Ashrei yoshvei v’techa– “Happy are they who dwell in Your home…” As I replay those familiar words in my mind, I see our B’nai Mitzvah chanting responsively with the congregation. Psalm 145, popularly known as the Ashrei, is the most recited of all the Psalms. Indeed, Rabbi Avina in the Talmud (Berachot 4b) states that those who recite the Psalm three times a day will attain the World to Come. Twice each morning and as the opening prayer of the traditional afternoon prayers, we so chant. That same Talmudic discussion indicates that distinctly this Psalm was already chanted as part of the Temple liturgy.
The tale is told of Hatam Sofer, who headed the Pressburg Yeshivah in 19th century, Slovakia. A Jew visiting the revered teacher said, “I am too busy to study or to regularly perform Jewish rituals, but I do recite the Ashrei three times a day and thereby feel assured of my entry to the world-to-come.” Just then a student entered coughing. The rabbi paused to ask if he could give the young man something for his cough.
“I have a bad cold and sadly it is recurring. You see I am a boarder in a damp, cold basement.”
“If so, then all the pills in the world will not solve your problem for you are in a place that breeds sickness anew each day. Consider finding another place to reside.”
And then turning to the errant Jew, Hatam Sofer said, “The Ashrei is a prescription for enhanced spiritual health. But, if you are in an environment that breeds spiritual neglect, no matter how many times you recite the Ashrei it won’t assure your elevation of soul.
I return in my mind to the sweet sound of our young people chanting the Ashrei and the congregational response. Psalm 145’s verses are arranged in alphabetical order so as to convey all-encompassing praise of God, including the image of God’s open hand tending to the needs of all who call sincerely.
Please join me for Psalm 145.
Our study is dedicated to my son, Joey, in celebration of his birthday.