Ps. 1: A Contemporary Interpretation

Rodger Kamenetz’s work in poetry began with The Missing Jew (1979) and includes as well The Lowercase Jew (2003). His most recent books of poetry are Yonder (2018) and Dream Logic (2019). His poems have appeared recently in The Southern Review and Image and in dozens of anthologies. His website is


Psalm 1

Rodger Kamenetz, The Lowercase Jew, pp. 67-70.


              Happy is the one who … does not sit with scorners.

              -Psalm 1:1


              Just like a tree that standing by the water

              we shall not be moved.

              -Civil Rights anthem



happy is the one who does not sit

on the crooked stool,

who stands, satisfied with

one bag of sugar, of tea,

one slice of lemon,

white china, Formica countertop,

the clock with its black hands.


Happy is the one who does not sit

on the rusty seat by the broken mirror,

but closer to the register, taking in

the aroma of fresh grease and the ketchup squeezer.


Happy is the old man with the daily news

murmuring quietly to himself day and night.

The headlines jump up and down their fonts,

but his voice is steady as he shakes his head.

Happy is the old woman quietly studying the crosswords

and filling in the blanks with pen & capitals.


Happy is the student who studies at night

with black coffee and the sugar shaker

like a white tower in the sky.


Happy is the one who slides on life

and does not stick to the griddle.

Happy is the check, added correctly,

with the smiley face and the “Thanks!”


Happy is the name of the waitress

printed on a badge

and the customer secret in his own wallet

who pulls an extra bill and lays it on the table.


Happy is the short-order cook

who forgets time and space

with a spatula and an apron.  


Happy is the world outside

balanced on the appetites

that enter through the door

with the hydraulic hinge

and exit later, full and satisfied.


Happy is the air in the room buzzing

from ear to nose to mouth, tasting,

looking, inhaled, and swallowed.


Happy is the hamburger bun

with tiny flowers of wheat

like wheels and gears turning.


Unhappy is the meat,

the slaughtered cow,

the slaughter.


Happy is one who does not mock with the mochers,

who lives in the apartment down the street from the diner

and dwells in solitude

that’s open 24 hours a day.


Happy is the one rooted like a tree in the great life,

who draws from the porous earth

sap, leaf, juice, and fruit.


Happy the bug that eats the fruit,

the fly that lurches on the flower.

Happy the radiation flying from the petal,

invisible to the eye of man.


Happy the invisible which can't be seen,

the splash of bright color and disappearing air,

the ancient webwork of filaments

under the ground, and the mushroom heads

that pop in the spring rain.


Blessed all life unknown, the burning

filament of desire that lights the hallway, 

 air around the subway sign.


Happy is the dust mote blowing past the door

in the breeze that makes rails in the air.

Happy is the chaff that loved the wheat

and left it without pity or sadness,

the wheat bear in the arms of the harvester.

Happy are the wicked

singing at the top of their lungs.

Happy the neurotic in the endless technicality

of their unhappiness.

Happy the quiet man in his deep meditation

disturbed by the bass of his neighbor’s speakers.

When the clear image comes to him at last,

it will gather every blunt and broken noise

at the bottom of sleep

and he will see the roots of wisdom tap

the source of life, cold and stinging fresh.


Happy is the night and the path unlit in the dark.

Happy the stumbling, the falling down.

Happy the snow on the freezing body

and the last hat and muffler.

Happy the umbrella switched to a new owner

in the afterlife of umbrellas.

Happy matter and anti-matter

and the bit more of right than left

that makes corners scorn scorning

and the wicked turn from wickedness.


As in the motion of particles,

the motion of the creek over the rocks,

the happy disappear into the unhappy

and the unhappy recirculate into the happy

and the leaves fall into soil

and rise again as leaves:

happy, happy, and happy.


Read more about the PsalmSeason here & subscribe for email updates.

If you are looking for a way to become an interfaith leader, work for racial equity and build bridges, please check out our free curriculum "We Are Each Other's" and start your interfaith leadership today

more from IFYC

"It is permissible within our religion to defer, or to make up your fast later if you're feeling sick."
From experience, I know that Hispanic families had been greatly, and disproportionately affected by the pandemic, and survey data from the 2021 PRRI-IFYC Religious Diversity and Vaccine Survey corroborates this.
As the last few days of Ramadan are upon us – take our interactive quiz to find out how much you really know about this holy month.
We weren’t sure what to expect or how to navigate the complexities of getting to know colleagues from a distance, but IFYC team members Silma and Nadia welcomed us into their homes, their traditions, and their faith.
As the final project for the class, we wanted to do something that would make our campus a more inclusive, interreligious place.
IFYC is collecting prayers and meditations from diverse faiths to show our solidarity with the people of India, as well as links to charitable organizations that people can support.
Generally, tradition holds that the body is to be cremated or buried as quickly as possible – within 24 hours for Hindus, Jains and Muslims, and within three days for Sikhs. This need for rapid disposal has also contributed to the current crisis.
“Humanitarian Day embodies why Islam is relevant in America today. It’s why many Black Muslims embraced Islam, to be part of the solution, not only in their personal lives, but in their communities." - Margari Aziza Hill, MuslimARC
Recently, I asked a group of IFYC Alumni to share what they do in one sentence. I love their responses because they capture who they are so well.
As a nurse and a physician occupying different spheres in relation to the patient, Anastasia and I held comparable but also differing views about the role of religion and interfaith in the realm of patient care.
El movimiento necesita artistas, educadores, trabajadores de la salud, padres, funcionarios electos, científicos, clérigos, directores generales, y cuantas personas sea posible para hablar en contra de la injusticia donde sea que la veamos.
The scholarship covers the students’ tuition, as well as housing and living assistance while they pursue undergraduate or graduate degrees across all 18 of Columbia’s schools and affiliates.
En esta foto del sábado 9 de mayo de 2020, el Rev. Fabián Arias lleva a cabo un servicio en casa, al lado de los restos de Raúl Luis López quien murió de COVID-19 el mes previo, en el barrio Corona del distrito de Queens en Nueva York.
It is certainly within the rights of philanthropic and political institutions to 'not do religion,' but such an approach undermines any meaningful, holistic commitment to community or place-based humanitarian efforts in much of this country.
Last month, Kevin Singer, co-director of Neighborly Faith, brought two interfaith leaders together to discuss their respective publications and the consequences of the Equality Act on religious organizations, institutions, and places of worship.
It is in this spirit respeaking memory and finding time to etch it into the future that I offer the following exercise. It is designed to do with your friends or folks – preferably three or more. Take some time with it. Use it as a catalyst to...
Imagine my surprise upon coming to USA and celebrating my first Easter, but didn’t people realize it was Easter? Why are all the egg die and chocolates already sold out and none left for us celebrating a few weeks later?
They will, in other words, be learning the skills of mindfulness meditation — the secular version of the Buddhist practice that has skyrocketed in popularity to become America's go-to antidote for stress.
This is a sampling of sacred texts and statements, listed in alphabetical order by religion, that religious communities have used to engage in the work of public health amidst this global pandemic.
Chaplain Fuller’s leadership and guidance has left a lasting, rippling effect on and off campus which will guide communities and individuals into multifaith work and engagement long after her tenure at Elon.
In the grip of a deadly second wave of COVID-19, religious charities and faith-based organizations are among the many civil society groups that have stepped up to mobilize relief efforts.

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.