Meditation, Spirituality and Psalms/Tehillim
Amidst the emotional roller coaster of cancer, prayer and spirituality can offer women, their family members, and their loved ones a sense of purpose and healing. It is important that not only are the spiritual and cultural needs of the woman affected by cancer being addressed, but also the needs of her loved ones and caregivers. Spirituality can be a way that many individuals find meaning, hope, comfort, and inner peace in their lives. Many people find spirituality and a sense of healing through religion. Some find it through meditation, art, or nature. Others find it in their values and principles. Spirituality can give a sense of purpose and connection for both women who are diagnosed with breast or ovarian cancer, and for the family and friends supporting them.
Look through our resources to learn more about different ways you can connect through meditation, spirituality and prayer.
It is said that Jewish contemplative techniques can help develop compassion and wisdom, and that cultivating this meditative state can lead to an expanded perception of the world and the possibility of feeling divine presence or intervention in our day to day. Jewish meditation has long been part of Jewish tradition and practice.
There are a number of biblical references to meditation, as well as Jewish mystics who used meditation to practice Judaism. Kabbalah, a branch of mystical tradition, features all kinds of meditative practices based on each individual’s goals or preferences. In Jewish prayer, many strive to have a sense of kavanah, which can be defined as strong intention or meditative focus. Visualization and deep breathing techniques can serve as powerful, calming, and healing meditative practices. Examples of these include imagining Hebrew letters, focusing on an object or candle while breathing deeply, or inhaling and then exhaling prayers and healing words.
There is no right or wrong way to meditate. However you choose to meditate, it can decrease anxiety, and provide emotional healing and a sense of peace. When seeking a method of prayer for healing and connection, for both yourself and your loved one, meditation can help you feel centered when you otherwise feel surrounded by chaos, and send positive vibes, thoughts, and prayers for healing of the body, heart, and spirit.
You may find that yoga provides a spiritual connection. Strengthening the body while quieting the mind helps cultivate a sense of awareness and inner peace. Developing a connection to your spiritual side through yoga helps you strike and hold a pose despite the obstacles or other circumstances around you. There are many ways to participate in yoga. Some might decide to participate in a yoga class at their gym, while others prefer a yoga class hosted by their local Jewish community center or synagogue. Some may also prefer to do yoga individually from the comfort of their own home. There is an endless supply of books, DVDs and online programs available to help guide you through yoga.
Whether you prefer to connect to spirituality through meditation and yoga, Psalms, a combination of the two or something completely different, there is not a right or wrong way to engage with spirituality. Connecting to spirituality is a personal endeavor, and it is important to find a path that is right for you.
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.
Psalms/Tehillim to Say
תהילים פרק כ
א לַמְנַצֵּחַ, מִזְמוֹר לְדָוִד.
ב יַעַנְךָ יְהוָה, בְּיוֹם צָרָה; יְשַׂגֶּבְךָ, שֵׁם אֱלֹהֵי יַעֲקֹב.
ג יִשְׁלַח עֶזְרְךָ מִקֹּדֶשׁ; וּמִצִּיּוֹן, יִסְעָדֶךָּ.
ד יִזְכֹּר כָּל מִנְחֹתֶךָ; וְעוֹלָתְךָ יְדַשְּׁנֶה סֶלָה.
ה יִתֶּן לְךָ כִלְבָבֶךָ; וְכָל עֲצָתְךָ יְמַלֵּא.
ו נְרַנְּנָה, בִּישׁוּעָתֶךָ וּבְשֵׁם אֱלֹהֵינוּ נִדְגֹּל ;יְמַלֵּא יְהוָה, כָּל מִשְׁאֲלוֹתֶיךָ.
ז עַתָּה יָדַעְתִּי כִּי הוֹשִׁיעַ יְהוָה, מְשִׁיחוֹ :יַעֲנֵהוּ, מִשְּׁמֵי קָדְשׁוֹ בִּגְבֻרוֹת, יֵשַׁע יְמִינוֹ.
ח אֵלֶּה בָרֶכֶב, וְאֵלֶּה בַסּוּסִים ;וַאֲנַחְנוּ, בְּשֵׁם יְהוָה אֱלֹהֵינוּ נַזְכִּיר.
ט הֵמָּה, כָּרְעוּ וְנָפָלוּ; וַאֲנַחְנוּ קַּמְנוּ, וַנִּתְעוֹדָד.
י יְהוָה הוֹשִׁיעָה: הַמֶּלֶךְ, יַעֲנֵנוּ בְיוֹם קָרְאֵנוּ.
