Mount talk examines the lasting impact of the Book of Psalms

February 22, 2017

Rabbi Daniel F. Polish discusses the Book of Psalms at Mount Saint Mary College on February 21. 


According to Rabbi Daniel F. Polish, an accomplished author and spiritual leader of Congregation Shir Chadash in Poughkeepsie, N.Y., the Book of Psalms is often considered the most beloved in Hebrew Scriptures because it’s “so remarkably human.”

“The Psalms validate a whole range of human emotions and situations very much like your own,” he explained. “We suffer, we experience fear and exultation, we have success and failure, we win, we lose.”

Rabbi Polish presented his talk “The Book of Psalms: A Gift in Times of Need,” at Mount Saint Mary College on Tuesday, February 21.

“One part of the power of the psalms is that I see my own situation described in them,” said Rabbi Polish. “That gives me real comfort, and shows that I’m not the only person to have ever experienced this.”

In the Book of Psalms, readers can also find “the loving presence of God,” noted Rabbi Polish.

“The Psalms offer us a direct link to God,” he explained. “God is talked to and talked about. We learn more about God in the Psalms explicitly than we do in almost any other part of Hebrew scriptures.”

Rabbi Polish has served as a leader of several national Jewish organizations; as associate director and director of the Washington Office of the Synagogue Council of America; and as the director of the Commission on Social Action of Reform Judaism. In addition to teaching at the Mount, he has taught at Harvard, Tufts, Occidental College and at his alma mater, Hebrew Union College.

Among the books Rabbi Polish has authored are “Bringing the Psalms to Life: How to Understand and Use the Book of Psalms,” “Keeping Faith with the Psalms: Deepen Your Relationship with God Using the Book of Psalms,” and “Talking About God: Exploring the Meaning of Religious Life with Kierkegaard, Buber, Tilich, and Heschel.”

He has addressed interfaith gatherings in places such as Warsaw, Seville, Istanbul, Berlin, Jerusalem, New Delhi, and Bangladesh. Rabbi Parish currently serves as vice-chairman of the International Jewish Committee for Inter-religious consultations – the official Jewish interlocutor with the Vatican and other international religious bodies.

Rabbi Polish earned his bachelor’s degree at Northwestern University and completed his rabbinical training at Hebrew Union College in Cincinnati. He earned his doctoral degree at Harvard University.

The lecture was sponsored by the Mount’s Catholic and Dominican Institute (CDI). CDI promotes the Mount’s heritage of St. Dominic; advances the Dominican charism of study and service; provides a forum for discussion of contemporary ethical issues; and enhances Catholic and Jewish dialogue. The Institute welcomes persons of varied faiths and acknowledges different religious traditions as essential to the college’s intellectual and spiritual life.