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February 29, 2024
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Rabbi Nahman said: “I’m like the moon:

because I wax and wane in faith, unsteady.”

Augustine said: “God, do not make me good too soon,”

not when requesting this for God quite ready.

 

Unamuno said that those who think

that they believe in God but are without

a passion for Him that can grow or shrink,

experiencing no anguish and no doubt,

 

do not believe in God, but just believe

in the concept of Him, an idea

not rooted in those who do not take leave

of all their senses, which aren’t always clear.

 

Yet reciting Psalm one hundred four when there’s a moon that’s new

is customary for each faithful Jew, because its final word

is “Hallelujah,” this great word ensuring that by every Jew

thanksgiving is performed to God and we by gratefulness are stirred.

 


Rabbi David Wolpe wrote in his “Off-the Pulpit” sermon for Shabbat toldot, 5772:

What Do You Really Believe?

On Thanksgiving we are grateful for what we have and mindful of what others lack. It is a good time to ask — what do we really believe? Some people believe in a God who grants good to the one who prays most or behaves best. Such people might wish to read the book of Job, or look out the window; they will discover that ease and anguish are unevenly distributed in this world and follow no discernible pattern of reward. Others think God is completely arbitrary or absent. Such people might be mindful of the abundance of blessing that exists and how much we human beings are responsible for its poor distribution or unfair allotment. Then there are those who find themselves in the third camp — the bewildered believers. They are like Rabbi Nahman, who said he was a ‘moon man,’ that his faith waxed and waned. Surely Rabbi Nahman would have understood Miguel De Unamuno, the great Spanish philosopher and man of letters: “Those who believe that they believe in God, but without passion in their hearts, without anguish in mind, without uncertainty, without doubt, without an element of despair even in their consolation, believe only in the God idea, not God Himself.” Happy Thanksgiving.

I recalled this Thanksgiving-related poem on 2/26/27, after a Torah in Motion lecture by Dr. Beni Gesundheit on the Book of Psalms, in which he pointed out that the first appearance of the word  “Hallelujah” in this Book is made by the last word of Psalm 104:

יִתַּ֤מּוּ חַטָּאִ֨ים ׀ מִן־הָאָ֡רֶץ וּרְשָׁעִ֤ים ׀ ע֤וֹד אֵינָ֗ם בָּרְכִ֣י נַ֭פְשִׁי אֶת־יְהֹוָ֗ה הַֽלְלוּ־יָֽהּ  

May sinners disappear from the earth, and the wicked be no more. Bless the LORD, O my soul. Hallelujah.

Jews recite this Psalm on the first day of every month in a minor festival called Rosh Hodesh, celebrating the moon’s first appearance in this month.  During our current year, 5784, we celebrate Rosh Hodesh thirteen times instead of the usual twelve, because it is a leap year in which the joyful month of Adar occurs twice. We therefore perform the minor festival thirteen times, a number Jews unfortunately cannot consider to be lucky because Shabbat 156a informs us that the fate of Israel is not dependent on luck.


Gershon Hepner is a poet who has written over 25,000 poems on subjects ranging from music to literature, politics to Torah. He grew up in England and moved to Los Angeles in 1976. Using his varied interests and experiences, he has authored dozens of papers in medical and academic journals, and authored “Legal Friction: Law, Narrative, and Identity Politics in Biblical Israel.” He can be reached at gershonhepner@gmail.com.

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