psalm 1: happy is the one who greets the darkness

leaves

happy is the one who faces
his wickedness
who dives deep down knowing
he cannot find his way to the light
without greeting the darkness as well.

happy is the one who grows
like a tree planted in black fertile soil
drinking in sustenance from the
decayed remains of broken fallen leaves
only to bloom wide open
in the morning sunlight.

happy is the one who pays no heed
to those who tell her to be good
who understands the path to goodness
begins with her burning desire
for wholeness.

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10 Comments on “psalm 1: happy is the one who greets the darkness”

  1. bodysherpa says:

    beautiful. timely. feels like it was written especially for me in this very moment. thank you.

  2. Sarah Q. Malone says:

    Profound and wonderful. Thank you, Rabbi Brant.

  3. Don Wagner says:

    Thanks for these helpful and powerful insights, Brant. I look forward to future entries—-particularly the problematic vindictive and particularistic texts; thanks, Don

  4. Thank you. Needed. Useful. Be well.

  5. Laurie Goldstein says:

    Depth and beauty in one piece. Like it.

  6. i_like_ike52 says:

    How come you translated it such that the “wicked one” is a “he” and the
    good one (“seeking wholeness”) is a “she-her”? Politically-correct feminism, isn’t it?
    Is that really the message the Psalm is conveying or tis it one that you want to convey…that
    man are essentially evil and women are good?
    Anyway, I can’t wait to see what you write for Psalm 109….must be only referring to men, right?
    Also a politically-correct Psam 83 should be quite interesting as well.

    • Vicky says:

      Does the first verse have a ‘wicked’ person and the final verse a ‘good’ person? I don’t see that. They are both considered blessed and both seeking the same thing. In the first verse, the person arrives at light by confronting his inner darkness. In the final verse, a person arrives at goodness through realising the importance of being whole. Both verses show the importance of self-knowledge.

      I do think it’s significant that Brant chose the feminine pronoun for the final verse as opposed to the first, as women are often ‘told to be good’ in a way that men aren’t. I say this as a religious woman who is pretty strict in her own observance. Most people would call me orthodox or traditionalist Catholic. But it is painful sometimes, the amount of energy that goes into lecturing women on how we should behave, as though our spirituality is all about the length of our sleeves and nothing else. There is more to women’s faith than this. I see this reflected in Brant’s poem – but of course, that’s just my take on it. It may not be what he intended, and that’s besides the point. The beauty of poetry is that it is so multifaceted, and it sometimes holds a mirror up to what’s going on in your own mind.

      Brant, I particularly liked the middle verse. It reminded me of something written by one of our local saints, Maryam Baouardy, a Galilean woman who died as a nun in Bethlehem: “In heaven, the most beautiful souls are those that have sinned the most and repented. But they made use of their miseries like manure around their roots.”

      • Thanks for your thoughts, Vicky, particularly your observation that poetry has the power to hold a mirror up to our own inner selves. Altho I’m officially a Reconstructionist by affiliation, I often feel like a Deconstructionist at heart inasmuch as I respect the ways texts take on lives of their own. 🙂

        I do admit a debt to the poetry/liturgy of Marge Piercy (are you familiar with her work?) who is very fond of using spiritual “composting imagery” similar the the Baouardy quote. It also reminds me of a classic Maimonides teaching:

        One who has repented should not imagine that he is distant from the high level of the righteous because of the transgressions and sins that he did. The matter is not so. Rather, he is beloved and precious before the Creator — as if he had never sinned before. Not only that, but his reward is great, for he has tasted sin and separated from it… The Sages said, ‘The place that repenters stand, wholly righteous people cannot stand.’ Meaning, their level is greater than the level of the those who never sinned before since they have conquered their evil inclinations more than they.

        Best, BR

      • Vicky says:

        There is a verse in the gospels in which Jesus takes up that theme explored by Maimonides: “Just so, I tell you, there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who need no repentance.” I think what you term ‘composting imagery’ is a very beautiful way of expressing these and similar teachings – the idea that nothing is wasted, not even all the times when we have made a monumental mess of things. I haven’t read any Marge Piercy, but I’ll definitely look out for her.

        In my undergraduate days I remember being assigned to read a famous literary essay on the intentional fallacy – the idea that the poet’s intention counts for more than the text itself. As I see it, if a text doesn’t take on its own life then it’s just badly written.

  7. Roz says:

    Very poetic, and there’s a depth to it which even an orthodox Jew can appreciate. However, good and evil aren’t defined by our human yardstick, but by G-d’s alone. Please remember, those who wrote Tehillim, King David and others, were communicating with G-d and about G-d, mitzvah observance, and how good, as defined by the Torah, eventually triumphs. Can you avoid mentioning the nations of old who attacked Israel, or gloss over the real meaning of the Tents of Kader mentioned in Psalm 120? Was ancient Israel an aggressor, by your definition? Like you have accused the Jews of ancient Persia of masterminding genocide against “innocent” anti-semitic Persians? Did I misunderstand your interpretation of the Book of Esther? I hope you really didn’t mean that.
    Please don’t burden the audience with a 21st century imposed political correctness on the Psalms that strips it of their real purpose-holy prayers to G-d/Hakadosh Baruch Hu. Thanks.


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