Tehillim Eighty - Nine

This psalm speaks of the kingship of the House of David, the psalmist lamenting its fall from power for many years, and God's abandonment and spurning of us.

The above Kavenah is a traditional Kavenah to use when saying this Psalm.

The first word is Maskil. Please refer to the introduction in Yearning for Redemption PDF file, starting at page 6, for more information.

There are 53 verses in Psalm 89. The number 53 relates to the Hebrew word Gan = garden.

There are 72 Verses spoken on the 18th day of each Hebrew month. Students of Kabbalah are familiar with the number 72. One connection is to the word / Sefirah of Chesed = loving kindness.

Chapter Eighty-Nine

We live in times that are so noisy, yet so many are deafened by the silence. In the midst of all the distractions that make up today's lifestyle, we seem to become unable to hear the voice that speaks to our soul.

Helen Keller, the famous personage who was both blind and deaf, once remarked, "Being blind cuts you off from the world; being deaf cuts you off from humanity." When we become so flooded with loud noises we become inhuman, insensitive of what should be real in our lives.

During the American civil war, commentators pointed out a strange phenomenon. It seems that while major battles were being fought, there were pockets of space where witnesses could not hear a thing. Imagine, they watched as man slaughtered man, huge cannons were set off and hand-to-hand battles were waged; yet they could not hear a thing. These pockets of silence were called acoustic shadows, and they have never really been explained.

It seems that we too live in such shadows. We see the despair and witness the misery, yet for some reason we don't really hear the message.

Truth be said, we know the voice is there, but we become so engulfed by social distractions that our hearts don't pick up what our ears discern.

As Jews, we have a tried and tested way to unclog our hearing. We can go to gutte Yidden, Torah sages, and hear their words. Each generation brings forth its specific leadership, holy Yidden who know what society's noises are all about and how we can overcome their soul pollution. These tzaddikim have the words that can cut through the chaff that clogs our environment. They understand our desperation, and each speaks in a unique manner. We pedestrians need guidance, and Hashem has given us a Torah leadership for each generation. The major difficulty we face is in not allowing ourselves to accept their healing direction.

In these times, when the secular world speaks of democracy and majority rule, it is hard for some to accept that Yiddishkeit is not a democracy nor something cooked up in a committee. Being connected with Hashem flies against everything the secular mind wants, or thinks it wants.

No one is immune from such talk, and it is this that makes us deaf to our real role in life. Yes, we may do mitzvos with regularity; however, all too often we feel them to be a burden, not a joy. This is not always our fault. It's because we stand in an acoustical shadow, witnessing the havoc around us but unable to hear our eternal truths.

There are many worthy and saintly Torah sages in each generation. Hashem has graced us with spiritual giants who live their entire lives for the good of others.

Perhaps one of the greatest tasks of a person who seeks to be an oved Hashem is to find his Torah leader, the one who speaks to his needs, in a language he feels attracted to. It takes humility, truthfulness, and not a small bit of courage, but without it, we will go through life deafened to who we really are.

Hashem has promised us that such leadership will always be there. It is our responsibility to seek it, listen to it, and then activate its guidance into our reality. If we remain standing in the acoustic shadows of this world, then we will have seen all the bitterness and pain without any true hope of real joy.

This kapitel tells of the promise of leadership and its eternal comfort.

Chasdei Hashem olam ashira., "Of the kindness of Hashem, forever I will sing, throughout all generations I will make known Your faithfulness with my mouth." Despite the clouds and mist, we must be aware and speak of the faithfulness that Hashem shows to His children.

Karati bris livechiri., "I have made a covenant with My chosen, I have sworn to David, My servant. 'Forever will I establish your seed, and build up your throne throughout all generations, sela.' "

The greatest son of the House of David is the Torah scholar, for it is in his hands to build up the possibility of our ultimate redemption. Hashem has created a covenant with David that despite the galus, we will not only survive, but bit by bit build up, till David's throne will be reunited with our nation.

