A Song of Ascents
A song of ascents – from the depths I called out. The Lord heard my voice.
King David saw the hand of the Source operating behind the events of his life. At night he laid beneath his sheets – drenching them with tears – playing his 10 stringed harp which hung above his bed – channelling the music of his soul to the Creator.
No matter the test, no matter the foe, his faith and connection remained unshaken. This is why his Psalms have become our prayers today. The depth of his words were so powerful that his personal experiences and breakthroughs became the storyline of prophecy and prayer. His personal encounters, and what he was able to tap into and express, are the spiritual lyrics we recite each morning, afternoon and evening of our lives – in prayer.
And, he was a king – a leader of a nation – living in this way, so humble – yet so confident, secure, committed and clear in his relationship with the Creator and Sustainer.
It is said that every possible version and combination of our struggles is contained somewhere within the Psalms, and that concentrating and connecting with his words can carry us through our challenges to great heights.
There are certain combinations of Psalms which contain mind bending super powers, like the Tikkun Haklali – “The General (or Comprehensive) Rectification” – also known as “The General Remedy” – a set of ten Psalms, whose recital serves as a repair for all past errs — these 10 Psalms, whose identity and precise order, revealed by Rebbe Nachman of Breslov (16, 32, 41, 42, 59, 77, 90, 105, 137, and 150), when said in order, and with deep concentration, have the power to neutralize spiritual demons unleashed through past breaches of the covenant – our most sacred seed cast outside of the realm of the sanctity of holy union – unbridled creative energy dispersed toward the fertile gardens of the dark side. Through the recitation of these ten Psalms, we get to harvest those spiritual crops – pulling them back to their root – freeing ourselves from their piercing haunting screams for sustenance – removing the clouds they formed, and left behind.
There are Psalms that carry the power to heal on an individual and national level. When praying for an individual who is ill, it is customary to recite the following thirty-six chapters of Psalms: 20, 6, 9, 13, 16, 17, 18, 22, 23, 28, 30, 31, 32, 33, 37, 38, 39, 41, 49, 55, 56, 69, 86, 88, 89, 90, 91, 102, 103, 104, 107, 116, 118, 142, 143, and 148.
Each Psalm is embedded with a unique attribute, empowered to unlock and elevate the restrictivity of our circumstances.
Psalm 3: To conquer fear of poverty – Psalm 5: To ask for a special financial favor – Psalm 7: To ask that blocks to progress be removed – Psalm 13: To overcome anxiety, when backed into a corner – Psalm 21: To increase one’s spiritual vibration to invite prosperity into one’s life – Psalm 24: To calm disturbed thoughts, anxiety and still the subconscious and the spirit, relieve fears of the future – Psalm 55: To conquer anxiety and fear – Psalm 69: For deliverance in times of suffering – and on and on…
There are Psalms so powerful – and continuously relevant – that we repeat them multiple times daily during our fixed prayers.
What makes us any different than King David?
If I asked about Michael Jordan, we can say our physicality is no match – not all of us have been blessed with the physical ability to jump from the foul line and slam dunk a basket ball with our tongue hanging out – and if I asked about Albert Einstein, our analytical brainpower might not yet be as activated – but what did King David do? He saw the Source in everything – and lived his life from that perspective. He spent his nights in hitbodidut (deep contemplative active honest personal best-friend sleep over party style dialogue with the Creator and Architect of our reality), and his days, following the light of his Creator. He maximized the exertion of his will – and this is something accessible to each one of us, regardless of our circumstances.
Same with Moses. Humility was his greatest attribute – casting away his own “wisdoms” to make room for Divine wisdom – and leading the nation from this vantage point – transforming himself into a tool in the hands of the Creator.
Rebbe Nachman tells us that any of us can grow to his level, with enough effort. He was quick to shoot down anyone who inferred, in the slightest fashion, that his greatness was attributed to him being the great grandson of the Baal Shem Tov (the grand daddy master funk flex of Hassidism).
Look at Rabbi Akiva – just beginning his spiritual work at the tender age of 40 – and accomplished more than anyone. He is referred to in the Talmud as “Rosh la-Chachamim” (Head of all the Sages).
“What was Rabbi Akiva like? – A worker who goes out with his basket. He finds wheat – he puts it in, barley – he puts it in, spelt – he puts it in, beans – he puts it in, lentils – he puts it in. When he arrives home he sorts out the wheat by itself, barley by itself, spelt by itself, beans by themselves, lentils by themselves. So did Rabbi Akiva; he arranged the Torah rings by rings.”
— Avot deRabbi Natan ch. 18; see also Gittin, 67a
None of us are handicapped spiritually, because it’s not how much we accomplish – it’s how far we ascend in relation to the force of resistance placed against us – each through our own circumstances. There is no limit to our will. That’s why anyone can scale the heights of the the greatest sage – through exertion of their will – at this moment – here and now.
A true yogi is not concerned with the flexibility of the practitioner in the front row. She is focused only on her relationship to her point of resistance, breathing through it to make more room – to expand – to integrate healing spiritual breath into physical constriction.
What is stopping us from calling out to the Creator from our bed – soaked with tears under our sheets? The sages were up late at night learning – woke up early in meditation and prayer – did not eat too much – weren’t particularly distracted by next season’s glossy pages of British Vogue. If we are looking for enlightenment during our lifetime – there’s a system to follow. The lazy animal within prefers to sip Cabernet at night, sleep late and eat scrumptious meals in cashmere socks.
But, it doesn’t have to be one or the other – there are many points of harmony between the physical and spiritual lifestyle – in fact, the path toward our highest potential involves transforming, not subduing, the pleasures of physicality to their greatest potential – in alignment with their spiritual counterpart – but for those sensitive souls who are seeking extraordinary levels of connection to the Source – following the lifestyle of the sages to the greatest extent possible, acknowledging areas of our lives perhaps a bit too identified by what will eventually decay – is a wise path for deeper transformation.
Look at Abraham. All alone, he saw the Source. He followed the Source all alone – and the Source responded. That’s what happens. We start to see a response to our calls. And this gives us confidence to go deeper.
“Says the Creator, I removed the burden from his shoulder, his hands from the kettle passed. In distress you called out to me and I released you. I answered you when you called privately with a thunderous reply. I tested you at the waters of strife.”
As I ascend north, leaving the healing waters of Miami, after having called out to my Maker in distress – I leave, released – with a thunderous reply to my private callings – tested at the yam suf’s edge – walking onward between walls of water – as my doubts and fears drown beneath.
Holding on through the tough times builds character. It gives you something to share with others going through challenge. We can all access this in our own way – and we should all try to share our experiences with those in our lives who can use a little help from a friend.