The psalmist teaches: “G-D will give strength to His people
(Psalm 29:11).”How is it that we
are strengthened by G-D?Rav
Kook explains that service of Hashem is in fact energizing and
invigorating.The goal of divine
service is to reveal the inner facets of the soul, to expose its innate
goodness.The human soul is
essentially good; bad traits are the product of man’s desire to satisfy his
material wants.Therefore, serving
Hashem bolsters man’s spirituality, enhancing the innate goodness of his soul.Committing to G-D’s Law keeps man from
gratifying those wants that dirty his soul. The strength that G-D gives to His nation is His Torah, from
which it draws spiritual sustenance and practical guidance.
To lose one’s voice is no joke.We are never as aware of our power of speech as when it has
been taken from us.But even as
our voices may be inaudible, our thoughts and feelings continue to be
expressed.But who hears the
silent voice of our hopes, our dreams, our wishes and our prayers?It is none other than G-D Himself who
hears our soundless voices, and who carefully attends to the prayers that lie
just beyond the reach of our tongues.“When no word is yet on my tongue, behold, O Lord, You know it all
(Psalm 139:4).”With G-D as
the listener, we are gifted with the ability to communicate without words and to
speak without talking.And
for that singular gift of being heard and understood, we are most grateful.
It is typical of people facing challenges and difficulties to
ask: “Why me?”It is the human
condition to feel undone by the suffering and to question G-D and His
fairness.At those moments, one’s
faith is seriously undermined.The psalmist offers us a different approach.“I have kept faith although I say: “I suffer exceedingly
(Psalm 116:10).”To keep one’s
faith in Hashem, it must be the yardstick by which all else is measured.If faith is immutable, then suffering
can be endured even as it is not understood.One does not have faith despite the suffering.Instead one has faith and one suffers.Faith does not preclude the possibility of pain.Faith is compatible with life and life
inevitably has its painful moments.
“My soul is shattered with yearning for Your ordinances
always (Psalm 119:20).”The
psalmist’s use of the word “shattering” is odd; surely, the word “consumed”
would be the more appropriate.The
psalmist is teaching us a valuable lesson.When one is consumed, one is filled to the brim with
yearning for G-D’s commandments.The word “shattered” implies breaking one’s boundaries, going beyond the
limits imposed by one’s soul.When
one experiences a soul-shattering moment, one’s soul is never the same.The soul transcends its former limits,
and breaks forth to attain a greater understanding and appreciation of G-D’s
experiences a yearning so profound that his soul shatters and must reconfigure
to incorporate his enhanced appreciation and love for G-D’s Torah.
“Give thanks to Hashem, for He is good; His kindness endures forever! Let Israel say now: His kindness endures forever!Let the house of Aaron say now: His kindness endures forever! Let those who fear Hashem say now: His kindness endures forever (Psalm 118:1-4)!”The psalmist enumerates the children of Israel as well as the house of Aaron to teach us that we are all enjoined to thank G-D for His goodness.Independent of our stature, our position, or our lineage, we have a common obligation to thank G-D.We thank G-D for He is good.Since G-D is good itself, all that He does is good as well.We, who are a mix of good and bad qualities, cannot determine what is truly good.We must instead accept that what we are given is good for the source of all that we receive is goodness itself.It is when we cannot recognize the goodness inherent in our lives that we need and benefit from Hashem’s eternal kindness.G-D’s limitless loving-kindness allows us to keep our faith and maintain our attitude of gratitude.
Just as the directive to praise Hashem applies to all strata of society and all classes, so too does the need to trust in G-D alone. The psalmist teaches: “O Israel, trust in Hashem, their help and their shield is He! House of Aaron, trust in Hashem, their help and their shield is He! You who fear Hashem, trust in Hashem; their help and their shield is He (Psalm 115:9-11).”What are the obstacles to trust?Our inability to trust is predicated on our belief that not all people can equally benefit from another’s protection.If I am being helped, another must not be.But G-D is limitless, with infinite capacity to help and protect us all.He provides the help and protection each of us needs, relative to our position and our function.The children of Israel require G-D’s basic assistance and protection to endure.Their need fuels their trust; without G-D, they are adrift.The House of Aaron, charged with serving G-D in the Beit HaMikdash, must trust that their efforts are worthy and will be successful.Those that fear G-D, recognizing His awesome might and power, must trust that such awesomeness does not preclude His kindness. The psalmist assures us that irrespective of our needs, G-D is always our help and our shield.