Veyodu shamayim pilacha Hashem., "And the heavens will praise Your wonders, Hashem, and Your faithfulness will be praised in the assembly of holy ones."

There will come a time when heaven and earth will once again meet in song. Those who seek to escape the loud silence of the material world will merit the reward of praising Hashem in the kehilla led by His holy ones.

Ata moshel begei'us hayam., "You rule over the majesty of the sea; when it raises its waves, You still them."

When life seems to be a sea of raging hurt, it is Hashem in His love that can still its waves. You feel you will become engulfed by it all, yet if you listen to your connection with Him, you will find safety.

The kapitel goes on to describe the power that is Hashem. We need never lose heart, for He is the Creator that rules over the entire globe. But how do we get through the distractions of this material place we find ourselves in? How does one keep focused on the eternal truths?

Matzasi Dovid avdi., "I have found David, My servant; with My holy oil I have anointed him."

Hashem has chosen David to be that link, that connection. In David we must see all the "Kings of Israel" that have followed. Who are these kings? The Torah scholars who represent the sweet truths that David extolled.

Asher yadi tikon imo., "With whom My Hand will be established, also My Arm will strengthen him."

Hashem is known in this material world through those who hold onto the Torah. With every word of Torah they utter, Hashem's works become more apparent. Our sole source of strength as a people is through His Torah and mitzvos. There is no other nation that has survived so long with so many disabilities. How have we done so? The secret lies in "His arm" - Hashem's mitzvos. Through them we have been strengthened.

The psalm goes through a depiction of our nation's ups and downs - times when we feel close to Hashem and times when we are more distant. All the while David speaks of the centrality of Torah kingship, its role in leading our people forward. He cries out that even when the people are living with daily humiliation, he, and those who follow him as leaders, "bear in my bosom the burdens of all the many peoples."

With this kapitel we end the third book of Tehillim, and we do so on a moving note. "Blessed is Hashem, forever, amen and amen!"

This will always be our heartfelt reality. Blessings come from and are given to the One Force that is eternal. Hashem.

  • Psalms 1 to 150 in Hebrew and English: When opened scroll to chapter 89
  • Psalms 1 to 150 in Hebrew and English from Rabbi Sutton's Translation and Commentary: When opened scroll to chapter 89
  • Tehillim Ninety

    David found this prayer in its present form-receiving a tradition attributing it to MosesThe Midrash attributes the next eleven psalms to Moses (Rashi).-and incorporated it into the Tehillim. It speaks of the brevity of human life, and inspires man to repent and avoid pride in this world.

    The above Kavenah is a traditional Kavenah to use when saying this Psalm.

    Psalm 90 is one of the 10 Tehllim associated with Rabbi Nachman's Blessing to remove all negativity.

    The first word is Tefilah Moshe. Please refer to the introduction in Yearning for Redemption PDF file, starting at page 6, for more information.

    There are 17 verses in Psalm 90. The number 17 is the gematria of the Hebrew word Tov which translates as good.

    Chapter Ninety Commentary

    There is a hypothesis that says: "use it or lose it." What it refers to is that given any part of ones being, if you don't exercise it, that part will atrophy and wither away. Doctors have now shown that using ones brain by learning new things and stretching the mind in some ways, can help us maintain "brainpower" as we age. They have shown that those who keep their minds fresh with new activity, (such as Daf Hayomi), stand a reduced risk of Alzheimer's disease and other such afflictions. This only proves what our Torah Sages have long held to be vital for our spiritual well being. One never stops being a student; Torah learning is for all life, and every life. If we stop learning and striving for fresh understanding; then our spiritual mind becomes atrophied, and stagnates, to our ultimate regret.

    The Rebbe Reb Bunim of Peshischa narrated the following parable: "A father loaned his son a thousand thalers to establish him in business. When the time for repayment came, he perceived that his son had used the money wisely and successfully, and he therefore made him a gift of the money loaned. On another occasion he lent the same amount to a second son. When the time came for repayment, he found that the youth had used the money unwisely; in order to prevent further losses he withdrew his money and the son was compelled to abandon the business.