1 Lamnatsêach mizmor ledavid.
2 Ya’anchá Adonai beyom tsara, yessaguevchá shem Elohê Ya’acov.
3 Yishlach ezrechá micódesh, umitsión yis’adêca.
4 Yizcor col minchotêcha, ve’olatechá yedashene sêla.
5 Yiten lecha chilvavêcha, vechol atsatechá yemalê.
6 Neranena bishu’atêcha, uvshem Elohênu nidgol, yemale Adonai col mish’alotêcha.
7 Ata yadáti, ki hoshía Adonai meshichó, ya’anêhu mishemê codsho, bigvurot yêsha yemino.
8 Ele varéchev ve’ele vassussim, va’anáchnu beshem Adonai Elohênu nazkir.
9 Hêma careu venafálu, va’anáchnu camnu vanit’odad.
10 Adonai hoshía, hamélech yaanênu veiom cor’ênu.
1 For the conductor, a song of David.
2 May the Lord answer you on a day of distress; may the name of the God of Jacob fortify you.
3 May the Lord send your aid from His sanctuary, and may the Lord support you from Zion.
4 May the Lord remember all your meal offerings, and may the Lord accept your fat burnt offerings forever.
5 May the Lord give you as your heart [desires], and may the Lord fulfill all your counsel.
6 Let us sing praises for your salvation, and let us assemble in the name of our God; may the Lord fulfill all your requests.
7 Now I know that the Lord saved His anointed; the Lord answered him from His holy heavens; with the mighty acts of salvation from His right hand.
8 These trust in chariots and these in horses, but we-we mention the name of the Lord our God.
9 They kneel and fall, but we rise and gain strength.
10 O Lord, save [us]; may the King answer us on the day we call.
תהילים פרק ל
א מִזְמוֹר: שִׁיר חֲנֻכַּת הַבַּיִת לְדָוִד.
ב אֲרוֹמִמְךָ יְהוָה, כִּי דִלִּיתָנִי; וְלֹא שִׂמַּחְתָּ אֹיְבַי לִי.
ג יְהוָה אֱלֹהָי שִׁוַּעְתִּי אֵלֶיךָ, וַתִּרְפָּאֵנִי.
ד יְהוָה הֶעֱלִיתָ מִן שְׁאוֹל נַפְשִׁי; חִיִּיתַנִי, מִיָּרְדִי בוֹר.
ה זַמְּרוּ לַיהוָה חֲסִידָיו; וְהוֹדוּ, לְזֵכֶר קָדְשׁוֹ.
ו כִּי רֶגַע, בְּאַפּוֹ חַיִּים בִּרְצוֹנוֹ :בָּעֶרֶב, יָלִין בֶּכִי; וְלַבֹּקֶר רִנָּה.
ז וַאֲנִי, אָמַרְתִּי בְשַׁלְוִי בַּל אֶמּוֹט לְעוֹלָם.
ח יְהוָה בִּרְצוֹנְךָ, הֶעֱמַדְתָּה לְהַרְרִי עֹז :הִסְתַּרְתָּ פָנֶיךָ; הָיִיתִי נִבְהָל.
ט אֵלֶיךָ יְהוָה אֶקְרָא; וְאֶל אֲדֹנָי, אֶתְחַנָּן.
י מַה בֶּצַע בְּדָמִי, בְּרִדְתִּי אֶל שָׁחַת :הֲיוֹדְךָ עָפָר; הֲיַגִּיד אֲמִתֶּךָ.
יא שְׁמַע יְהוָה וְחָנֵּנִי; יְהוָה, הֱיֵה עֹזֵר לִי.
יב הָפַכְתָּ מִסְפְּדִי, לְמָחוֹל לִי: פִּתַּחְתָּ שַׂקִּי; וַתְּאַזְּרֵנִי שִׂמְחָה.
יג לְמַעַן, יְזַמֶּרְךָ כָבוֹד וְלֹא יִדֹּם :יְהוָה אֱלֹהַי, לְעוֹלָם אוֹדֶךָּ.
1 Mizmor shir chanucat habáyit, ledavid.
2 Aromimchá Adonai, ki dilitáni velo simáchta oievai li.
3 Adonai Elohai, shiváti elêcha vatirpaêni.
4 Adonai, he’elita min sheol nafshi, chiyitáni miyardi vor.
5 Zamerú ladonai chassidav, vehodú lezécher codsho.
6 Ki réga be’apo, chayim birtsono, baérev yalin béchi, velabóker rina.
7 Va’ani amárti veshalvi bal emot leolam.
8 Adonai, birtsonechá he’emádeta leharerí oz, histárta fanêcha hayiti niv’hal.
9 Elêcha Adonai ecra, ve’el Adonai etchanan.
10 Ma bêtsa bedami beridetí el sháchat, hayodechá afar, hayaguid amitêcha.
11 Shema Adonai vechonêni, Adonai heyê ozer li.
12 Hafáchta mispedi lemachol li, pitáchta saki vate’azerêni simchá.
13 Lemá’an yezamerchá chavod velo yidom, Adonai Elohai, leolam odêca.
1 A psalm; a song of dedication of the House, of David.
2 I will exalt You, O Lord, for You have raised me up, and You have not allowed my enemies to rejoice over me.
3 O Lord, I have cried out to You, and You have healed me.
4 O Lord, You have brought my soul from the grave; You have revived me from my descent into the Pit.
5 Sing to the Lord, His pious ones, and give thanks to His holy name.
6 For His wrath lasts but a moment; life results from His favor; in the evening, weeping may tarry, but in the morning there is joyful singing.
