by Renae Bauer
(September 2015) -- Praise, thanksgiving and lament. The Book of Psalms offers us a range of human conditions to raise up to because the psalms “are an expression of humanity’s heart toward God, a way for us to express those life events to God,” says Rabbi Sidney Vineburg. His presentation on the history of psalms, different types and structures was given at the Fall Gathering of our Associates.
The psalms date back to the time of Moses (approximately 1400 BC) perhaps a healthy reminder that our joys and sorrows are timeless threads of the human experience.
Psalms are often arranged as “thought rhymes” meaning priority is given to the grouping of concepts, not the rhyming of words. For example, Psalm 119:11, “Your word I have hidden in my heart, That I might not sin against You.” The psalms also offer us figurative expressions for God such as “a light” or “a rock.”
We can find the Rabbi’s most important lesson referenced in St. Paul’s Letter to the Ephesians (5:19) which says we are to give thanks to God “in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody in your hearts to the Lord.” The phrase “making melody” is related to the Greek word “psallontes” which literally means “plucking the string.” There’s no doubt that the psalms are to be sung with emotion.
To learn more about the Psalms, Rabbi Vineburg recommends visiting www.ccel.org/contrib/exec_outlines/psa/psa_00.htm.
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