    "It is the same with us. Hashem loans us the impulse to judge ourselves and to repent of our unworthy deeds. If we use this impulse wisely and increase it through sincere study, pure worship and admirable conduct, Hashem leaves this impulse with us. But if we do nothing and make no use of this impulse ourselves, He takes it back, and we remain unrepentant and sinful."

    This is 'use it or lose it' write large, and should be a warning to us all. True, repentance is one of the most difficult things to do. It entails coming to terms with your real inner motives, and having the humility to admit selfish desires. To step away from yourself and see the real you is not always a pretty sight, and change takes courage. Hashem gave us a gift, this impulse of self judgement, unfortunately, it often lies in the ruins of our fearful inner selves, and we never get out of the mire we have created.

    There is another adage that comes to mind: "No pain, no gain." You can't expect to grow without some growing pains. Teshuva should be an on going experience, not one set aside just for Yom Kippur. It is the small daily battles that decide who we are, and it is there that we must use our heart and mind to the fullest.

    The fourth book of Tehillim starts with eleven consecutive portions composed by Moshe Rebbeinu. Rashi tells us that they correspond to the eleven blessings which he bestowed upon eleven of the Tribes as seen in Devarim. The Medrash Shochar Tov explains that the theme of each of the eleven kapitlach relates to a specific tribe. This Psalm speaks of teshuva and relates to the Tribe of Reuven the first of the Tribes blessed.

    What does Reuven have to do with teshuva? We are told how he repented his actions during the episode of the sale of Joseph. Chazal tell us that it was Reuven who first introduced the principle of complete repentance to the world. One could ask a simple question about this statement, was then Reuven the first baal teshuva? Haven't we seen others before him repent of misdeeds? Gutte Yiden were wont to say that this may be so, but Reuven did teshuva over a sin that he committed for an act he thought of as being leshem shamayim! He was convinced he was doing the right thing concerning his brother. For him to do teshuva and have such powerful remorse was a huge achievement.

    The hardest teshuva to do is over things we are certain are morally proper. This takes enormous strength, and yes, it needs a lot of practice. You can't overturn a life time of living in one leap; you must build up the ability to seek the truth, like a weight lifter with his different weights.

    TEFILLA LEMOSHE. "A prayer of Moshe, the man of G-d: My Master a dwelling place have You been for us in every generation." Moshe starts with the main reality of our existence, that Hashem is our dwelling place in every generation, in all times and at all places.

    TASHEV ENOSH AD DAKA. "You reduce man to pulp, and You say, "Return, children of man!"

    Man without a connection with Hashem becomes crushed into a moral mess. It is amazing, we are the only beings that are gifted with the ability to think and choose; yet we are capable of the most horrendous acts of wanton beastliness. Without a connection with Hashem we are as ships lost in the sea. However, we are never totally lost, for Hashem is calling out to us, "Return, Return."

    KI ELEPH SHANIM BE'EINECHA. "For a thousand years are in Your eyes like the yesterday that had just passed, and like a night watch."

    Here we are being told something that touches on the enormity of Hashem. We count days with clocks. Twenty four hours are a day, so many days are a week, on and on times marches. We measure our lives through the speed it takes for the clock hands to get around its face. However, for Hashem this is, so to speak 'all a wink of the eyelid,' for His being is beyond all time. We say this in our prayers; "He was, He is, He always will be," all this in the same moment. Hashem sees us in our future before we ever get there, and so He can reach out to us before we fail. A personal connection with Hashem keeps us away from spiritual downfall. Like a gyroscope, we are kept on the right path.

    LIMNOS YAMEINU KEIN HODA. "To count our days, teach us and we will acquire a heart of wisdom."

    We are being told that we, living in the material world, need to learn to value the time given us if we are to live wisely.

