I was investing in the monthly completion of Tehillim and was happy to finish the entire book between Purim & Pesach. Thinking it would be nice to complete the entire Sefer Tehillim every month, I intended to start the same schedule again.
But then I came across this:
The questioner is obviously a wonderfully sincere person, likely somewhat new to Torah observance (with no experience in saying Tehillim), and would like some guidelines on how to get started.
The halachic expert who answers the question praises the questioner for this new step forward, explains a bit about Tehillim, then states:
The main thing is that it be said with concentration, understanding what one is saying.
Since you are not familiar with the words or their translation, use a Tehillim that has English translation so you can read the English as you say it.
The amount of chapters is not the idea, but the realization while saying it that I am beseeching H-shem and taking to Him, and pleading with Him to help me and whomever I am davening for.
And it was said by a real expert in Jewish Law.
(If you read the answers to the questions on the website, the rabbis' knowledge in phenomenal. Sometimes, it seems like they pull sources out of a hat. But really, it's not that easy – not at all.)
I don't know how everyone else is, but sometimes, I can get so into "accomplishing" (with all the accompanying feels of failure or at least "not good enough") that it's hard to maintain the essential kavanah too.
Of course, there are mitzvot we must carry out, whether we have kavanah or not (although the kavanah is still vitally important).
We must say brachot before eating, whether we have kavanah or not.
We must daven (this obligation varies according to gender and for women, other essential responsibilities), whether we have kavanah or not.
But saying Tehillim? That's a very worthy and holy act, but not obligatory.
Then the questioner added a follow-up question about whether it's necessary to say Tehillim according to the schedule featured in the Tehillim book:
And again, the halacha expert emphasizes the great significance of the quality & devotion being said, not the amount. Regarding the weekly or monthly schedule, he states:
You don’t have to do this, and that is exactly why I wrote that the main point is not the amount of chapters you say, but the quality and devotion that it is being said.
Therefore right now disregard the days that it says on the top of the pages.
Anyway, it got me thinking that maybe I should scale down my own Tehillim-reading to one a day – yet say each word with total kavanah.
But then you'll only complete the entire Sefer Tehillim twice a year! protested something inside my head.
And that something is not holiness speaking. That's more like neurosis.
If I say each Tehillim with supreme kavanah, then I'll complete the entire Sefer Tehillim with total kavanah...YAY!
That's a GOOD thing.
And isn't 2 recitations of Sefer Tehillim said over time with total kavanah MUCH better than 12 recitations of Sefer Tehillim raced through with wildly fluctating kavanah?
So I started saying one chapter a day with as much absorption as I could muster. Many Tehillim are something like 9 verses – or less that 20, anyway.
And it feels great.
It's absolutely geshmak.
And then, without meaning to, the Tehillim-reading is followed by something like a mini-hitbodedut session, in which I instinctively start discussing the Tehillim and its meanings with Hashem.
I had no idea that would happen; it's just a natural outgrowth of reading a little bit at a time but with total focus.
And it's very healing, very centering.
And it all made me realize how important it is to get back to basics with spiritual efforts.
Sometimes, you need to scale everything back and pare everything down to the most basic fundamentals.
It's sort of like an anecdote I read about a tremendous talmid chacham who asked his young grandson to read a page of Gemara to him – just the basic text without commentaries or elucidation.
The child was surprised, but complied.
Later, the scholarly grandfather explained that sometimes, he just wanted to hear the words of the Gemara on their own – to hear them anew, fresh & sweet, just the purity of the words themselves.
And this is something that only a not-yet-learned child could give him.
I used to read Tehillim with total simplicity and sincerity. (You can read about that HERE.)
And it seems like this is the perfect time to get back to that.