I am indebted to Rabbi Scheinerman for insights into the following lines.
2 When evil-doers assail me to devour my flesh,
It is they — my adversaries and enemies — who stumble and fall.
3 Should an army besiege me, my heart would not fear.
Should war beset me
Even then would I be confident.
Eventhough many psalms can be read on a national level as well as a personal level, when we read psalm 27 before the High Holy Days we tend to concentrate on the personal.
Therefore we need to identify the “evil-doers”, “adversaries” and “enemies”. Too often we are prompt to see “others” – whoever they might be – as being responsible for all that goes wrong in our lives: callous colleagues, selfish neighbors, tactless friends, the list could go on and on.
It is true that we are influenced and affected by what others do, don’t do, say or don’t say. However we sometimes need to acknowledge that other people can’t be blamed for all our failures and shortcomings. Elul is the time to assess our own responsibilities.
Does this mean that the “evil-doers”, “adversaries” and “enemies” might be inside us, at least partially. Probably so. We need to admit that we sometimes have inclinations to do the wrong thing. Judaism has a term for this evil leaning, yetzer hara. When we say something or act, we often have choices. Thus we can talk to people or ignore them, utter a nice word or make a scathing remark. Similarly when we learn that someone we know is ill, we may visit them or find excuses to saty at home. Haven’t we all experienced this inner struggle?
Elul seems to be the right month to pay more attention to our inner conflicts and find more satisfying answers.
To help us move forward, Rabbi Scheinerman makes the following suggestions:
“If you’re a write-it-down person, go ahead and keep a journal of your thoughts. If you’re a poetry person, put your thoughts down in poetry. If you prefer to share your ideas with others, find someone who’s a good listener. If you prefer privacy, that’s fine.”