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Feminist Interpretation of Psalm 23

By Phyllis Bass

Psalm 23 may hold the distinction of being the most well-known example of a literary genre that few people ever think about. Though many are familiar with the opening lines, “The Lord is My Shepherd, I shall not want,” the participants in Temple Ahavat Shalom’s winter Torah study class took a much closer look at the words of David devoted to “the healing wisdom of the twenty-third psalm.”

The class used as its foundation the Harold Kushner book, The Lord is My Shepherd: Healing Wisdom of the Twenty Third Psalm, but the words of the psalm became more of a jumping off point to talk about God, suffering, evil, hope, soul, comfort, fear and want. It is ultimately a psalm of hope.

More than just an example of feminine-gender language, this psalm emphasizes the nurturing and compassionate aspects of God and focuses less on punishing elements.

Psalm 23: A Feminist Version
The Schechinah, a sheltering presence, makes me whole as a woman:
Causing me to rest in green fields, Leading me to calming waters, Replenishing my soul,
And empowering me to make life affirming choices In celebration of God’s name.
Even though I have walked in darkness and known loss, I have not despaired for you are with me.
Your guidance and your nurturing spirit have sustained me.
You have set a full table for me when I have been hurt and alienated.
You have conferred upon me unique potential, which I strive to realize.
From the deep core of my being I am overflowing with gratitude.
I know that your goodness and loving kindness will continue to abide within me,
And I will live out my days in God’s house.