Every morning, I sit and listen to the sounds of the world outside. Cars and buses going past; people going to work, children going to school. Tourists visiting the area, people on holiday. Dogs barking, neighbours shouting. Everyone’s doing something, going somewhere. Movement all around me. I feel as if I’m trapped in a bubble. Every day of the week is the same. As the world carries on, I get left behind. The walls of my house feel like the bars of a prison door. Sometimes I wonder why Hashem let me remain here so long. I remember the line in the Siddur, how can dust praise You, how can a dead man praise You? I feel like I can’t praise Hashem enough. How can I praise You when I can’t keep Your mitzvot? How can I praise You when I transgress Your commandments every day? I can’t celebrate Your new year and I can’t tremble at the sound of the shofar.
And so I read Tehillim.
Every day I read Tehillim. I didn’t used to. I tried and got lost in the words, my mind jumped, I stopped reading. Then one day I started reading and I couldn’t stop again. Now I read them every morning, sometimes even aloud. They are like my very own words. David, son of Yishai, tells of the accursed scoffers, the enemies who lay a trap for him, those who mock him and speak against him. He bemoans the nights he spends in agony; “I melt my couch with tears,” he writes. The words speak to my heart
And then, the glory of Hashem. Sunlight streams through the slats of the blind and I look up at the sky. I’m seeing a miracle, I feel. The letters on the spines of leather seforim glint in the sun. How I wish they were my own. So I read Tehillim. To praise G-d, to praise His creations, His Word… I want to immerse myself in His Word, study His teachings all day… But many days I can’t. My only link to Him is a few lines of Tehillim, murmured in English. It would sound better in Hebrew. But why speak words I barely understand? Why not praise Hashem with words from my heart? He understands every language. I read the Hebrew words but I don’t speak them.
Later that day I remember a friend. I wonder why she lost what she longed for so much. I wish she could see a full recovery, I wish Hashem would have mercy on her. She’s been through enough, she seems to have lost everything. Suddenly I remember her laughing in Shul, her black hat bobbing next to the rebbetzen’s blonde shaytel. I stared from across the ladies’ gallery. I wondered why she laughed. I pondered going over to join her. The memory’s frozen in my mind. She can’t make it to Shul anymore. Still she invites me to her house. I wish she were happy again. So I read Tehillim for her. I find a psalm which speaks to me, which tells me of her story, and I say it. I wonder if Hashem is listening. He must be. When I light my makeshift candle the next day, l’kvod shabbes, I say her name again. I know He’s listening.
And yet still I don’t have a book. I look at the small, leather bound volume on the shelf. I touch the cover. The pages are paper thin, stained with age. Abandoned. And yet still not mine. Another shiny copy, a hasty replacement, sits in a bag in the hall. I can’t even touch it. I leaf through print outs, I read online, I glance at translations. Soon I’ll have my own book. Then I can say Tehillim again.