Even though there is a psalm for almost anything that might happen in life, these ancient prayers are a part of scripture that often require deeper study in order to be fully appreciated. But there are so many it can be difficult to select which psalms to explore in depth.
For Rabbi Adam Stein of Congregation Beth Israel in Vancouver, his interest in the psalms was took root during his rabbinical studies. He took a class on the psalms with a renowned professor who focused on the psalms that are used in the Jewish liturgy. That class opened up the psalms for him.
Over the years he has had particularly fruitful experiences exploring the psalms and scripture with clergy from other jewish movements and other religions. So it wasn’t unexpected when, while chatting with the Cathedral’s Vicar Helen Dunn, he had pitched the idea of teaming up to offer a study series exploring the psalms from the Jewish and Christian traditions.
“I find that people from different backgrounds teaching something together can be very powerful” he said.
The idea also inspired Helen who, like Adam, over the years has collected commentary on the psalms and enjoys discovering new facets of these biblical prayers.
Together they have chosen a selection of psalms that appear regularly in both Jewish and Anglican liturgy – most often in daily prayer – and will offer interpretations from both faiths.
Even the process of preparing the series led to discoveries about how both faiths use the psalms in liturgy. For instance certain psalms that are used in Anglican morning prayer are also used in in Jewish evening prayers on the eve of the sabbath.
Exploring these prayers from different traditions also offers the opportunity to look at them through the lens of different translations, and different personal interests.
“Helen has an interest in the modern translation [of the psalms] and modern English uses; how do lines from the psalms appear and get used in popular culture. I hadn’t thought of that,” admits Rabbi Adam, even though, he says, in many Jewish communities there is a lot of interest in Leonard Cohen’s use and interpretation of scripture in his music and poetry.
Adam said he looks forward to the series he and Helen will lead starting July 21, because no matter how much time one has spent with the psalms, even after years of hearing the same psalm countless time, “suddenly you’ll notice something new, even after you’ve been praying a psalm for many years.”
The series begin July 21 at 7:30pm and will continue on Tuesday evenings until August 11. The classes will happen on Zoom. For more details, contact Helen. To register, please sign up here. Participants will receive the Zoom link before the first session.