What can you say about the Biblical Book of Psalms?

Well, this particular story starts with an idea from a Florida rabbi.

Along the way, it gets some help resulting from the grief of an Ohio family.

And it ends up in Montana’s Gallatin Valley.

More than a year ago, local Rabbi Chaim Bruk heard a fellow rabbi in Gainesville, Fla., talked about spearheading the publication of a special edition of the Psalms, or Sefer Tehillim, to be mailed to every Jewish home in Florida.

“I thought to myself, “We’re going to do that, for Montana,’” he told the Belgrade News.

“It’s so practical. What is prayer? You open the Psalms – you’re praying in your living room. Young Jews – they don’t want to pay dues to belong to a synagogue. They were forced to go to Hebrew school.”

And so, this edition of the Tehillim was, in fact, a daily way to practically keep the Almighty front and center in everyone’s lives.

“I am literally giving you a book that reminds you you have a personal relationship with God,” Bruk said.

Having never navigated the world of printing, Bruk assumed it would only take a few months to bring this from idea to volume-in-hand. Ha.

“Yes, it took longer than I would have liked,” he admitted. Bruk hoped to have the volume ready last December, but just received it from Israel in late May.

This edition of the Psalms was deliberately printed in Israel, with the scriptures in facing-page English and Hebrew. Different families with a connection to the state’s Chabad congregation stepped up to sponsor the edition, of which 2,000 copies were printed. It also includes a collection of letters from the Sixth Lubavitcher Rebbe Rabbi Yosef Yitzchak Schneersohn on the subject of reading the Psalms.

The referenced letters date from 1899 to 1941.

Montana Chabad raised $20,000 to have the Tehillim printed in Israel and shipped to Montana.

The book “is appealing and beautiful,” he added.

And it’s timing is fortuitous, he said.

“For the last 14 months of COVID, we’ve been lost and confused. When will our synagogues reopen? As a Jewish community we do our prayers as a group. Whether you’re in Paradise Valley or Eureka, watch FOX or CNN, the question is, “How do I care for my soul?’”

Part of dealing with the pandemic of COVID was stockpiling “rice and pasta, but how do I care for my soul? This book was the icing on the cake, our spiritual well-being. Not our religion, but our spiritual life.”

Bruk and his wife moved from Brooklyn to Montana in 2007 to open the state’s first Chabad Center.

“I’m a salesman for Judaism,” he has said jokingly in earlier interviews. “I want to connect Jews with Judaism.”

His particular organization can trace its origins to the 1940s in New York City, when the movement relocated from post-war Russia to Poland to the U.S.

Although Orthodox, its outreach is to all Jews, including those alienated from most religious Jewish traditions.

The Montana Chabad edition of the Tehillim is the Kehot translation of the scripture. It is arranged to be read both on a seven-days-of-the-week and a 30-days-of-the-month schedule.

The Talmud says that “Moses gave Israel the Five Books of Torah, and David gave Israel the Five Books of Tehillim.”

Historically, during the Temple Era, the Psalms had a more formal purpose and were sung while the priests offered up sacrifices. After the destruction of the Second Temple in Jerusalem, many of “The Psalms were incorporated into standardized liturgies ... as part of formal prayers,” says this volume’s forward.

“The bigger point here,” Bruk concluded, “is how important it is to talk to God. It is the most natural thing we can do.”

To get a copy of Chabad Montana’s volume of the Tehillim, e-mail Bruk at rabbi@jewishmontana.com.

And if a non-Jew would like a copy?

“We’ll send them one,” Bruk promised.

One of the many families and groups who sponsored this volume was the Friedman family, whose daughter Kari was killed in a Bozeman traffic accident April 16, 2014, at the then-unregulated intersection of the Frontage Road and Valley Center Spur.

After many deaths over the years at that intersection, the death of Friedman, a Montana State University graduate student and a student teacher at Chief Joseph Middle School, was the final impetus it took to get the state ¬Department of Transportation to install a traffic light at that intersection.

Kari’s death, in fact, is a painful example of the eventual, multiple good things that can come from a tragedy. At that time, Bruk was the rabbi who went to the hospital to be with Kari’s body.

According to coverage at that time in the Bozeman Daily Chronicle, after multiple calls in Ohio from the Friedman family’s rabbi to another rabbi on down the line, Bruk was called. All of this took only a few moments.

“It’s two minutes from my house. I’ll be there in five minutes,” Rabbi Bruk remembered saying. On the way out the door, he grabbed the book of Psalms that he read into the night as he sat with Kari Friedman. She was 30 years old. Bruk would escort her back to Ohio and her family. That “mitzvah” was a fulfillment of “shemira,” the Jewish religious ritual of watching over a body from time of death to burial.

This journey would come full circle: Bruk read the Psalms over Kari’s body, and seven years later, her family has helped sponsor a special edition of the Psalms for Montana Chabad.