Monday, August 1, 2011

Psalmthing Pstrange

            Do you ever wonder about the tiny type above your favorite psalms? Some just have a few words saying who wrote it and maybe for whom. Other introductions include the author’s location and circumstances. 
          And then others include tune titles.
Some of these titles sound lyrical like “The Doe of the Morning” (Psalm 22) or “A Dove on Distant Oaks” (Psalm 56). Wouldn’t you have loved to be in the congregation when David began to strum “Lilies” (Psalm 69) on the old harp?
And then you run into Psalms 57, 58, and 59, all apparently sung to the same tune, “Do Not Destroy.” Do you think that’s actually the name of the melody? Did the same composer who called Psalm 60 “The Lily of the Covenant” settle for the jarring “Do Not Destroy”?
Maybe David literally wrote Do not destroy much the same way I write Do not erase!!! next to the notes it took me an hour to write on the board in my classroom.
            After all, it was hard for David to keep track of his scrolls while hiding in a cave (Psalm 57) and sneaking away from Saul (Psalm 59). David didn’t want whoever of his merry band of ne’er-do-wells assigned to clean-up duty to toss his poetry-in-progress into the campfire. 
             It probably had happened a few times already…

David settles on a rock near the campfire to continue working on a psalm. “Anybody seen my parchment?”
“Which one, boss?” Zalmon asks. “You gotta lotta parchments.”
“The lament. I’ve already written the introductory cry to God, the complaint, and the petition. I only need to finish the statement of confidence and add the vow to praise. Then it will be ready for tonight's rehearsal of the Merry Men Glee Club. Now where is that thing?”
“This it, boss?” Zalmon pulls a charred sheet from the ashes.
“Oh, no! That was one of my best psalms. It’s ruined!”
“Sorry, boss. I thought it was a shopping list.”
“You yutz! Didn’t you read it first?”
“Read? If I could read, I’d find a better job than body guard for some crazy shepherd who thinks he’s the next king of Israel!”
           After that incident, David taught his mighty, but somewhat illiterate, men to read three words:  Do not destroy.
Three thousand years later, Bible students and scholars scratch their heads.

Today’s funky word is YUTZ. According to the Yiddish glossary at, a YUTZ is a “hapless, clueless, annoying, socially clumsy guy.”

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