Literally, this verse from the Third Psalm says simply: “I have lain down; and I will sleep; I will wake-for Adonai supports me.” So simple, you might ask, “What is so special about this verse? You lie down, you go to sleep, you wake again…it’s nothing!”
But to anyone who has ever suffered insomnia or troubled sleep, the ability to “simply” lie down and go to sleep, and awaken refreshed, restored to vigor in the morning…that is a miracle! Not something to be taken for granted, but, when granted, to be deeply grateful for. And just as a child sleeps best when he or she knows that loving parents are nearby, so we as fully-grown adults can sleep best when we are able to feel the loving presence of the Shekhinah, God’s Presence-with-us surrounding us. What gets in the way of our feeling this Presence? Sometimes it is a troubled conscience, or perhaps a nagging feeling about tasks left undone, words left unsaid (or words that should never have been said!)…sometimes it is sheer physical pain that bars us from connecting with the Divine; sometimes it might be depression or anger…and in David’s case, when he spoke this prayer to God the first time, it was fear. His own son, Absolom, had led a coup against his palace, and might even have been threatening his life. What greater anguish can a human being have than to know such strife with their adult child?
And yet somehow, David was able to wrap a “God-blanket” around himself at night, to calm his soul, to know God’s presence and trust that this same God--who had been with him through so much already-would “hold” him, support him, protect him while he slept, and awaken him to a fresh start in the morning.
Of course we cannot always know that we will awaken each morning. There may come a time when we “awaken” instead in the arms of God-and, lovely as that sounds, we here among the living do not really know what that is like. No amount of health, youth, strength, wisdom, or riches can alter the fact that one day we will no longer be here. For my part, since there is no use trying to defy this fact forever, I feel I might as well trust in God’s love and support, trust in the wisdom with which God crafted the Universe. I feel I might as well confess my troubled conscience, my anger, my fears, my sadnesses to God, and after doing so I feel lightened, and able to give thanks, to get in touch with the miracle of having had a moment in the divine time-plan-this moment to know so much beauty, so much love…and to let go of my fears and grasp the hand of God as my Loving Friend who will be with me until the end, till I can rejoin God’s One-ness.
And with this peaceful mindset (or soulset), I find it easy to drift off to sleep. And so the melody to which I have set this verse (one apparently of my own devising, but perhaps I have unwittingly “lifted” it from some Celtic ballad?) is a lilting one, a waltz, a lullaby, in whose notes I hear comfort, yearning, hope and acceptance.
Wishing you all the gift of an untroubled soul and deeply restful sleep!
Zimrat haAretz (“Songs of the Earth”)
Cantor Shoshana Brown
Reflection on Psalm 3:6
Ani shachavti, va’ishanah; hekitzoti, ki HaShem yism’cheni.
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