    When we slip from our G-dly moorings, our time becomes consumed by worthless values that cheapen our inner souls. Moshe is telling us to plead with Hashem that we should become sensitive to the gift of the time. This will be the wisdom that true teshuva brings with it. Yidden, there are so many of our brethren who have no idea what any of this is all about, not a clue. We weep for them, but at the same time, we should weep for ourselves for having this sweet knowledge and disregarding it.

  • Psalms 1 to 150 in Hebrew and English: When opened scroll to chapter 90
  • Psalms 1 to 150 in Hebrew and English from Rabbi Sutton's Translation and Commentary: When opened scroll to chapter 90
  • Tehillim Ninety One

    This psalm inspires the hearts of the people to seek shelter under the wings of the Divine Presence. It also speaks of the four seasons of the year, and their respective ministering powers, instructing those who safeguard their souls to avoid them.

    The above Kavenah is a traditional Kavenah to use when saying this Psalm.

    The first word is Yoshaiv. Please refer to the introduction in Yearning for Redemption PDF file, starting at page 6, for more information.

    There are 16 verses in Psalm 91. The number 16 is the gematria of the male letters in the Name HaShem. Other words with this gematria are "in hand" - "ayeh = where" - "to be" and many others.

  • Psalms 1 to 150 in Hebrew and English: When opened scroll to chapter 90
  • Psalms 1 to 150 in Hebrew and English from Rabbi Sutton's Translation and Commentary: When opened scroll to chapter 90
  • Tehillim Ninety Two

    Sung every Shabbat by the Levites in the Holy Temple, this psalm speaks of the World to Come, and comforts the hearts of those crushed by suffering.

    The above Kavenah is a traditional Kavenah to use when saying this Psalm.

    The first word is Mizmor Shir Please refer to the introduction in Yearning for Redemption PDF file, starting at page 6, for more information.

    There are 19 verses in Psalm 92. The number 19 is the gematria of the Name Chava = Mother of Life. It also represents the unity of Male and Female due to the individual lack of Malchut within the Male.

  • Psalms 1 to 150 in Hebrew and English: When opened scroll to chapter 92
  • Psalms 1 to 150 in Hebrew and English from Rabbi Sutton's Translation and Commentary: When opened scroll to chapter 92
  • Tehillim Ninety Three

    This psalm speaks of the Messianic era, when God will don grandeur-allowing no room for man to boast before Him as did Nebuchadnezzar, Pharaoh, and Sennacherib.

    The above Kavenah is a traditional Kavenah to use when saying this Psalm.

    The first word is Adonai - HaShem Malach. Please refer to the introduction in Yearning for Redemption PDF file, starting at page 6, for more information.

    There are 5 verses in Psalm 93. The number 5 is a number that connects with the 5 Worlds. Also the gematria of the letter Hai which reprersents the Lord or Adonai.

  • Psalms 1 to 150 in Hebrew and English: When opened scroll to chapter 93
  • Psalms 1 to 150 in Hebrew and English from Rabbi Sutton's Translation and Commentary: When opened scroll to chapter 93
  • Tehillim Ninety Four

    This psalm speaks of the Messianic era, when God will don grandeur-allowing no room for man to boast before Him as did Nebuchadnezzar, Pharaoh, and Sennacherib.

    The above Kavenah is a traditional Kavenah to use when saying this Psalm.

    The first word is El Nikamot. Please refer to the introduction in Yearning for Redemption PDF file, starting at page 6, for more information.

    There are 23 verses in Psalm 94. The number 23 is a number that connects to Hebrew words that translate as "and live" - "the life" - "your coming" and many other words.

  • Psalms 1 to 150 in Hebrew and English: When opened scroll to chapter 94
  • Psalms 1 to 150 in Hebrew and English from Rabbi Sutton's Translation and Commentary: When opened scroll to chapter 94
  • Tehillim Ninety Five

    This psalm speaks of the future, when man will say to his fellow, "Come, let us sing and offer praise to God for the miracles He has performed for us!"

    The above Kavenah is a traditional Kavenah to use when saying this Psalm.

