Rabbi KrishefRabbi David J.B. Krishef grew up in Minneapolis, Minnesota, and graduated from the University of Minnesota with a degree in Hebrew and Jewish Studies.  Following a two year stint as a program director at the University of Minnesota Hillel Foundation (serving students at Carleton and Macalester colleges), he entered the Jewish Theological Seminary of America, where he received ordination in 1994.

Read more about Rabbi David J.B. Krishef

 

Psalm 11

“Flee, bird to your mountain.” (11:1)

Some birds, like geese, run away when perceived danger approaches. Some, like wild turkeys, will stand in the middle of a road oblivious to the danger posed by approaching cars. Most birds will fly away when a person or a vehicle gets too close. They typically retreat to a place high above the ground where they feel safe. We, however, ought to cultivate the skill of evaluating the potential threat in order to gauge our ability to stand up against it. We, unlike birds, are charged to stand up for justice.

Psalm 10

“Mischief and iniquity are under his tongue.” (10:7)

The potential for destructive language is always lurking, ready to burst forth. Sometimes it seems like the tongue has a mind of its own. No sooner have I said something than I regret what I said. I didn’t mean to say it, I wasn’t even aware that those words were about to come out of my mouth. Human beings have a yetzer hara (selfish inclination) tempting us to unleash those devilish little imps under our tongue, but we also have a yetzer hatov (good inclination) reminding us to keep them under wraps.

Psalm 9

“Let the nations know they are human.” (9:21)

To say that we are only human is sometimes used as an excuse for making mistakes and engaging in bad behavior. But to be human should not be an excuse for behaving badly. To be human is to be just a little less than Divine, according to the Psalmist (8:5). Reminding us that we are human is setting a high bar, challenging us to act in a way which reflects our creation in the image of God.

Psalm 8

“The moon and stars that You set in place …” (8:4)

I love looking at the constellations of stars and marveling at the imagination of the ancient astronomers who saw the patterns and named them. It is easy to see why the Psalmist envisioned God carefully setting each celestial object in place. How could such cosmic artistry be an accident? Surely, the magnificence of the night sky testifies to the Creator of heaven and earth. Even though I understand that it might be the case that the human brain simply looks at randomness and seeks order, I choose to look at the night sky and see God’s hand.

Psalm 7

“[He] will fall into the trap he made.” (7:16)

There is something satisfying about catching and correcting errors. Somehow, we feel like we are making the world better. But to set someone up for failure so they make a mistake that we step in to correct is another thing entirely. Not only is it a violation of “Do not place a stumbling block before the blind” (Leviticus 19:14), but it is an action taken only to boost our own ego, not to do any kind of tikkun (repair) in the world. When our ego pushes us to act rashly, we will find ourselves taking unwise action that will eventually come back to bite us.

Psalm 6

“Adonai, turn!” (6:5)

The idea that God changes is challenging to many people. If God changes, then the earlier pronouncements of God must not have been correct – therefore, God is not perfect. If God was perfect, then God would never need to change. However, God’s covenant and relationship is with us, with human beings, and perforce needs to change because we change. God’s changes, then, are motivated by who we are at any given moment. God’s malleability, therefore, is a model for us. If God can change and respond to us, then we can change and respond not only to God, but to the people around us. Where do you need to change?

Psalm 5

“Let them fall by their own devices.” (5:11)

Most of our failures are not caused by other people sabotaging our lives. Most of the time when we run into problems, if we look carefully we’ll see that we are the primary cause of our difficulties. When we fail, it is most often because we didn’t sufficiently prepare or because we didn’t pay attention to the signs that were trying to warn about the “bridge out ahead!” We blithely continued on, ignoring the warnings, until we drove right off the bridge. And then we screamed all the way down, blaming everyone except ourselves for our plight, which was caused by our own lack of attention.

Psalm 4

“Ponder it on your bed, and be still.” (4:5)

Rare is the day on which all of our work, in the broadest sense of the word, gets done. We nearly always leave something undone, something we could have done better. That’s OK – it’s part of being human. Being human, though, is just a bit less than being Divine – which means that while messing up is expected, so is self-analysis. As you lie in bed at night, calm your breathing and review your day. Choose something that could have gone better. Even if 90% of the problem was caused by someone else’s mistake, identify one thing that you contributed to the problem and one thing that you could have done to avert or lessen it.

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