Monday, September 5, 2011

Elul 6: If you only had one request from God

If you had only one request from God, what would it be?

To help us with our introspection during the month of Elul, we recite Psalm 27 twice daily, morning and evening, from now until the end of Sukkot:

אַחַת שָׁאַלְתִּי מֵאֵת-יְהוָה-- אוֹתָהּ אֲבַקֵּשׁ
שִׁבְתִּי בְּבֵית-יְהוָה, כָּל-יְמֵי חַיַּי;
לַחֲזוֹת בְּנֹעַם-יְהוָה, וּלְבַקֵּר בְּהֵיכָלוֹ

Ahat sha'alti me'et Adonai, otah avaqesh:
Shivti beveit Adonai, kol yemei hayay
Lahazot beno'am Adonai, ulvaqer beheikhalo.

One thing I ask of God, one thing I request:
To dwell in the house of God all the days of my life
To behold God's graciousness, and to visit in His palace. (Psalm 27:4)

The Psalmist's single request is curious. What does it mean to "dwell in the house of God"? Wouldn't it have been better to ask for something more, well, tangible? Or universal? Or achievable?

The point is two-fold, and tailored to Elul:
1. The process of heshbon na-nefesh, accounting of the soul, is deeply personal. Hence the request is for "me" rather than "us."
2. Our ultimate goal is to reconcile with God, which we hope to do in advance of Rosh Hashanah, so that we will be inscribed in the Book of Life for a good year. As such, the vision of being favored by God with permanent residence in "God's palace" is front and center during this month.

What would you ask for?

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