Psalms as a source of comfort and joy

Psalms as a source of comfort and joy

Just hours after a surprising thwarting of an Iranian attack, a friend pointed me to something quite intriguing on Google Trends. This tool shows what people are searching for by region, and the results for Israel were quite telling.

Not surprisingly, “chadashot” — news — topped the list as everyone scrambled for updates about the more than 300 missiles and drones that had targeted Israel. There was also a surge in searches for “tissot” — flights — thanks to closed airspace messing up many Passover travel plans.

What I didn’t expect to see in the top five searches was “tehillim”  — psalms. Both during and after the attack, Israelis were searching for psalms, and one of the specific psalms that was highly popular right after the attack was Psalm 100: A Song for Thanksgiving. After days of fear and dread of the impending Iranian attack, people were deeply thankful to G-d for witnessing this miracle and wanted to express their thanks to Him.

The fact that so many turned to psalms deeply reflects our people’s longstanding tradition of finding solace and expression in the words of tehillim.

For generations, the Book of Tehillim was our chief source of comfort. In moments of sorrow or pain, you’d see people hold their precious Tehillim, crying to G-d for whatever they needed. And in moments of happiness, they will use the singing praises of psalms.

The Book of Tehillim includes 150 chapters, many of which are traditionally associated with prayers for specific requests. Psalm 20, for example, is often said as a prayer for healing; Psalm 121 is appropriate for times of distress, and as mentioned, Psalm 100 is a song of thanks to G-d for his kindness.

A deeply meaningful tehillim tradition championed by the rebbe is the custom of daily reciting the chapter associated with our current age and year of life. You can calculate this by looking at your age plus one. For example, if you are 22 (aren’t we all?), then you have completed 22 years on this earth, and you are in your 23rd year of life. Your chapter of Psalms is going to be Psalm 23.

Every year, on your Hebrew birthday, your chapter will change based on your upgraded age. (We never get old; we just upgrade our age!)

Saying our chapter of Tehillim daily brings us divine blessings. In the same way, saying the chapter of our loved ones can be a source of blessings for them. Parents can say their children’s chapter every day, teachers can say their students’, children can say their parents’ chapter, and chassidim would often say the Rebbe’s chapter. Even after their deaths, the holy words of King David can bring blessings to those we wish to remain connected to.

The words of Tehillim are poetic and rich with metaphors. They can lift us and bring us closer to our inner souls.

Here is an example of one psalm that resonates deeply now, in light of the current disturbing wave of antisemitism. It is Chapter 123, as this is the rebbe’s chapter for this year. Here is my translation/adaptation of it:

“A song of ascent: I lift my eyes to You who dwell in heaven. Like servants who watch their master’s hands, and maids who watch their mistress’s hands, wholly reliant on them, we keep our eyes on You, Lord, waiting patiently for Your kindness.

Please show us Your favor, dear God! Show us your favor! We’re tired of being looked down on, and our hearts are heavy with mockery from those who are too comfortable and the contempt from the proud.”

Dear G-d, please listen to our prayers, make this world a better place for us all, and may we always have reasons to recite psalms of songs and thanks to you. Amen.

Mendy Kaminker is the rabbi of Chabad of Hackensack and an editorial member of He looks forward to your thoughts and comments at

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