Psalm 42-43 by Diane Palley

Diane Palley

Psalm 42–43, 2005, Silkscreened and sandblasted glass panels, 121.92 x 213.36 cm, Duke University Divinity School, Durham, North Carolina, © Diane Palley

Close Close
Zoom in Zoom in
Zoom out Zoom out
Reset image Reset image

Healing Desire

Commentary by

The great Hasidic rabbi and mystic, Reb Nachman of Bratslav (1772–1810), famously taught that Psalm 42 is one of ten psalms that promote spiritual healing. Diane Palley’s panels imply Reb Nachman’s insight that right desire is itself the greatest source of healing from the chronic depression and dissatisfaction that stem from alienation from God.

The psalmist’s repeated counsel to her own soul—‘Hope in God…’—appears, in English and Hebrew, at the base of each panel. That positioning suggests that the determination to keep hoping in God is foundational for the spiritual life. Even in the midst of the greatest distress, healing begins with the conviction that I will again have reason to offer genuine praise to God.

Hope is concentrated in the figure of the thirsty, persistent deer, the creature that through the centuries has often appeared in Jewish poetry, both secular and religious, as a figure for Israel in its beauty and vulnerability. From our viewer’s perspective, we can be assured that the deer’s desire will soon be satisfied. The brook is close at hand, and both the abundance of fish and the rich plant-life on the banks attest to the health of its waters.

Water, food, light—these images in both the psalm and Palley’s rendering of it evoke the prayer of another psalmist-pilgrim to God’s holy mountain: ‘With you is the fountain of life; in your light, we see light’ (Psalm 36:9 own translation).

 

References

Band, Debra. 2007. I Will Wake the Dawn: Illuminated Psalms (Philadelphia: Jewish Publication Society)


Read next commentary