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Tehillim Tools: Psalm 39: Addressing The Moment

“I said, ‘I will guard my ways from sinning with my tongue. I will guard my mouth as with a muzzle while the wicked one is before me.’  I became mute with silence. I was quiet even of good things; even when my pain was stirred. My heart grew hot within me; while I was musing the fever increased. Finally I spoke out with my tongue: ‘Make known to me, God, my end and the measure of my days what is it; let me know how short-lived I am.'” Psalm 39:2-5)

King David begins by saying he will guard his tongue even when the evil one is before him. That develops into living as a mute, remaining silent even from good, to the point that his pains increase inside. The pain turns into a fever, raging until finally he bursts out with the words, “Please God, make known to me, my end in the measure of my days what is it; let me know how short-lived I am.”

Understand the feelings that comes from a strong commitment to guard my mouth as with a muzzle while even the wicked are before me. I also understand the need to become as a mute, and remain silent even from good things: it is difficult to guard my mouth from evil while I continue to speak. The alternative seems to be to remain silent. And until David reaches the point when he must burst out with a plea to God: “Make known to me my end.”

I first read these verses with a certain sadness, familiar with the frustration that comes when fearing to speak because it is so difficult and challenging to guard our mouths. I imagined King David so desperate to speak, that finally he can cry out only to God and ask Him about the meaning of life.

However, today I read these verses in a different way. I imagined King David reaching a higher level of clarity because of the silence, because of the frustration, because of this fever raging inside, all the words he had been unable or feared to speak. This clarity allowed him to realize that the only way he would be safe to speak even words of good, would be to have a constant awareness of the measure of his days. Once King David understood the preciousness of each moment of his life, he would use those moments to speak only words of good, Torah, prayer. King David would look at the preciousness of each moment and choose to address that moment. He understood that to speak negative or distractive words was to destroy a moment.

I will use these verses over the next few days to practice this awareness of time, and the preciousness of each moment, to train myself to be more aware of my speech. I will not directly confront the desire to speak negative words, but rather use King David’s strategy to guard my speech. I will approach my speech through an awareness of the preciousness of each moment, and use my mouth to address the good of each moment in my life.

I hope that this will prove to be an effective tool in guarding my tongue.

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