Psalm 100 – For The Joy of Serving

Since this is the last week of our monthly focus on the midah, the value of joy, I thought I would deviate from the weekly Torah portion and offer a reflection, this week, on Psalm 100. Psalm 100 is one of the shortest Psalms in the book of the same name with only five verses:

A melody of thanksgiving, call out to the Eternal all the earth! Serve the Holy One with joy! Stand in His Presence with joyful song! Know that the transcendent Eternal One is God manifesting as all there is; He made us and we are His, His people and the flock of His pasture. Enter His gates with thanksgiving, His court with praise; give thanks to Him, bless His Name. For the Holy One is good, His kindness is infinite, His faithfulness endures from generation to generation.

The God-intoxicated poet of this Psalm expresses here in a most powerful way how we are to let joy infuse our lives. The first step might be to remember that our reality is the Kingdom of God, God manifesting. We already have entered His gates and are already living in His court. We can never be removed from God’s Presence; It surrounds us and permeates our very being.

A way to open ourselves to such knowing is to practice living our lives with awe. For, as Abraham J. Heschel wrote in God in Search of Man: “Awe enables us to perceive in the world intimations of the divine, to sense in small things the beginning of infinite significance, to sense the ultimate in the common and the simple; to feel in the rush of the passing the stillness of the eternal.”

Awe opens us to knowing God’s Presence in all things, and in every moment. But it also leads us to the realization that all of us are God’s people; His flock/congregation. It is as us that God manifests, through us that God evolves, with us that God creates. How could we not, like the psalmist writes, offer thanks for the Life we share, how could we not praise the One for His enduring faith in us to be partners in creation?

This kind of Joy is one which stems from our remembering that we are in God’s Kingdom always. This is the Joy which awakens from knowing that we are the instruments of God’s unfolding, and that this is the highest purpose of our being. “Serve the Holy One with joy!” sings the psalmist, for doing so supports our transcending the confines of our separate sense of self, our letting go of the narrow identity of the conditioned mind, and allows for our opening to the vastness of the One we truly are.

© 2011 Rabbi Olivier BenHaim, All rights reserved.