confidence deserts us. The questions which we never truly faced before overwhelm us and after, we are left to try to pick up the pieces.
Psalm 27 narrates that very story. It begins with a voice that is supremely confident, “Adonai is my light and my savior, the stronghold of my life, whom should I fear?” It is the expression of a person who is a true believer: I know God is with me and so I have nothing to fear.
That faith is expressed here as a rhetorical question, whom should I fear? The answer seems obvious to the speaker: no one. But the rhetorical question then leads to another reflection, essentially a question: what is missing? If I have no fear, is something else gnawing at me?
Yes, says the narrator, I live a life of faith, but I don’t truly feel God beside me. Would that I could be with God, visit with God, walk with God, feel God’s wings embracing me!
And the recognition that God is not a palpable presence leads to a review by the narrator of experienced losses, a sense of desertion: I live in a world which can be treacherous, many of the people I know lack integrity, are corrupt, are unafraid to pervert the truth. Even my mother and father are imperfect, they live their own lives, and they, too, may desert me in my hour of need.
So, all I have left is my faith, a faith to see me through these dark times. I hold on to the hope it gives me. But hope is such a thin thread…
What are we left with at the end? The psalmist through an internal dialogue has raised deep questions, has taught us that the world of faith, when it is truly examined, does not issue in self-confidence, but in a life fully aware of vulnerability. That’s hard to live with, but that’s all we have really.
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The opinions contained in this piece are solely the author’s and do not necessarily reflect the views of Interfaith Youth Core. Interfaith America encourages a wide range of views and strives to maintain a respectful tone with a goal of greater understanding and cooperation between people of different faiths, worldviews, and traditions.