“He raises the poor from the dust
and lifts the needy from the ash heap;
he seats them with princes,
with the princes of his people.”—Psalm 113:7-8
In 1993 a young woman ended her unhappy marriage and moved back to her native country, where she struggled to raise her baby daughter on a welfare check equal to about one hundred dollars a week. She lived in a mice-infested apartment and had to fight hard to combat both the depression and poverty that were taking hold of her.
In the winter, unable to afford to heat her apartment, she spent hours at a time in cafés sipping hot coffee and working on an idea she had for a book while her baby slept in a stroller. It took many months to complete that book, and then it was rejected by the first twelve publishers she sent it to. However, one publisher agreed to publish Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone and three years later, Joanne Kathleen Rowling was the highest-earning woman in all of England!
People love rags-to-riches stories like J.K. Rowling’s. It gives us hope that if life can change so dramatically for one person, then maybe our life can change as well. While we try to believe that anything is possible with God, nothing is quite as reassuring as seeing His hand in action!
Psalm 113 is a psalm of praise. In fact, it is part of the special 15 psalms recited on Jewish holidays that make up a group called hallel, meaning “praises.” Most of the psalm beckons us to praise God for all the good in our lives, always and everywhere. But what about people who are going through tough times? How are they to praise God?
The psalmist recognizes there are times in our lives that are challenging, and so the last three verses are devoted to inspiring even those going through hard times to praise God. The psalmist reminds us that God “raises the poor from the dust and lifts the needy from the ash heap.” God places the formerly destitute together with princes, and God turns the barren woman into the happy mother of many. The message: Even if your situation seems terrible at this very moment, praise God and thank Him for His ability to change it!
When life is tough, we have two choices: We can despair or we can hope. We can give up or we can believe that things will get better. What would have happened to J.K. Rowling if she had given up? Psalm 113 beckons us to choose hope, faith, and gratefulness. If God can make a barren woman the mother of many or turn the pauper into a prince, what happy ending is possible for you?
With prayers for shalom, peace,
Rabbi Yechiel Eckstein
Founder and President