11th of Kislev, November 28, 2009
“Hashem Who has remembered us will bless- He will bless the House of Israel, He will bless the House of Aaron; He will bless those who fear Hashem, the small as well as the great (Psalm 115:12-13).”These verses follow the ones that instruct us to place our trust firmly in G-D.When we trust in Hashem, blessings ensue.Relationships are built on trust and respect.Our relationship with G-D is no different.If we trust in G-D, then He in turn acknowledges our trust and devotion.And He blesses us in keeping with our unique role and function.The House of Israel and the House of Aaron are blessed, relative to their particular needs and wants. Those that fear G-D are blessed to witness and experience His kindness.Both the small and the great of stature benefit.Hashem’s blessings, like He Himself, are infinite in number.All may be blessed to the detriment of none.
“Let my soul live and it shall praise You, and Your statutes will assist me (Psalm 119:175).”The psalmist strikes a deal with Hashem.He asks for life so that he can praise Hashem.Not only does he commit to praising Hashem, but he also affirms that he will keep G-D’s ordinances.His study of Hashem’s statutes will assist him in living a meaningful and spiritually rich life.A life lived in earnest and genuine devotion and commitment to G-D is by definition a song of praise to Him.
“Hallelujah! I shall acknowledge Hashem with all my heart [b’chollevav], in the intimate circle of the upright and in the congregation (Psalm 111:1).”Rav Hirsch explains that the intent of the psalmist is to instruct us in how to acknowledge G-D and His works. The words “b’chollevav” refers to the entirety of spiritual meditation, the focus of all physical, moral and spiritual life. It includes our interpersonal relationships, which are extensions of our relationship with Hashem. The psalmist acknowledges G-D in the intimate circle of his associates who share his values and beliefs.He will then proclaim his awareness of G-D to the broader congregation so that they too can learn and grow.
“I shall praise the Name of G-D with song, and I shall magnify it with thanksgiving (Psalm 69:31).”David teaches us how to be grateful.In each of our daily activities, we are to praise G-D.We praise Him with our speech, our actions, our attitudes and our song.In singing, one is able to express the ineffable, to communicate the innermost feelings of his heart.And in our hearts, there is a song of praise to G-D.That gratitude is magnified when we acknowledge the enormous gratitude we feel for all the gifts that we have been given.Our song grows longer and stronger with each expression of thanksgiving.
At times we are reluctant to part with our possessions for we fear being without them.But our possessions do not define us; we are what we do, not what we have.The psalmist, speaking as G-D, clarifies: “I take not from your household any bullock, nor from your pens any goats.For Mine is every beast of the forest, the cattle of a thousand mountains…. For Mine is the world and its fullness (Psalm 50:9-10. 12).”Man does not possess anything in this world, for the world in its entirety belongs to G-D.Therefore, we need to define ourselves differently, to embrace the spiritual and not the physical.What really matters is not the material world but our use of the physical, intellectual and spiritual gifts that we have been given on earth.
The psalmist likens the tzaddik to a date palm.“A righteous man will flourish like the date palm, he will grow tall like a cedar in Lebanon (Psalm 92:13).”Date palms do not immediately produce fruit.It takes four to seven years for the date palm to bear fruit, and between seven and ten years to produce a yield adequate for commercial harvest.Likewise, man does not become righteous immediately.To become a tzaddik, man must invest much time and energy before his efforts bear fruit.An even longer time and greater effort is required before the righteous person is productive enough to affect others.In point of fact, a man must choose to be righteous all the days of his life, continually working on his own self-improvement.The psalmist assures us that the efforts of the righteous shall not be in vain for they shall flourish.Ben Hey Hey teaches: “According to the effort, so is the reward (Avot 5:26).”Not only is goodness its own reward, but the pursuit of goodness yields much benefit as well.
THE FAITH AND TRUST OF PSALMS________________11:1______
"In HaShem I have taken refuge; how do you say to my soul, "Flee to the mountain like a bird."
