We just commenced the recitation of Psalm 27 both morning and evening from the first of the Hebrew month Elul until Hoshana Rabbah. The Psalm begins with hopeful words of reassurance from King David:
Adonai is my light and my help. Whom shall I fear? Adonai is the strength of my life. Whom shall I dread?
I have recited this Psalm an unknown number of times, yet never really focused on the following line:
Though my father and my mother leave me, Adonai will care for me.
With the passing of my father on this past Shabbat Chanukah, I have turned to God countless times for comfort and strength, and do believe that in my time of trouble, God has helped lift me out of my mourning. Three-thousand-year-old words continue to inspire me.
The Psalm then continues with what he felt was the ultimate Divine reward:
To dwell in the House of Adonai all the days of my life –
to behold God’s beauty, to pray in God’s sanctuary.
I view the second half of this verse as a cause and effect equation. “To behold God’s beauty” refers to our time on this planet; “To pray in God’s sanctuary” is our time in the afterlife. When we observe mitzvot and live our lives the best we can, our actions attest to the beauty of God in this world and all those around us know that all we do is based upon a strong Jewish grounding. Respect for all that is around us causes us to view all of God’s creation through the lens of “God’s beauty”. By living such a life, we are rewarded with the opportunity “to pray in God’s sanctuary” when our days are completed.
At this time of year when we engage in a personal review, we face our own mortality. Have we beheld God’s beauty? Can we be better at it? Now is the time to ask, and answer, the difficult questions. May we each merit the opportunity to one day pray in God’s sanctuary.