In his new book, "Healing Psalms," Rabbi Joshua Haberman explains the meaning of each of the psalms, and offers suggestions for how to use these psalms for help during life's most difficult moments. These excerpts focus on psalms about illness, healing, and preparing for death.

Excerpted from "Healing Psalms" by Joshua Haberman (May 2003, $24.95, Cloth) by permission of Wiley.

Psalm 6

For the Leader; with string-music; on the Sheminith. A Psalm of David.

O HaShem, rebuke me not in Thine anger, neither chasten me in Thy wrath.
Be gracious unto me, O HaShem, for I languish away; heal me, O HaShem, for my bones are affrighted.
My soul also is sore affrighted; and Thou, O HaShem, how long?

Return, O HaShem, deliver my soul; save me for Thy mercy's sake.
For in death there is no remembrance of Thee; in the nether-world who will give Thee thanks?
I am weary with my groaning; every night make I my bed to swim; I melt away my couch with my tears.
Mine eye is dimmed because of vexation; it waxeth old because of all mine adversaries.

Depart from me, all ye workers of iniquity; for HaShem hath heard the voice of my weeping.
HaShem hath heard my supplication; HaShem receiveth my prayer.
All mine enemies shall be ashamed and sore affrighted; they shall turn back, they shall be ashamed suddenly.

"I Soak My Bed with Tears"
You feel you are falling apart. You are sick. You are wasting away. You are terrified. How much longer must you suffer? You cry your eyes out. On top of it, enemies are gloating over your misery. Don't be ashamed to cry out for God's help. There is comfort in the thought that God does not want the death of His believers: "For in death there is no rememberance of You; who will offer You thanks in the netherworld?" (v. 6).

The psalmist speaks as a witness to the power of prayer. He remembers a time of despair: "Every night I soak my bed with tears" (v. 7). When things turned around, he was certain that it was God's response to his cry for help: "The Lord has accepted my prayer" (v. 10).

Reflection: God Heals
When illness of misfortune strikes, we wonder, What have we done to deserve this? Is it punishment for some offense? Is God angry at us?

If our suffering is indeed an affliction decreed by God, then recovery may be taken as a sign of God's forgiveness, compassion, and love. If God metes out punishment at times, He also forgives the repentant sinner.

Could God have created life without evil and made us immune against suffering? We have no answer, but we may believe that for every affliction there is a remedy. If in some way God exposes us to suffering, He is also our healer. The hand that wounds is the hand that heals.

Psalm 38
A Psalm of David, to make memorial.

O HaShem, rebuke me not in Thine anger; neither chasten me in Thy wrath.
For Thine arrows are gone deep into me, and Thy hand is come down upon me.
There is no soundness in my flesh because of Thine indignation; neither is there any health in my bones because of my sin.
For mine iniquities are gone over my head; as a heavy burden they are too heavy for me.
My wounds are noisome, they fester, because of my foolishness.
I am bent and bowed down greatly; I go mourning all the day.
For my loins are filled with burning; and there is no soundness in my flesh.
I am benumbed and sore crushed; I groan by reason of the moaning of my heart.

Lord, all my desire is before Thee; and my sighing is not hid from Thee.
My heart fluttereth, my strength faileth me; as for the light of mine eyes, it also is gone from me.
My friends and my companions stand aloof from my plague; and my kinsmen stand afar off.

They also that seek after my life lay snares for me; and they that seek my hurt speak crafty devices, and utter deceits all the day.
But I am as a deaf man, I hear not; and I am as a dumb man that openeth not his mouth.
Yea, I am become as a man that heareth not, and in whose mouth are no arguments.
For in Thee, O HaShem, do I hope; Thou wilt answer, O Lord my G-d.
For I said: 'Lest they rejoice over me; when my foot slippeth, they magnify themselves against me.'

For I am ready to halt, and my pain is continually before me.
For I do declare mine iniquity; I am full of care because of my sin.
But mine enemies are strong in health; and they that hate me wrongfully are multiplied.
They also that repay evil for good are adversaries unto me, because I follow the thing that is good.
Forsake me not, O Lord; O my G-d, be not far from me.
Make haste to help me, O Lord, my salvation.

The Trial of Illness
Illness may change your whole view of life, you attitude toward others, and your self-image. The author of Psalm 38 is afflicted by grave illness and like all persons so stricken wonders, Why is this happening to me? What did I do wrong? This is a question that torments many sufferers. Is illness really punishment for wrongdoing? You may not think so, but the psalmist is sure that he is paying the penalty for his sins. His suffering prompts him to a critical review of his conduct. He has mixed feelings about himself. Conscious of guilt, he seeks relief by way of confession: "I confess my guilt" (v. 19). On the other hand, he regards himself superior to his enemies who hate him because he follows "the thing that is good" (v
. 21).