7 And I said in my tranquility, “I will never falter.”
8 O Lord, with Your will, You set up my mountain to be might, You hid Your countenance, and I became frightened.
9 To You, O Lord, I would call, and to the Lord I would supplicate.
10 “What gain is there in my blood, in my descent to the grave? Will dust thank You; will it recite Your truth?
11 Hear, O Lord, and be gracious to me; O Lord, be my helper.”
12 You have turned my lament into dancing for me; You loosened my sackcloth and girded me with joy.
13 So that my soul will sing praises to You and not be silent. O Lord, my God, I will thank You forever.
תהילים פרק קכא
א שִׁיר, לַמַּעֲלוֹת :אֶשָּׂא עֵינַי, אֶל הֶהָרִים מֵאַיִן, יָבֹא עֶזְרִי.
ב עֶזְרִי, מֵעִם יְהוָה עֹשֵׂה, שָׁמַיִם וָאָרֶץ.
ג אַל יִתֵּן לַמּוֹט רַגְלֶךָ; אַל יָנוּם, שֹׁמְרֶךָ.
ד הִנֵּה לֹא יָנוּם, וְלֹא יִישָׁן שׁוֹמֵר, יִשְׂרָאֵל.
ה יְהוָה שֹׁמְרֶךָ; יְהוָה צִלְּךָ, עַל יַד יְמִינֶךָ.
ו יוֹמָם, הַשֶּׁמֶשׁ לֹא יַכֶּכָּה; וְיָרֵחַ בַּלָּיְלָה.
ז יְהוָה, יִשְׁמָרְךָ מִכָּל רָע: יִשְׁמֹר, אֶת נַפְשֶׁךָ.
ח יְהוָה, יִשְׁמָר צֵאתְךָ וּבוֹאֶךָ מֵעַתָּה, וְעַד עוֹלָם.
1 Shir lama’alot, essa enai el heharim, meáyin yavo ezri.
2 Ezri me’im Adonai, osse shamáyim vaárets.
3 Al yiten lamot raglêcha, al yanum shomerêcha.
4 Hine lo yanum velo yishan, shomer Yisrael.
5 Adonai shomerêcha, Adonai tsilechá al yad yeminêcha.
6 Yomam hashémesh lo yakêca, veyarêach balaila.
7 Adonai yishmorchá micol ra, yishmor et nafshêcha.
8 Adonai yishmor tsetechá uvoêcha, me’ata ve’ad olam.
1 A song for ascents. I shall raise my eyes to the mountains, from where will my help come?
2 My help is from the Lord, the Maker of heaven and earth.
3 The Lord will not allow your foot to falter; Your Guardian will not slumber.
4 Behold the Guardian of Israel will neither slumber nor sleep.
5 The Lord is your Guardian; the Lord is your shadow; [the Lord is] by your right hand.
6 By day, the sun will not smite you, nor will the moon at night.
7 The Lord will guard you from all evil; the Lord will guard your soul.
8 The Lord will guard your going out and your coming in from now and to eternity.
תהילים פרק קל
א שִׁיר הַמַּעֲלוֹת :מִמַּעֲמַקִּים קְרָאתִיךָ יְהוָה.
ב אֲדֹנָי, שִׁמְעָה בְקוֹלִי :תִּהְיֶינָה אָזְנֶיךָ, קַשֻּׁבוֹת לְקוֹל, תַּחֲנוּנָי.
ג אִם עֲוֺנוֹת תִּשְׁמָר יָהּ אֲדֹנָי, מִי יַעֲמֹד.
ד כִּי עִמְּךָ הַסְּלִיחָה לְמַעַן, תִּוָּרֵא.
ה קִוִּיתִי יְהוָה, קִוְּתָה נַפְשִׁי; וְלִדְבָרוֹ הוֹחָלְתִּי.
ו נַפְשִׁי לַאדֹנָי מִשֹּׁמְרִים לַבֹּקֶר, שֹׁמְרִים לַבֹּקֶר.
ז יַחֵל יִשְׂרָאֵל, אֶל יְהוָה: כִּי עִם יְהוָה הַחֶסֶד; וְהַרְבֵּה עִמּוֹ פְדוּת.