    This Psalm is sung as part of the Kabbalah Shabbat service each Friday Night.

    The first word is Lechu Nerannanah. Please refer to the introduction in Yearning for Redemption PDF file, starting at page 6, for more information.

    There are 11 verses in Psalm 95. The number 11 is a number that connects to the Ketoret - Incense. It also connects to all vessel energy in Creation from the 10 Sefirot plus the negative system.

  • Psalms 1 to 150 in Hebrew and English: When opened scroll to chapter 95
  • Psalms 1 to 150 in Hebrew and English from Rabbi Sutton's Translation and Commentary: When opened scroll to chapter 95
  • Tehillim Ninety Six

    The time will yet come when man will say to his fellow: "Come, let us sing to God!"

    The above Kavenah is a traditional Kavenah to use when saying this Psalm.

    This Psalm is sung as part of the Kabbalah Shabbat service each Friday Night.

    The first word is Shiru Ladonai. Please refer to the introduction in Yearning for Redemption PDF file, starting at page 6, for more information.

    There are 13 verses in Psalm 96. The number 13 is a number that connects to the the energy of Unity - Love - and caring. Hebrew words are Echad - Deakah - Ahavah.

    On the nineteenth day of each Hebrew month we say 101 verses. This connects to the energy of Chesed since it is the gematria of the Name Michael.

