Psalm 27 and the penitential season

Psalm 27  For the Penitential Season


During the penitential season, from the first day of the month of Elul through Hoshana Rabba ( the last say of Sukkot before Shemini Ha’atzeret and Simchat Torah) it is customary to recite Psalm 27 at the end of the morning and evening services. To be honest, I am not sure why this particular Psalm was chosen, but there is a theme to the Psalm that strikes a meaningful chord with me.

Taken seriously, this time of year can be a bit worrisome to say the least if not downright frightening. From the beginning of Elul we start the process of Teshuvah , return to, or reconciliation with God. It is a period of self-examination; delving into our actions and words in the past year in search of our shortcomings. The process includes not only recognizing out faults and errors but, to the extent possible, “making it right” by apology or restitution and resolving to do better in the future. With Rosh Hashana being the day of judgement and Yom Kippur being, traditionally the day that judgement is sealed, this can be a disconcerting process.

Psalm 27, with its mostly optimistic tone, is there to tell us that there is real hope for redemption. I call it the light at the end of the tunnel. The very first verse of thus uplifting poem say “God is my light and help, whom shall I fear”. It goes on to describe God as defender and protector. It reminds us that even when our parents are gone God is there for us. It concludes “look to the Lord; be strong and of good courage! O, look to the Lord.

To me, it is clear and comforting that a God this compassionate and loving, this protective and nurturing will surely be open to my work at reconciliation and my prayers for forgiveness.

I believe that very one of us should try to develop our individual understanding our faith. Each of has his or her own unique relationship with God, our liturgy, scriptures and tradition. In my case, the nurturing of those relationships has proven spiritually rewarding.

Shana Tova.