Library Notes

by Lorraine Blaty, Librarian

“The Lord Is My Shepherd:

Healing Wisdom of the Twenty-Third Psalm”

By Rabbi Harold S. Kushner

“God’s promise was never that life would be fair.  God’s promise was that when we had to confront the unfairness of life we would not have to do it alone for HE would be with us.”

The Lord Is My Shepherd is not a dry scholarly exercise. In this book, Rabbi Harold Kushner uses each line of the 23rd Psalm as a jumping-off point for a sermon on human vs. divine nature, arguing that the heart of faith is not just believing in God, or thinking that God will fix our problems, but in feeling the assurance that God is present and hears us.  Kushner believes that comfort comes not from an assurance that God will save us from evil, but that with God we are never alone.

Rabbi Kushner “believes that the Twenty-third Psalm offers spiritual riches that can change a person’s life.”  He has found that these verses are filled with honesty, and although the psalm doesn’t promise that life will be easy, it offers us a guide for living in the world and a belief that we are not alone and we can move on in life.  It shows us how, with faith and courage, we can cope with every aspect of life.

The simple, beautiful verses — perhaps the most memorable verses in the Bible — are full of optimism and honesty and have an almost magical power to comfort and calm.  The verses can change your life from despair to a sense that you can go on with your life.

The psalm begins in a place of perfect peace; the “psalmist lacks for nothing and is tended perfectly by God the shepherd – but that peace is shattered by the ‘shadow of death.’ ”  Kushner goes line by line and tackles a number of  questions: “What does it mean to lack for nothing?  Where is God when we suffer?”  Kushner uses fresh and interesting interpretations such as noting that “the straight paths” in which God leads the psalmist are anything but straight.”  Kushner writes that the Hebrew of “straight paths” is more accurately rendered “roundabout ways that end up in the right direction.”  The phrase’s message is about trusting God when the way does not seem straightforward; the psalm is “not Pollyannaish, but realistic.”  Kushner points out that the psalmist has enemies, has known failure and has probably lost a loved one.

Rabbi Kushner draws on rabbinic Judaism and also references Freud and Michelangelo as well as popular culture such as films to demonstrate his ideas about the famous psalm, which holds a special place in Christianity as well as Judaism. Kushner leads us through this famous song of consolation “clause by clause, clearing up misconceptions, contrasting ancient, Renaissance and modern understandings of terms, contemporary happenings, and common feelings to show how the psalm’s assertions and promises apply to our lives today.”  Kushner clearly discloses the systems of ethical behavior and religious faith that are taught in the great devotional poem.  The greatest message is that though God does not prevent evil and suffering, God is always with each person who is wronged, each person who is suffering, and will provide the resources of spirit to transcend fear and to be able to experience the ongoing holiness of life.

Sale Book Cart:  Books for Bucks

Check out the Books for Bucks book cart in the Sha’are Shalom lobby.  We are selling used paperback and hardcover books as a continuing fundraiser for the synagogue.  Paperbacks are 50 cents and hardbacks $1.  Put your cash or check in the container on the cart.

Donations to Books for Bucks will become the property of the Congregation.  Please donate books only in good condition and in quantities of fewer than 25.  Leave your name, phone, email, and the date of your donation in a note with any books you donate.

Contact Lorraine Blatt at or 772-359-7370.

Please remember to leave a note with your name when dropping off books at the library.  Thanks!