Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Let the angels do the singing.

"My creatures are drowning in the sea, and you want to sing?"

I think this is the rejoinder every neighborhood Tehillim group deserves. Most of these groups are made up of stay-at-home Moms, who steal a few moments from manicures and shopping to mumble some Psalms in the hopes and expectation that their mumbling will make God cure a sick baby or find someone a job. Elsewhere, I've argued that these groups are a fad and a farce that corrupt the traditional idea of prayer. But a far greater problem is that they are a waste of energy, energy that might be better spent solving real problems.

I'm reminded of the story of a Hasidic rebbe of some stature who decided that it was his role in life to complete the book of Psalms every day. Ensconced in his study, he recited each word slowly and carefull, ignoring all other concerns. Until one day a Maggid visited him with words of rebuke: The angels can sing. You have work to do.  Leave singing to the angels. We need you to do what the angels cannot. We need you to care for people.

Can't we say the same to the Psalm-singing ladies? Aren't there soup kitchens in need of volunteers? Sick and elderly in need of visitors? Isn't their charity work calling out for hands in every kehilla? So why does every frum neighborhood I know rally its non-working women to recite Pslams when so many of God's creatures are drowning in the sea? Let the angels do the singing.

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