Tuesday, December 28, 2010
Psalm for Monday: Psalm 48, verse 12
ישמח הר ציון תגלנה בנות יהודה למען משפטיך
May the mountains of Zion be glad, the daughters of Judah rejoice; because of your judgments.
Going back to earlier verses and commentaries, I interpreted the images as referring to the “heavenly Jerusalem,” which the rabbis and mystics imagined as a counterpart to the “earthly Jerusalem.” In the heavenly Jerusalem, all is as we imagine it should be. There is no fighting, no war, just simply peace (see previous psalm commentaries) .
Zion is a synonym for Jerusalem throughout late Biblical and rabbinic literature. Mt. Zion itself is also synonymous with Mt. Moriah, where Abraham bound Isaac and where the Holy Temple would eventually be built. It is the center of the earthly Jerusalem and the heavenly one. Within Jewish mythology, it is where the two connect; it is a spiritual umbilical cord.
Referring back to my commentaries on the two previous verses, it is connecting with God’s hesed (overflowing love) and tzedek (righteousness) that causes the mountains of Zion to be glad and the daughters of Judah to rejoice. By acknowledging the oneness of the universe within the Divine, guided by hesed and tzedek, we are able to be glad and rejoice along with Zion and Judah. However, it is important to look at the particular phrasing of the verse.
First, it is not merely Mt. Zion, which is the center of power, where happiness can be found, but all the mountains of Zion. It is as if there are underground spiritual conduits that connect the mountains, regardless of whether the mountain is at the center or on the periphery or whether it is the largest or smallest.
In the heavenly realm, all is happiness and peace, because all is connected through hesed and tzedek. This is also the ultimate goal for which we can strive in the earthly realm. However, to reach that goal we must allow ourselves to be guided by the Divine hesed and tzedek that flows through the universe. We must avoid being judgmental or comparing ourselves to others, as I have discussed in previous commentaries. Each of us is a mountain of Zion, wherever and whoever we may be. We all have access to the root of happiness and joy, if we make the necessary actions (or non-actions) to connect us.
The parallel of this is the image of the rejoicing of the “Daughters of Judah.” Some interpret the daughters as referring to the surrounding cities and towns, with Jerusalem their mother. Others take this more literally and focus on the dangers that faced women then (and now). Being saved from these dangers by God would therefore be a cause for rejoicing.
Viewing the verse from the perspective of the heavenly Jerusalem I would combine both of these interpretations and neither of them. For the daughters of Judah (which was where Jerusalem was located) are all of us. We are all rooted in the heavenly mother Jerusalem. In this case, “daughters” is not a gendered term. Rather, it represents all the spiritual offspring of Jerusalem/Judah. However, being represented as daughters and not sons, these offspring are not preparing for war or struggle, but for nurturing, caring and compassion.
Yes, we are all daughters of Judah. However, it is true, both then and now, that there are dangers particular to woman (though not exclusively). There are kinds of violence, not to mention general misogyny, that are aimed at women. And so being a daughter of Jerusalem means not only being caring and compassionate, but also being in a somewhat dangerous and precarious situation. If we are all symbolically “daughters of Judah” then this is the case for all of us, regardless of our sexual or gender identity.
What enables the daughters of Judah to truly rejoice is God’s “judgments.” But these are not the same as what we mean when we speak of human “judgments” or being “judgmental.” For we know that the human proclivity to judge is the source of so much pain, suffering and unhappiness.
In the earthly/human realm judgment is about labeling and valuing certain people or things based on subjective evaluation. However, in the heavenly realm, judgment is objective and just. Divine judgment should be based on tzedek and hesed. Judgment in the heavenly realm is about righting wrongs and making the world a better place. Therefore, in this verse the daughters of Judah are rejoicing because in the heavenly realm, judgmental behavior, prejudice, violence and misogyny do not exist. All are equal. All are loving. All is just.
Therefore, viewing the world through the lenses of tzedek and hesed results in all recognizing the sense of interconnectedness. This is the root of the understanding and that no human being is greater or smaller than another. We are all equal one within God. And this is the root of happiness and rejoicing.
It is our duty to do our best to bring the gladness and joy of the heavenly realm into the earthly realm. We must use tzedek, hesed, and this ultimate egalitarianism represented by this verse to achieve this goal. We must all be the mountains of Zion, conduits between heaven and earth, and do our best through words, thoughts and actions, to bring this prophetic and messianic vision to fruition in our own time.
Posted by Rabbi Steven Nathan at 12:26 AM
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