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L’david Hashem Ori

Last week, I wrote about the fact that as of the 1st of Elul, we blow the shofar every morning after services until Rosh Hashanah. This week I’d like to address the custom to recite chapter 27 of Tehillim, “L’david Hashem Ori”, twice daily from Rosh Chodesh Elul until Shemini Atzeret. While all congregations recite it during Shacharit, some recite it for the second time at Mincha, while others do so at Ma’ariv.

The custom of reciting L’david throughout Elul originates in the Midrash, which teaches that this chapter of Tehillim specifically refers to the High Holiday season. For example, the word “Ori” refers to Rosh Hashanah, “Yishi” to Yom Kippur, and “Ki Yitzpeneni B’sukko” to Sukkot.    

The Psalm contains thirteen references to God’s name, which when recited fervently, is said to protect us from any evil decrees when we are judged over the High Holiday season. In fact, “L’david” is said to be so effective and powerful for so many different yeshuot (salvations), that some authorities suggest reciting it every day of the year!

The thirteen references to God also of course correspond to the famous “Thirteen Attributes of God’s Mercy” about which the Talmud teaches that if we emulate them God will be forgiving of our sins.

One of “L’david’s” main themes is the natural desire of every Jewish soul, to further and deepen its relationship with God. Therefore, Elul is the ideal time to work on one’s relationship with God in advance of Rosh Hashanah, as Elul is the month in which “the king is in the field” for all to approach him. 

So, what does this mean on a practical level? Paraphrasing the famous Rebbi Nachman of Breslov, it means to simply have conversations with God (just like Tevya did in Fiddler on the Roof).  It’s an opportunity for one to pour out their heart before their Creator. This can include complaints, excuses, or words seeking grace, acceptance and reconciliation. Rebbi Nachman says that one should beg and plead that God bring them close (i.e., help them have a relationship with Him).

Rebbi Nachman explains that one’s conversations with God should be in the everyday language that they normally use. Hebrew may be the preferred language for prayer, but it is difficult for a person to express themselves in Hebrew. Furthermore, if one is not accustomed to speaking Hebrew, their heart is not drawn after the words.

However, in the language that a person normally speaks, it is very easy to express oneself. The heart is closer to such a language, and a person is more accustomed to it. Therefore, when one uses their native language, they can express everything that is in their heart and tell it to God.

Rebbi Nachman says that if one accustoms themselves to spend at least one hour a day in such meditation. During the rest of the day, one will then be in a state of joy and ecstasy.

So, my friends, its Elul, God is readily available and interested in hearing from us. Try talking to Him for several minutes every day and I guarantee you that slowly but surely, you’ll develop a connection to God that you’ve never had before.