King David was embattled on all fronts. His enemies claimed that soon they would kill him and they slandered him saying that he was evil. They chased him into the wilderness where he took cover in the mountains. Then some of his friends betrayed him and revealed his hiding place to his adversaries.
How does a man react when he is taunted; dismissed as dead; maligned; betrayed; and chased like a fugitive into the mountains by enemies, intent on killing him? It wouldn’t be hard to imagine that, under these trying circumstances, the average person would feel overwhelmed.
However King David did not despair. Conversely, he maintained his composure by trusting in HaShem. Remarkably, as he was running for his life, he called out to his enemies, "How dare you say to my soul, ’Flee to the mountain like a bird." Meaning, "Why do you delude yourselves into thinking that I am vulnerable like a hunted bird fleeing across the mountains? I am neither endangered nor afraid. What’s more, I am confident that I will be delivered!"
What was the source of his unwavering resilience? David was a giant of faith, as he stated, "In HaShem I have taken refuge." He knew, axiomatically, that if he placed his trust in HaShem, i.e., "In HaShem I have taken refuge," he can never be harmed. Therefore, he returned the insults of his enemies by saying, "What audacity you have in assuming that I am on the verge of defeat. Don’t you know that I trust in HaShem - it is for certain that He will save me!
We see that King David’s trust did not have any boundaries. Even when he was running for his life, he maintained steadfast trust in HaShem. Even more, rather than falling to the intimidations of his enemies, he boldly confronted them, challenging their "delusions." May King David’s faith inspire us to strengthen our trust in HaShem so that we always remain tranquil and confident. [Based on the commentary of the Radak to Psalms]
TODAY: Extend and strengthen your trust and faith in HaShem and apply it to every situation.
The Midrash Tanchuma relates that when G-D created the world, the ministering angels asked: “What then is man [enosh] that You remember [zachor] him? And the son of man that You are mindful [pakod] of him (Psalm 8:5).” G-D defends His greatest creation, man, by bringing Avraham and Sarah as His rejoinder.“You speak of man referring to the generation of Enosh, who was unworthy.But I will show you the glory of Avraham, who truly merited remembrance.As is stated in Bereishit 19:29: “And G-D remembered Avraham so He sent Lot from the upheaval.”You say, “And the son of man that You should be mindful [pakod] of him.”Bereishit 21:1-2 states: “And Hashem remembered [pakad] Sarah as He had said, and Hashem did for Sarah as He had spoken.Sarah conceived and bore a son unto Avraham in his old age.”In the future, you will see a father who will sacrifice his son and a son who will allow himself to be sacrificed all for the sanctification of My Name.”
Rav Soloveitchik writes that prayer is an attitude, a state of mind.To truly pray, one must adapt the posture of a child.An adult, who knows his own self-worth and is confident, is not admitted to the palace of prayer.Prayer requires self-negation and demands that one surrender himself and completely trust in Hashem.Prayer is for the one who says of himself: “my heart was not proud, and my eyes were not haughty…my soul is like that of a weaned child (Psalm 131:1-2).”A child instinctively feels the loving embrace of his parents and trusts that they will do right by him.It is those feelings of love and trust that are the very essence of prayer.
Psalm 104 celebrates the creation of the world.The psalmist uses poetry, not science, to express his profound
appreciation of the beauty and wisdom of G-D’s creation.Unlike
scientific theories, the psalmist emphasizes wonder and awe as opposed to
intellectual inquiry and causal explanations.Here, the focus is
on the Creator and the goodness of His creation.The Divine is
front and center, with humans on the sidelines recognizing and appreciating His
grandeur.Yet, the psalm begins and ends with the words- “Bless
the Lord, my soul.”With these words, the psalmist communicates
that despite the grandeur of the universe and the infinite power of the Creator,
G-D is close.He is accessible to us through prayer.He hears and attends to our voices.In the words of Rabbi
Jonathan Sacks, this psalm is “the song of one at home in the world, awed by its
beauty, trusting in the graciousness of existence as G-D’s gift.”