  • Psalms 1 to 150 in Hebrew and English: When opened scroll to chapter 96
  • Psalms 1 to 150 in Hebrew and English from Rabbi Sutton's Translation and Commentary: When opened scroll to chapter 96
  • Rebbe Nachman's Tikun HaK'Lali (Complete Remedy) is a set of 10 Psalms [Tehillim] which, when said daily, are of great benefit for all ailments and difficult situations in a person's life. Rebbe Nachman advised people to say these 10 Psalms daily: "I am very positive in everything I say. But I am most positive in regard to the great benefit of these ten Psalms." "These are the ten Psalms: 16, 32, 41, 42, 59, 77, 90, 105, 137, 150." "This is the General Remedy. There is a specific remedy for each sin, but this is the general remedy." "Go out and spread the teaching of the ten Psalms to all men." "It may seem like an easy thing to say ten Psalms. But it will actually be very difficult in practice." [Rebbe Nachman of Breslov] Other Psalms and when to say them: To find a mate (shidduch) - Psalm Nos. 32, 38, 70, 71, 72, 82, 121, 124 On the day of a wedding - Psalm 19 For healthy childbirth - Psalms 4, 5, 8, 20, 35, 57, 93, 108, 142 Upon the birth of a child - Psalms 20,139 On the day of a circumcision - Psalm 12 For recovery from illness - Psalms 6, 13, 20, 22, 23, 30, 32, 38, 41, 51, 86, 88, 91, 102, 103, 121, 130, 142, 143 For livelihood - Psalms 23, 34, 36, 62, 65, 67, 85, 104, 121, 136, 144, 145 For peace - Psalm 46 In times of crisis - Psalms 20, 121, 130 Antidote for rejoicing at an enemy's downfall - Psalm 7 For success - Psalm 112 For protection against an ayin hora - Psalm 59 For the Jewish People - Psalms 43, 79, 80, 83 For thanksgiving - Psalms 9, 21, 57, 95, 100, 116, 138 For Divine guidance - Psalm 139 For repentance - Psalms 51, 90 For help in troublesome times - Psalms 20, 38, 85, 86, 102, 130, 142 Prayer recited when traveling - Psalm 91 Psalm of thanksgiving for a miracle - Psalm 18 Psalm of thanksgiving upon being rescued - Psalm 124 In a house of mourning - Psalm 49 At a gravesite or on a Yahrzeit - Psalms 33, 16, 17, 72, 91, 104, 130 At the dedication of a monument - Psalm 1 For "supernatural" results: 121, 130 or 142 - all three Psalms have eight verses, eight represents "Above Nature" - the time of Moshiach. Psalms to say for Other People by Rabbi Yitzchak Ginsburgh Q: Are there certain chapters of Psalms to say when praying for someone? A: First of all, it is good to say the chapter of the person for whom you are praying, which is his age plus 1, as we learn from the Ba’al Shem Tov. For example, if a person is 23 years old, this means that he is already in his 24th year, so chapter 24 is his chapter for the year. This is the chapter that we should say when praying for him. In addition, various chapters are recommended for specific issues, and are written in some holy books and books of Psalms. Another way to pray for someone is to spell out the letters of his name according to chapter 119 in Psalms. In this chapter, there are eight verses for every letter of the alef-beit. The correct way to spell out the name is as follows: For every letter of the person’s name, we take the verse that begins with that letter in chapter 119, as per its place in the name. For example, if we want to pray for someone named Moshe David (משה דוד) we read the first verse of the letter mem in chapter 119, followed by the second verse of the letter shin, etc. When we get to the second name, in this case, David, we continue. The letter dalet is the fourth letter, so we would read the fourth verse of the letter dalet, the fifth verse of the letter vav, etc. If the full name has more than eight letters, we begin again from the first verse of the letter for the 9th letter of the name, etc. no 93 day 6 day added to psalm 81 no 94 day 4 no 82 day 3 no 48 or 42 day 2 no 24 day 1 Psalm 91: "Dwelling On High" Portrait_of_Rabbi_Rembrandt Psalm 91 discusses a single theme: God’s protection of the righteous. Their trust in God is like a shield, deflecting all types of dangers. The chapter, also known as shir shel pega'im (“the song of plagues”), describes the numerous perils in the world. Some are spiritual pitfalls, “snare-traps” to lure us, while others are physical afflictions. Some exist only in our imagination, “the terror of the night”; others are only too real, a “flight of arrows by day”. Some dangers are hidden and unexpected, a “pestilence prowling in the darkness.” And some are in plain sight, but we are helpless to avoid them - “a plague that ravages at midday.” Those who place their trust in God, however, are shielded from all of these perils. What is the source of this Divine providence and protection? The psalmist writes: “כִּי אַתָּה ה’ מַחְסִי; עֶלְיוֹן שַׂמְתָּ מְעוֹנֶךָ.” “For You, God, are my refuge. You placed your dwelling on high.” (Psalm 81:9) The logical flow in this verse, however, is unclear. If God’s dwelling is “on high” and far away, how does He protect us? Blessing for Misfortune A Hasidic story relates that a man, troubled by a difficult question, sought out the great Maggid of Mezeritch. How can one follow, he asked, the Talmudic counsel (Berachot 9:5) to “bless God for the bad that befalls us just as we bless Him for