ח וְהוּא יִפְדֶּה אֶת יִשְׂרָאֵל מִכֹּל עֲוֺנֹתָיו.
1 Shir hama’alót, mima’amakím keratícha Adonai.
2 Adonai shim’á vecolí, tihiêna oznêcha cashuvót lecol tachanunái.
3 Im avonot tishmór Yá, Adonai mi ya’amod.
4 Ki imechá hasselicha lemáan tivarê.
5 Kivíti Adonai kivetá nafshi, velidvaró hochálti.
6 Nafshi ladonai mishomerím labóker, shomerím labóker.
7 Yachel Yisrael el Adonai, ki im Adonai hachéssed veharbê imó fedút.
8 Vehu yifdê et Yisrael micól avonotáv.
1 A song of ascents. From the depths I have called You, O Lord.
2 O Lord, hearken to my voice; may Your ears be attentive to the voice of my supplications.
3 O God, if You keep [a record of] iniquities, O Lord, who will stand?
4 For forgiveness is with You, in order that You be feared.
5 I hoped, O Lord; yea, my soul hoped, and I wait for His word.
6 My soul is to the Lord among those who await the morning, those who await the morning.
7 Israel, hope to the Lord, for kindness is with the Lord and much redemption is with Him.
8 And the Lord will redeem Israel from all their iniquities.
תהילים פרק קמב
א מַשְׂכִּיל לְדָוִד ;בִּהְיוֹתוֹ בַמְּעָרָה תְפִלָּה.
ב קוֹלִי, אֶל יְהוָה אֶזְעָק; קוֹלִי, אֶל יְהוָה אֶתְחַנָּן.
ג אֶשְׁפֹּךְ לְפָנָיו שִׂיחִי; צָרָתִי, לְפָנָיו אַגִּיד.
ד בְּהִתְעַטֵּף עָלַי, רוּחִי וְאַתָּה, יָדַעְתָּ נְתִיבָתִי :בְּאֹרַח זוּ אֲהַלֵּךְ טָמְנוּ פַח לִי.
ה הַבֵּיט יָמִין, וּרְאֵה וְאֵין לִי מַכִּיר :אָבַד מָנוֹס מִמֶּנִּי; אֵין דּוֹרֵשׁ לְנַפְשִׁי.
ו זָעַקְתִּי אֵלֶיךָ, יְהוָה :אָמַרְתִּי, אַתָּה מַחְסִי; חֶלְקִי, בְּאֶרֶץ הַחַיִּים.
ז הַקְשִׁיבָה, אֶל רִנָּתִי כִּי דַלּוֹתִי מְאֹד :הַצִּילֵנִי מֵרֹדְפַי כִּי אָמְצוּ מִמֶּנִּי.
ח הוֹצִיאָה מִמַּסְגֵּר, נַפְשִׁי לְהוֹדוֹת אֶת שְׁמֶךָ :בִּי, יַכְתִּרוּ צַדִּיקִים כִּי תִגְמֹל עָלָי.
1 Maskil ledavid, bihioto vame’ará tefilá.
2 Coli el Adonai ez’ac, coli el Adonai etchanan.
3 Eshpoch lefanav sichi, tsarati lefanav aguid.
4 Behit’atef alai ruchi ve’ata yadáta netivati, beorach zu ahalech tamenu fach li.
5 Habet yamin ur’e ve’en li makir, avad manos mimêni en doresh lenafshi.
6 Zaácti elêcha Adonai, amárti ata mach’si chelki beérets hachayim.
7 Hac’shiva el rinati ki dalôti me’od, hatsilêni merodefai ki ametsú mimêni.
8 Hotsía mimasguer nafshi lehodot et shemêcha, bi yachtíru tsadikim ki tigmol alai.
1 A maskil of David, when the Lord was in the cave, a prayer.
2 [With] my voice, I cry out to the Lord; [with] my voice, I supplicate the Lord.
3 I pour out before Him my speech; my distress I recite before Him.
4 When my spirit enwraps itself upon me, and You know my path. In whichever way I go, they have hidden a snare for me.
5 Looking to the right, I see that no one recognizes me; escape is lost from me; no one seeks my soul.
6 I cried out to You, O Lord; I said, “You are my refuge, my lot in the land of the living.”
7 Hearken to my cry for I have become very low; save me from my pursuers for they have overpowered me.
8 Take my soul out of confinement to give thanks to Your name; because of me the righteous will crown You, because You will recompense me.
Institute for Jewish Spirituality
Jewish Texts and Psalms/Tehillim
Aneinu: International Tehillim Organization
Mindfulness, Meditation and Yoga
Cancer Care: Meditation App
(800) 813‑HOPE (4673)
Hashivenu Podcast: Jewish teachings on resilience
(215) 576 0800
(833) 727-9501 (toll free in the United States)
(844) 200-7959 (International)