My pals, last week I learned of a beautiful tradition originated by the Baal Shem Tov - Rabbi Yisroel ben Eliezer, founder of the Hasidic movement.
On your birthday, you begin to study the psalm corresponding to the year you're living. Thus, when I turned 50 last summer, I would’ve begun studying Psalm 51.
[To clarify, If you could read when you're a few months old, i.e. zero years old, you'd read Ps 1. Thus, you're always a year ahead of your age. That's why I'm 50, living my 51st year and thus reading Ps. 51.]
The idea is that you read your birthday psalm every day, and study it more carefully at the beginning of each month (Rosh Chodesh).
I wish I’d learned this tradition years ago, but I’m fortunate to have discovered it this year because Psalm 51 is awesome. It includes a verse we already say every day, the introduction to the Standing Prayer:
"O Lord, open up my lips that my mouth shall declare Thy glory.”
It's a profound prayer in itself, particularly in a time when "God talk" has largely disappeared from daily discourse.
Psalm 51 includes many other wonderful verses as well, and even in the short time I’ve been reading it, I’ve begun to see what a wonderful gate this is to the upper realms.
Try it, my pals, and tell us what verses are speaking to you from your birthday psalm!
With thanks to Rabbi Reuven Wolf, who taught me this tradition at his birthday farbrengen (joyful gathering with learning).
Image: No images exist of the Baal Shem Tov. Pictured here is his grandson, Grand Rabbi Mordechai of Mezhbizh, by Office of The Zvhil-Mezbuz Rebbe, via Wikimedia Commons.
Originally posted on Facebook