the good”? Is it possible to feel gratitude for our troubles and misery? The Maggid replied that he should go seek out his disciple, Reb Zusha of Hanipol, and pose the question to him. The man followed the Maggid’s advice and traveled to Rabbi Zusha. The tzaddik received him warmly and invited him into his home. As soon as the guest entered the house, it became obvious that the family was living in an extreme impoverished state. The furnishings were simple and bare, and there was little food to eat. In addition, the family members were beset with various afflictions and illnesses. Nevertheless, Rabbi Zusha appeared content and cheerful. The guest was astonished. The man posed his question. “I asked the Maggid how is it possible to bless God for the bad just as one blesses Him for the good, and the Maggid told me that only you can explain this to me.” Reb Zusha replied, “This is indeed a very difficult question. But why did our holy master send you to me? How would I know? He should have sent you to someone who has experienced suffering....” Beyond All Suffering Righteous individuals who are close to God - tzaddikim who cleave to the Source of light - place their lives, their very being, in the elevated realm of holy life. There, nothing can hurt them. They are beyond life’s pitfalls and troubles. They are beyond even the possibility of lack. This is how the verse should be read. The beginning of the verse quotes the motto of those who place their trust in God: “You, God, are my refuge.” The psalmist then speaks, not of God, but of these holy people. Speaking directly to the tzaddikim, he identifies the source of their spiritual fortitude and trust: “You have placed your dwelling on high.” By virtue of your recognition that God alone is your true refuge, you have “placed your dwelling on high.” All of your dwelling, all of your lives, all of your essence, is “on high.” You have raised yourselves above and beyond all types of suffering and misfortune; and they cannot harm you. (Adapted from Olat Re’iyah vol. II, p. 76.) See also: VaYeitzei: The Prayers of the Avot http://ravkooktorah.org/VAYETZ58.htm Illustration image: A Portrait of a Rabbi (Rembrandt, c. 1640-45) Psalm 91:11 - Daily Zohar 2937 Psalm 150 The final chapter of the Book of Psalms calls for a symphony of horns, drums, lyres and more. BY LEX ROFEBERG YOU MIGHT ALSO LIKE soul breathe Elohai Neshama: Breathing the Soul Alive PRAY happy woman in field How to Pray for Happiness PRAY My Jewish Learning is a not-for-profit and relies on your help DONATE Some people might immediately put down a book if it had 150 chapters. But that’s precisely how many are in the Book of Psalms and, for one reason or another, it has remained relevant to Jews — and adherents of many other faiths — for millennia. Far more than any other biblical book, the Book of Psalms (Tehillim in Hebrew) has been imported into the liturgical texts that make up traditional Jewish prayer. One psalm, included in its entirety in the daily morning service, is the final chapter, Psalm 150. Serving as a kind of grand finale to a jam-packed book of poetry and praise, its text is worth examining closely. Let’s begin by looking at its implicit thesis statement, made clear by the repetition of one word twelve times in only six verses. The word is hallelu and its centrality can’t be overstated. Hallelu shares a root with Hallel, the prayer recited on many holidays, and was imported into English in the form of Hallelujah. It means “praise,” but in the context of this psalm, it is an imperative, utilized as an instruction for all Israel. The text is more than requesting or encouraging, it is imploring the people of Israel: “Praise God!” This in and of itself is fairly unsurprising. As the culmination of a book about God’s incredible attributes, and as a centralized text in daily worship, we would expect the idea of praise to manifest. What’s interesting is the manner of praise that the text proposes. After 149 previous psalms, this final, peak text enjoins its readers to praise God through noisemaking. Some might argue that noisemaking is a crude way to put it. This prayer calls for holy instrumental music — a symphony of horns, drums, lyres and more, all mobilized toward the sanctification of God. Many people – Jewish and otherwise – will speak passionately about the ways in which they experience holiness through music. What we have here is a proof-text for how that modality of spirituality and meaning-making possesses an ancient precedent. More than that, we have another implicit teaching. Judaism can, and should be, loud. While silence can be an important component of life, that which is raucous need not be understood as inherently disrespectful. While the chorus of sheket b’vakasha (“quiet please!”) may be a hallmark of Jewish summer camps, Psalm 150 tells us that we can and should connect to one another (and God) through cacophonies of sound. The word psalm in English sounds a little bit like the word “solemn.” But this final psalm reminds us that prayer can and should transcend that which is stone-faced and serious. Prayer, in ancient times and today, can be joyous. It can be musical. And crucially, if Psalm 150 teaches