March 19, 2017 Leave a comment
Author: Edited By Rabbi Simkha Y. Weintraub, CSW A Project of the Jewish Healing Center
Publisher: Woodstock, Vermont: Jewish Lights Publishing
115 pages, ISBN 1-879045-31-1, Paperback
Reviewed by Rev. Garth Wehrfritz-Hanson
In the “How To Use This Book” section, the purpose of this little volume is stated: “This book is intended to help you—struggling with illness or helping someone who is—derive spiritual healing from Psalms” (p. 11). Accordingly, the focus then is on what the late 18th century, Rabbi Nachman of Breslov referred to as the ten “healing psalms,” they are: Psalms 16, 32, 41, 42, 59, 77, 90, 105, 137, and 150. Readers will find helpful, practical suggestions on how to use these psalms.
In the “Introduction” chapter, Rabbi Simkha Y. Weintraub provides an overview of who Rabbi Nachman was, and the ten different kinds of songs found in these ten “healing psalms.” Each song has a corresponding Sefirot… “of the Kabbalah, the mystical attributes through which the Creator brought the universe into being. These Ten Sefirot are called “Direct Light,” shining from the Creator to the world” (p. 19). For example, one type of song is called a Niggun, “Melody,” and its corresponding Sefir is Hessed, “Lovingkindness.” In “Notes To Introduction,” there is a list of all ten Songs and corresponding Sefir.
Ten rabbis from four denominations—Orthodox, Conservative, Reform and Reconstruction—each write one of the chapters; providing a wide range of insights and approaches to these psalms.
The structure of each chapter is as follows: A Hebrew and English translation of the psalm, along with a commentary on it.
For this reader, the most helpful chapter was by Rabbi Maurice Lamm, commenting on Psalm 105. Rabbi Lamm offers several insights regarding the importance of songs and singing to facilitate communion with God and healing if not of the body, then of the mind and soul. For example: “The word shir, meaning song, also derives from shur, meaning insight. When we sing we raise our souls to God, and we gain insight into Him” (p. 83). I think this emphasis on singing songs regardless of our situation is most timely in our day and age, since very few people seem to sing anymore—one wonders if they are the poorer in health as a consequence.
In addition to this volume’s chapters, there is information about each of the contributors, suggested resources for further reading, helpful organizations, information about the Jewish Healing Center, and Jewish Light Publishing and several of their publications.