Ps. 8: A Poetic Meditation

Rabbi Sharon Cohen Anisfeld became President of Hebrew College in 2018. She served previously as Dean of the College’s Rabbinical School from 2006-2017.
 

Ps. 8: A Poetic Meditation

For the leader, on the gittith. A Psalm of David.

O LORD, our Lord, how majestic is Your name throughout the earth, 

You who have covered the heavens with Your splendor! 

 

I am standing on top of a mountain

Before an expanse so vast that it frightens me.

Some people feel their spirits soar at the summit

I feel aware

of how far there is to fall.

It is not entirely pleasant 

or unpleasant.

That is not really the point.

The point is how small I am

Which is to say how big You are.

 

I have never understood people who won’t admit that awe 

is part fear.

 

I can bear to look out at the horizon 

only briefly

Before I need to sit down

on a sun-drenched rock 

eat a sandwich

smell you sweating next to me.

Maybe argue a little

or feel your head in my lap.

Either way.

Just to know we are on solid ground.

***

From the mouths of infants and sucklings 

You have founded strength on account of Your foes, to put an end to enemy and avenger. 

Wait.

If we are going to

speak of my children

and Your enemies

in one breath

I must tell You:

Please don't ask me to choose between my child and You.

I will always choose my child.

 

After more than two decades

(I know that is nothing to You)

I can still remember 

holding each of them close 

for a time

looking down 

at the little fingers

on my breast

and the mouth born knowing

what to do.

 

I need to know what You mean.

I think I heard You say

There is strength

from the mouth of the suckling infant

that protects You

from Your enemies.

 

My heart is pounding.

Which is how I know

I have been told 

a beautiful 

or terrible 

truth.

 

I ache for the children

for all of us

sucking, seeking comfort

carrying the burden of protecting You

whether we know it or not.

 

God help us.

***

When I behold Your heavens, the work of Your fingers, 

the moon and stars that You set in place

 

It’s time to look up again now.

Be quiet.

 

I understand.

The work of Your fingers

is everywhere.

Behold.

 

Once on a cool desert evening

I went running alone

and saw the moon hanging low and orange in the sky. 

Behold.

 

Once on a warm summer night

I lay with my back on wet grass

and watched for shooting stars with a friend. 

Behold.

 

I swear these things really happened.

Your moon. Your stars. 

My life.

 

I know I am not the only witness.

***

What is man that You have been mindful of him, mortal man that You have taken note of him

that You have made him little less than divine and adorned him with glory and majesty; 

 

A teacher once told me

that to bend the knee

to feel small

is to know how blessed 

we really are.

 

And I wept.

 

I was angry, if you must know.

You talk about feeling small, I thought.

No.

Feeling small is one thing I know more about than you.

If anything, it keeps me from knowing

How blessed I really am.

 

The next day

I went into the desert.

I stood on a hilltop

I felt very small

and I thought

oh I see

Here I am.

 

And I laughed.

 

I felt blessed, if you must know.

I thought about each of us

On our own hilltop

Foolishly imagining

ourselves

bigger or smaller

than anyone else.

 

Here we are.

All of us

Knees bent

Beloved

Little less than divine.

***

You have made him master over Your handiwork, laying the world at his feet,

sheep and oxen, all of them, and wild beasts, too;

the birds of the heavens, the fish of the sea, whatever travels the paths of the seas.

 

But!

I wanted to protest.

I have never felt master

Over any living thing.

 

Is that so

I heard You say.

 

Be careful of the power you pretend not to have.

***

O LORD, our Lord, how majestic is Your name throughout the earth!

 

A teacher once sent me into the forest

and said build an altar

with what you find there.

But first, he said

you must ask permission.

Ask permission of every leaf every flower every branch every stone

 

From every yes and every no

I made my offering to You.

 

Amen.

 

Read more about PsalmSeason here and 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

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.
Una nueva encuesta conducida por el Public Religion Research Institute (PRRI) e Interfaith Youth Core (IFYC) encontró que los enfoques basados en la fe pueden mover a más comunidades indecisas sobre la vacuna hacia la aceptación.
Highlighting the role of faith and community in providing relief to communities during the pandemic, the project documents how diverse religious communities in the Charlotte area are responding to the pandemic.
Rabbi Sandra Lawson offers religious literacy education in this piece focused on Lag BaOmer, the day of celebration during the otherwise solemn period of the 49 days between the holidays of Passover and Shavuot.
While vaccination rates and warmer weather are currently lending us ample opportunity for optimism and joy, we are not nearly out of the woods regarding the lasting effects of the COVID-19 pandemic on our nation’s mental health.
Cargle is not alone in her spiritual discovery. Generation Z has been the driving force behind the renewed popularity and mainstreaming of the age-old esoteric system.
Clergy from 20 New York congregations, including Muslims, Hindus, Buddhists, Jews and Christians, met as the Interfaith Security Council held its first meeting to talk about how to share expertise and improve relations with law enforcement.

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.