us anything, it’s that prayer can loud and boisterous without being any less sacred. Lex Rofeberg serves as strategic initiatives coordinator for The Institute for the Next Jewish Future and as co-host of its Judaism Unbound podcast. He lives in Providence, Rhode Island, and is studying towards rabbinic ordination through ALEPH: Alliance for Jewish Renewal. Toldot Rav Kook Psalm 111 Psalm 111: The Divine in the Details Torah_study In chapter 111, the psalmist expresses his wonder at the magnificence of God’s works - both in the realm of nature and in the Torah. This appreciation for the details in God’s works was the focal point for a third-century debate between Rabbi Abahu and an unnamed heretic. The Heretic’s Challenge The Talmud (Berachot 10a) recounts that a heretic once questioned Rabbi Abahu about the order of chapters in the book of Psalms. Why, he asked, does the third chapter refer to the rebellion of Absalom, while chapter 57 speaks of David hiding from Saul - an event that occurred many years before Absalom’s rebellion? This was not an innocent query. The heretic believed that there is no real order to the chapters, and the arrangement is happenstance. While the overall prophetic message may be Divinely inspired, the details are arbitrary and lack significance. In other words, the heretic was throwing down the gauntlet and challenging the very heart of rabbinic tradition. He denied the validity of making deductions from details in the text of the Torah. In this way, he sought to undermine the entire process of applying hermeneutic rules to derive laws and moral teachings. Deriving Meaning from Juxtaposition Rabbi Abahu agreed that this question is indeed difficult for those who require a chronological order in the text. But for us, he retorted, this question poses no difficulty. We also look for contextual inferences. This is a method of textual interpretation called semuchim. In this particular case, Absalom’s rebellion is mentioned in chapter three of Psalms in order to connect it to the subject matter of the second chapter - the future rebellion of Gog and Magog. Rabbi Abahu closed his argument by noting that the concept of semuchim is already mentioned in the Torah, as it says, “Steadfast (semuchim) forever, they are made in truth and uprightness” (Psalms 111:8). Yet his proof-text appears artificial. The word semuchim in the verse refers to the steadfast and eternal nature of mitzvot, not to the method of textual exegesis called semuchim! Purpose in the Details of Creation When we examine the characteristics of living creatures, we find that each detail - the aerodynamics of a butterfly’s wing, the speed and stickiness of a chameleon’s tongue - displays wisdom and purpose, rather than chance and randomness. This is true for the entire gamut of life in the world, from the basic needs of an amoeba to the complex lives of humans. This perception is even more valid regarding that which humanity requires to develop, both morally and spiritually. These catalysts for growth are infinitely more significant than those aspects that satisfy our natural - i.e., physical and intellectual - needs. In short, any mechanism that furthers our ethical advance is a product of Divine wisdom. God provided us with these means so that we may realize our full potential. The primary vehicle for mankind’s spiritual growth is the Torah and the prophetic writings. These writings are a beacon of light, establishing the foundations of morality and justice for all peoples. It is far-fetched to suggest that such a critical instrument for humanity’s advance is merely a matter of chance, even with regard to its minor aspects and details. Design in the Details We may now better understand Rabbi Abahu’s proof from Psalm 111: “מַעֲשֵׂי יָדָיו אֱמֶת וּמִשְׁפָּט; נֶאֱמָנִים כָּל-פִּקּוּדָיו. סְמוּכִים לָעַד לְעוֹלָם; עֲשׂוּיִם בֶּאֱמֶת וְיָשָׁר.” (תהילים קי"א:ז-ח) “The works of His hands are truth and justice; all of His precepts are faithful. They are steadfast forever; they are fashioned in truth and uprightness.” (v. 7-8) The psalmist speaks of both nature and God’s precepts. He compares the “truth” - the design and purpose - that is evident in nature with the truth to be uncovered in the Torah. The detailed workings of creation reflect Divine order and purpose. “The works of His hands are truth and justice.” We should recognize that this same quality applies to the Torah - “all of His precepts are faithful” - since the Torah’s precepts promote the development of our moral and spiritual character. “They are steadfast (semuchim) forever.” The writings of the Torah rely securely (somchim) on the pillars of Divine wisdom that nurtures humanity’s advance and enlightenment. If Divine providence is discernible even in the smallest and most insignificant of creatures, then certainly we should expect it will be found in that which gives meaning and purpose to humanity, the crown of creation. Thus we may be confident in the validity of lessons derived from textual analysis, such as semichut of adjacent texts, as this order was intended for our spiritual benefit. The words of the Torah are “fashioned in truth.” (Adapted from Ein Eyah vol I, p. 49 on Berachot 10a)