Fifteen psalms, Psalms 120-134, are grouped together under
the common heading: “A song of ascents.”What is
this “song of ascents?”Some explain that this refers to the
fifteen steps that separated the courtyards of the men and women in the Beit
HaMikdash.On these steps, the Levites would stand and
sing.Others comment that these were songs sung by the exiles as
they ascended from Babylon to the Holy Land.The Meiri teaches
that the phrase refers to a musical direction, alluding to a song begun softly
and then increasing in volume.Yet others suggest that this may
refer to the particular poetic form of these psalms, in which the repeated
phrase brings the poem to its culmination- its theme.
In Perek Shira 6, the dogs say: “Come let us prostate
ourselves and bow, let us kneel before the G-D, our Maker (Psalm 95:6).” Rav Kanievsky, Shlita, comments that it
is the nature of a dog to prostrate itself before anyone who gives it
food. Such is the gratitude of the
dog towards its caregiver. We, who
are provided with every need from Hashem, have an even greater obligation to
thank G-D and bow down before Him.
Not only is Hashem our Maker, but He is also our constant Caregiver and Sustainer.
“Of Hashem’s kindness
I will sing forever, I will make Your faithfulness known to every
generation with my mouth (Psalm 89:1).” One can readily sing of G-D’s
kindnesses, for it is easy to share the good and celebrate the
positive. We have been blessed with so much kindness from Hashem that
we can sing forever. But what of the more challenging circumstances
of our lives? G-D not only graces us with His kindness, but He is our
faithful companion in our times of distress. He neither abandons nor
rejects us, but stays close so that when we turn to Him, we find Him.
It is incumbent upon us to share this very deeply personal connection
with our children, to testify to Hashem’s faithfulness to the next
generation. Through our words and by our deeds, they will be able to
forge their connection to Him and teach their children in turn.
6th of Cheshvan, October 24, 2009
kindness of Hashem is forever and ever upon those that fear Him, and
His righteousness is upon the children’s children (Psalm 103:17).”
Man’s time on this earth is short. But for the man who fears Hashem,
the reward in the World-to-Come is everlasting. The Radak teaches that
they are also rewarded in this world; the merit of the G-D fearing is
bestowed on their children’s children. Rav Hirsch explains that the
G-D- fearing achieve immortality in This World through their
descendents. The legacy they bequeath to their children is the
continuation and completion of their own Divine mission on this earth.
“Open for me the gates
of righteousness, I will enter them and thank Hashem.This is the gate
of Hashem, the righteousness shall enter through it (Psalm 118:19-20).”The psalmist begins by speaking
of“gates” in the plural, and
closes by referring to “gate” in the singular.Rav Chaim Kanievsky, Shlita, explains that there was one
gate in the Beit HaMikdash through which no one but G-D could enter.“Hashem said to me: “This gate
shall be closed; it shall not be opened, because Hashem, the G-D of Israel, has
come through it; it shall be closed (Yechezkel 44:2).”This verse teaches that in Heaven, there too exists a gate through
which only G-D is permitted to enter.
"In the day when I fear, I
will put my trust upon You! In Elokim, I will praise His word; in Elokim I
have put my trust - I will not fear; what can man do to me?"
exuberant declaration of King David's steadfast trust in HaShem reveals one of
the great secrets of faith. Mainly, the master of faith utilizes the challenges
of life to raise himself to new levels of faith and empowerment. Even if he
temporarily fears when faced with a difficult test, he immediately channels that
fear into a stronger level of trust.
In this light, King David said,
"In the day I fear, I will put my trust in You." That is, when the day brings me
to a fearful situation, I immediately "put my trust in You." Rather, then let
the fear rule over me, I rule over the fear by strengthening my faith.
Then King David said, "In Elokim I have put my trust - I will not
fear." This statement seems to contradict the first statement, in which King
David states "In the day when I fear."
Rather, King David teaches us the
dynamics of faith. "In the day when I fear" refers to a new challenge that
required him to attain a stronger level of faith. Like a weight-lifter that
strains for extra power to lift heavier weights, so too, King David, struggled
for a new dimension of trust to bear his new trial.
His fear did not
reflect a lapse of faith. Rather his fear revealed his courageous effort to
take on a new level of trust in HaShem, i.e., In the day when I fear, I will put
my trust upon You. Once he adjusted to the "heavier load" he devotedly
declared, "In Elokim I have put my trust - I WILL NOT FEAR."
Reframe your situation - and channel your fear - into a new, fresh level of
faith and trust in HaShem.