#BlogElul 19: Ask

#BlogElul 2013There is a tradition of reciting Psalm 27 daily during the month of Elul. Almost four years ago, Rabbi Rachel Barenblat shared a melody she had learned for one of its verses, and I have found myself humming it at this time of year ever since. I encourage you to go give it a listen, because it truly is beautiful.

The English translation in Mishkan T’filah differs slightly, as translations are wont to do, from the version of Achat Sha’alti Reb Rachel sings for us.

One thing I ask of Adonai, only that do I seek:
to live in the house of Adonai all the days of my life,
to gaze upon the beauty of Adonai, and to frequent God’s Temple. (Psalm 27:4)

This psalm’s author, I like his style. He’s got chutzpah to spice his humility. First, he tells God he’s only asking for one thing — just one little thing, that’s all. Then he proceeds to ask for three things, not least of which is to move into God’s place. He wants to bask in God’s beautiful presence and hang out together pretty much all the time. It sounds like he wants to become God’s best bud/roommate, or possibly some kind of divine puppy.

Psalm 27 Puppy. Picture by bullcitydogs on Flickr, licensed under Creative Commons. Source: http://www.flickr.com/photos/bullcitydogs/5085583464/

Source photo by bullcitydogs on Flickr (CC BY-NC-SA 2.0).

My puppy-dog eyes are not nearly as convincing, but I still find myself thinking that Psalm 27’s author has the right idea. If you are going to ask the Source of Life, the Universe, and Everything (with apologies to Douglas Adams) for something, you might as well think big. I’m not sure I can think much bigger than to request the ability to “set God before me always” (Psalm 16:8) — that is, to recognize in every moment of every day that there is an ineffable Something inside and beyond us, a Presence in which we dwell that dwells within us.

I’m almost afraid to ask for that kind of awareness. Even so, I’m here, I’m alive, and I have the ability to ask big questions even when I’m not sure I’ll grasp the answers. Why not ask and see what happens?


#BlogElul, the brainchild of Rabbi Phyllis Sommer, invites participants to chronicle the month leading up to the Jewish High Holy Days through blog posts, photos, and other social media expressions.

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