I keep hearing about the traditional Elul practice of reading Psalm 27, and today I finally remembered to try it myself.
As with many psalms, I want to love them. And often I do, mainly through familiar melodies. Psalm 27 is no exception. The lovely melody for Verse 4, Ahal Sha'alti, is an all-time favorite. When I dive into the text, though, I feel myself tighten and resist. So much of the language hits me wrong. In those moments, I remember my teenage self in synagogue reading psalms and thinking, "Too much God." I simply could not relate all that God talk. Here in Psalm 27, there are 14 verses, and I count 13 mentions of God. No wonder it was too much for me, but that's no longer the problem. Now I am fascinated and drawn to any appearance of the name of God in a text.
So why do the psalms still give me trouble? I will continue to ponder that question because I feel sure it has something to teach me. In the meantime, I highly recommend Rabbi Yael Levy's beautiful translation. It was the fourth translation I read today, and it allowed me to move past my tight places and sink into the beauty and wisdom of this psalm.
In Rabbi Levy's interpretation, I remember to relax, to open, to seek solace and find hope. Psalm 27 challenges me and soothes me. It encourages me to be here in Elul.