Welcome to Mo-Drash ... the weird confluence of the Jewish tradition of Midrash and me!

What is Midrash? Literally, the word derives from the Hebrew root that expresses interpretation. Figuratively, it is the process by which Jews read between the lines of our sacred stories and seek insight from what we discover from each story, verse, word, letter and stroke of the pen.

Who am I? My name is Adam Morris, but known by many as Rabbi Mo. I spend a lot of my time serving in the role of rabbi, but I am also a husband, a dad, a runner and a 'weekend' craftsman (among other things). I try to move like Abraham to find my Place ... to wrestle like Jacob to know my Place ... and to snicker like Sarah to keep me in my Place.

B'makom she-ani omayd (from The Place where I stand),
Rabbi Mo

Friday, November 16, 2007

Psalms - The Spiritual iPod

Name the common denominator in the following scenes:
·        Walk into any gym or exercise facility, outdoor running trail or even biking trail and pay attention those running, pumping iron or generally working on their fitness.
·        Make your way onto any bus, airplane, train, trolley or subway as people journey from one place to another and take a good look at those various travelers.
·        Imagine inside the home or many teens or young adults as they deal with frustrating parents/friends/situations and take note of one of their coping tools.
Figure it out?  Two white buds, with thin white cords stick out from the ears of a many of these individuals. The buds and their cords connect each of these souls to … their iPod.  These souls, who are working to transform themselves, make their way from one stop to another or simply coping with what life throws at them … turn to the media that lives within their iPod to aid them in their quest. 

I am sure that from watching or having those ubiquitous buds stick out from your own ears, you know other scenes or settings that serve as perfect moments to hook in to what your iPod offers.  And so, you understand the ways in which we human beings of the twenty-first century use the iPod all that it contains to inspire, ground, comfort and celebrate.

As much as Apple is raking in the dough for its creation of the iPod, they borrowed a VERY old idea.  Open up your Bibles to the book of Psalms, and take a good look at (possibly) humanity’s very first iPod.  Whoever the author if these Psalms may be – David (according to legend) or others as scholars may attest she or he created something of great emotional diversity and spiritual sophistication.

Looking for a path to follow to get to the next ‘stop’ in your life? Dial up Psalm 119.  Looking for a pick-me-up or some hope when feeling desperate?  Click on Psalm 21.  Just want to let it all hang out and party? Rock on with Psalm 150.  Throughout this collection you will find genuine human emotions expressed in a manner that is poetic, yet accessible … passionate, yet contemplative.

It is not only in the nature of Psalms that we find elements of a spiritual iPod, but in the uses and customs around Psalms in the Jewish community.  Today Psalms comprise a noteworthy part of Jewish liturgy.  There are Psalms associated with each day of the week and with each festival; as if to help the community to remember which day it is (I am pretty sure that an iPod has a time and date on it!).   In addition, there is entire section of Psalms of praise that Jews recite on each festival … to help mark the sacred and joyous nature of that observance. 

In addition to these and many other examples of how this spiritual iPod enhances the communal prayer experience, individuals power up this device, as well.  Reciting Psalms is a common practice for those who are sick or when facing some other trial or tribulation.  In some communities, grieving relatives turn to Psalm 119.  As it is written as an acrostic, on the anniversaries of the deaths of their loved ones, the mourners recite the lines from this Psalm that spell out the name of the one they miss.  On the other end of the ‘womb to tomb’ spectrum, when some Jews name their children, they recite a similar acrostic spelling the name of the new soul in their lives.

How can I compare the technology of the iPod to the Psalms?  How can I talk about the diversity that can be found within even the smallest of iPods and that of a static book of ‘only’ 155 poems?  Perhaps the metaphor has its limitations, and then again … it says right there in the Psalms, in that old spiritual iPod: “Teach us to number our days, and we will acquire a heart of wisdom.”  Maybe, just maybe, the kind of numbering or counting that relates to wisdom has nothing to do with the quantity of gigabytes or bandwidth, but in the quality of media that truly and powerfully touches the sacred within us. 

Then again, we live in the twenty-first century where so much is possible … including having the Book of Psalms - that first spiritual iPod - completely contained and easy to read or listen to within its twenty-first century version.