When I read Psalms, I occasionally feel like I am eavesdropping on someone else’s intimate conversation with God. When I utter Psalms I sometimes feel like I am plagiarizing from the best, without even the benefit of a footnote.
Psalms give us a unique way to communicate with God, praising Him in times of elation and beseeching Him in times of distress. Jewish tradition and prayer incorporate Psalms abundantly in every facet of life. One especially meaningful experience relating to this took place a year ago when Stan, a Christian friend, joined my family for Shabbat dinner and commented how special it was to share a meal, and sing Psalm 126 as part of the blessings we make afterward. “When the Lord returned the captives of Zion, we were like people in a dream. Then was our mouth filled with laughter,and our tongue with exultation: then said they among the nations, The Lord has done great things for them. The Lord has done great things for us; so we rejoiced!”
I’ve done this somewhat rote for most of my life without thinking much about it, even after moving to Israel. But when Stan said “it’s such a privilege to be here in your home, singing praise to God while witnessing how through your living in Israel, in your home, with your family, is in fact a fulfillment of these words,” the words hit home in a way they never had, literally. Now, rarely a Shabbat goes by without my thinking of this and having extra appreciation to God for bringing us back home, as a family, and as a people.
I’ve had numerous other instances where, through sharing different experiences with Christians, new meaning is highlighted, enriching my own awareness of God in my life, and making me a better Jew and more humble servant. I often think how Jews and Christians have so many things which we can share, and through which, complement our respective faiths.
I’ve been privileged to be part of the Day to Praise, a global movement bringing Jews and Christians together to praise God for the miracle of the State of Israel, an especially meaningful way to worship through shared scripture, and through this to share one of the many things we have in common as the only people to worship the same God, the One True God.
The Day to Praise is compiling worship songs inspired by Psalms, and a portion of the sales of these songs will go to supporting Heart to Heart. Together, we will take our thanksgiving prayers on behalf of Israel and turn them into a way, tangibly, to help Heart to Heart save lives in Israel. I am honored to participate and promote this most meaningful event, and encourage all to download and enjoy these songs. I pray that will inspire even more worship songs.
The Day to Praise is anchored with a live event in Jerusalem, and a virtual means of exalting God through Psalms, Jews and Christians together. In Jewish tradition, Psalms 113-118 are recited at special festive times known as Hallel, Hebrew for praise. We say Hallel on the first of every new month, as well as biblical festivals, and more modern holidays. One of the later is Israel’s Independence Day, Yom Haatzmaut, observed on the 5th of the Jewish month Iyar.
Yom Haatzmaut is the most modern of our holidays on which we recite Hallel, but it has deep, biblical, and prophetic roots. In 1948 Israel’s declaration of independence took place on a May 14. Because of the Jewish lunar calendar, this year it falls on April 23. Is not just that we celebrate our declaration of independence on the 5th of Iyar in 1948, but we celebrate God fulfilling His promise to restore us to the Land He gave us, and as prophesized in in Isaiah 66:8. And we celebrate the nations affirming “The Lord has done great things for them. “ Just like my friend, Stan, observed a year ago.
The Day to Praise is bringing Jews and Christians together to sing praise to God, and thank Him for keeping His word, restoring the Jewish people to our home, and standing with Israel always. Yet, despite our awareness of God’s grace and faithfulness, we will sing his praise this year in an environment of unprecedented threats to Israel, and Jews and Christians worldwide. The Jewish people know from suffering and persecution more than any, making our ability to celebrate at the appointed times all the more special and full of meaning.
Through our respective worship of the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, we – Jews and Christians – are indeed the most exalted people. But if one who did not know God were looking from the outside, just following the last months’ world news, one might come away thinking that we are the lowliest people. Throughout the world, Jews and Christians are targeted, persecuted, attacked, and even murdered.
Psalm 118 addresses that. While speaking of King David, through whom the messiah will come, the scripture says, “The stone the builders rejected has become the cornerstone; the Lord has done this, and it is marvelous in our eyes. The Lord has done it this very day; let us rejoice today and be glad. Lord, save us! Lord, grant us success.”
This year, especially on Yom Haatzmaut, and especially as the Day to Praise brings Jews and Christians together, through our actions, and our utterance of these words, we will give special meaning to the Psalms, and we will shine the light of God on the rest of what’s often an otherwise dark and often pagan world. Indeed, through our praise together, we will affirm His Oneness and give the nations another reason, again, the opportunity to affirm this themselves and declare “The Lord has done great things for them.”
If you can’t be with us in Jerusalem in person on April 23, please join us by visiting Day to Praise, commit to reciting these Psalms wherever you are, enjoy the existing worship songs, and, together, being a combined light unto the nations.