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Day 150: When the perek will end and start anew

As the conflict rages on, our brothers and sisters continue to fight and be in the evil hands of our enemy. Each day is a new opportunity for us to look within ourselves, to reflect, to act, and to pray.

Since that horrific day, so many of us have recited Tehillim. And as I have been in many shuls and schools, I would say 90% of the time at 90% of the minyanim, the deep and moving Prakim 121 and 130 have filled our lips. We look to the mountains, we cry from the depths. Prakim of eternal pain and prayer are ones that are fixed upon our lips.

For me, and a small group of us, we have used these terrible times to challenge ourselves to expand our muscles of prayer and learn a new Perek of Tehilim each day.

The daily learning in prayer began on Day 78 where, after countless days of reciting the same chapters again and again, we expanded to learn the chapter of Tehillim that corresponded to the day of the crisis. On that day, Day 78, December 24, Perek 78, is a journey through the history of Am Yisrael and God’s accompanying of them. It is about our relationship with the Divine and concludes with the image of God as our shepherd, tending to us in the roughest of times. (78:72)

From that day onward, there has been a new look at the Perek of the day.

Sometimes, the Perek has been a familiar one, with familiar chapters, words, or phrases, such as those from Hallel (113-119) or Kabbalat Shabbat (95-99) or from songs from camp (133, 137) or other tefilot of praise, thanks (100) or peril (120).

Sometimes, the Perek speaks to how to navigate in a world that seems upside down (143) or speaks to the need for God’s protection in the face of our enemies (140). Sometimes, it talks of our eternal connection to Israel (132) and sometimes, it asks God to help us be our best selves and seek Divine guidance (139).

And every time, it rings contemporary. Time and time again, the ancient words of Tehilim feel like they could have been written today (143).

We are coming to the end of the sefer. On Day 150, we will no longer have a Perek to correspond with the day of this crisis.

So what will we do? I have told people that the answer is obvious.

We will do what Jews did all over the world on that terrible, dark, black day.

We will do what we have done for centuries with our sacred texts. We will stand up, roll to the beginning, and start again.

We will turn to Perek Alef and dive right back in, into the words of confusion, comfort, ethical challenge, and praise, into finding our story as part of the bigger story. We will hadran, we will return.

We will return to the story of a people of strength, striving, seeking, gratitude, and growth.

In a word, we will start from the beginning, from Tehillim Perek Alef, and embrace the blessed triumph and tears of the ongoing story of our people, the story of Am Yisrael.

About the Author
Rabbi Aaron Frank is Upper School Principal at the Ramaz School in Manhattan. Prior to coming to Ramaz, Rabbi Frank was the Head of School at Kinneret Day School and previously Associate Principal at SAR High School. Before moving to New York, he worked at the Beth Tfiloh Dahan Community School in Baltimore for twelve years, serving as Lower School and then High School Principal. He served as Associate Rabbi of the Hebrew Institute of Riverdale under the mentorship of Rabbi Avi Weiss from 1996 until 2000 and was a founding member of Congregation Netivot Shalom in Baltimore. A musmakh of Yeshivat Chovevei Torah, Aaron holds a B.A. in Philosophy from the University of Michigan and an M.S. from Columbia University School of Social Work. Rabbi Frank is married to Laura Shaw Frank. They have four children: Ateret, Yanniv, Elinadav, and Neri.