Form a Psalms/Tehillim Group
The book of Psalms is an ancient text or set of liturgy. People of all backgrounds may recite Psalms when a loved one is diagnosed with a serious illness. Some people find that through reciting Psalms, both the individual who is sick as well as those reciting Psalms can find strength to face life’s challenges and feel inspired by prayer. Some Psalms commonly associated with illness and healing include chapters 20, 30, 121, 130, and 142. Psalms can be a powerfully strengthening and uniting experience for everyone involved.
There are a number of ways that you can participate in reciting Psalms. Some people say Psalms individually in the privacy of their own home. Others prefer to recite Psalms together with other members of the community by meeting in members’ homes or in a synagogue. This is often called a Psalms/Tehillim Group. Reading Psalms together as part of a group can often provide the members with a sense of togetherness and purpose in supporting their loved one.
Here are some tips to consider when creating your own Psalms/Tehillim group:
• Designate a coordinator of the group. Some people find strength and meaning in being the coordinator. If you do not want to be the point person yourself, speak with your rabbi or spiritual leader to find someone who will coordinate and run your Psalms/Tehillim group.
• The coordinator can reach out to the community and see who is able to participate in the Psalms/Tehillim group at the scheduled time.
• Individual Psalm books can be ordered or downloaded online, or purchased at your local Judaica shop. The coordinator can order one set of books or pamphlets, and the individual books in the set are then distributed amongst the participants in the group.
• While Psalms can be recited in a number of different ways, some communities have the opening Psalm read out loud by one participant while everyone follows along. Following the opening prayer, each participant reads their books at their own pace until all pamphlets are finished. Once everyone reads their assigned piece, one participant can read the closing prayer. During the closing prayer, the reader will stop at a certain point (which is indicated in the prayer) and recite the names of people who you are praying for out loud.
• When reciting Psalms, the Hebrew name refers to a person’s Hebrew name, the daughter of her mother’s Hebrew name (e.g.: Leah Bat Sarah). If you don’t know your loved one’s Hebrew name, you can use the name that you know, or consult with a rabbi or spiritual leader for how to recite the Psalm for her.
• When creating or leading a group, speak with your rabbi, hospital chaplain or religious leader to help create a format that you are comfortable with and for guidelines for your personal situation.