Many of you commented on my words last week that the translation of the first verse of the 23rd Psalm is incorrect. I believe it should read “The Lord is my shepherd I shall not lack,” not “I shall not want.”
Readers like P. from Kenosha, Wisconsin, wrote, “As a lifelong Lutheran, reader of the King James Version of the Bible, and retired English teacher, I must respectfully disagree with your definition of ‘I shall not want.’ It is an archaic way of saying ‘I shall not lack’ that was common for that time in history, so I don’t think it was translated incorrectly.”
A. Although want and lack are indeed synonyms in English, they are not synonyms in Hebrew. They are two entirely different words with entirely different meanings. The Psalm is therefore not teaching us that we should not want anything, but that we do not lack anything.
It is a Psalm that teaches us that what we want is hardly ever what we need. If there is a more important lesson for our materialistic times I do not know what it is. Thanks for reading and thinking so deeply about a perfect Psalm that deserves it.
Q: I’ve often thought about endeavors that are destined to become a lot more than the sum of their parts. When did you [and the late Tom Hartman] know that the God Squad was going to be something special?
Flounder, Bakersfield, California
Tommy and I had the unique opportunity of having our friendship televised, and people wrongly believe that what is televised is special. The Kardashians are televised. I rest my case. Being televised just means being known. It does not necessarily mean being special.
When Tommy was well, and when we were speaking for charities, we were privileged to meet many untelevised God Squads who were absolutely special, but unfortunately untelevised. These were people of different faiths and races who had found a way to, as Tommy used to say, “look across the fence.”
These people were special because they were living out the God Squad message — that we know enough about how we are different, but not enough yet about how we are all the same.
They were brought together by love for service to God and to their communities. As Rabindranath Tagore wrote, “I slept and dreamt that life was joy. I awoke and saw that life was service. I acted and behold, service was joy.”
So, if I had to pick a moment when I truly understood that our message as the God Squad was both needed and yearned for, it would have to have been the first time one of those anonymous pairs of friends who had somehow found each other across the fences of prejudice said to us while smiling and holding hands, “Look, we are the God Squad too!”
We did not create those friendships, but we were proud and honored to have been given the opportunity to publicly sanctify them.
Through all the TV hoopla, I remained grounded as a working rabbi and Tommy remained grounded as a working priest.
Once a very cynical guy approached me and said, “We have been trying to figure out what’s your angle, and finally we figured it out.” I said, “Please tell me because we should at least know our angle.” He said, “Your angle is that you don’t have an angle.” In a highly angled world it is good not to have an angle. We played it straight.