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Psalm 49

Psalm 49 is traditionally said at each Shivah Minyan, a gathering after loss. The Psalm acknowledges death as part of life: “For one sees that the wise die, equally the fool and the boor perish and leave to others their wealth” (verse 11). This is a wisdom Psalm rather than a prayer to God. Life is fleeting and we do not take our possessions with us. And yet, award awaits: “Death shepherds them- and the upright shall rule over them” (verse 15). Death is personified and here uniquely in Psalms, the afterlife is presented explicitly as a place in which the righteous shall endure with consciousness and control. The title that I have chosen is part of a refrain (verses 13 and 21). Each word is identical except one in which one letter leads to two different meanings: “In splendor without rest/understanding.” In either case the word “splendor” has a double meaning: either the splendor of a soul given by God or as wealth accumulated in a lifetime.