FAITH MATTERS: A Bible verse to live by: How good and how pleasant

Many of the verses from our Hebrew Bible have been set to music, so learning and singing them as songs can be a pleasure.

As a start, look up the opening verse of Psalm 133. Does it seem familiar? It is the famous Hineh Ma Tov/Behold How Good and How Pleasant for Friends to Dwell Together in Unity. This verse has been sung for centuries in countless variations and settings. We often sing this melody during worship.

One of the most memorable usages of hineh/behold occurs in Genesis 28:15, when the sleeping Jacob dreams that God, standing beside him, is saying: “Hineh/behold (or remember), I am with you.” That same phrase, how good and how pleasant, echoes the story of Creation, when God looked over all that God made, “and behold, it was very good” (Genesis 1:31).

Dwelling together in unity is a reminder of the words of the prophet Isaiah, when he said, “My house shall be called a house of prayer for all peoples.” In many synagogues today, these words can be found inscribed in Hebrew or English on the sanctuary walls.

At Temple Beth El in Bradenton, we take these words of Isaiah literally. At times, someone in the community will come up to me and ask, “Rabbi, I am not a Jew, so I want to know if I would be welcome to come to a service at your temple.” My answer is to quote the words of Isaiah, and to inform them of the starting time for our next worship service. In our Jewish faith, it is considered a mitzvah/commandment of the highest order to welcome the stranger.

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This is my first monthly religion column for the Herald. I feel honored to be the first non-Christian clergyperson to be offered this privilege. My intention is to share with our community at large a taste of Judaism. What we believe, how we practice, how we pray, how we live. Hineh Ma Tov/How Good and How Pleasant!

Rabbi Harold F. Caminker, is rabbi of Temple Beth El, 4200 32nd St. W., Bradenton. Shabbat services are held at 7:30 p.m. Fridays. For more information, call (941) 755-4900.