Introduction to Tehillim (Psalms) Part 4 of 4
An Exhaustive look at the Psalms from a Natsarim Perspective
This article brings to a close a comprehensive four part introduction to the Psalms. Thanks to a range of enlightening publications put out by Artscroll, a valuable and exhaustive English translation of Talmudic, Midrashic and Rabbinic commentary are now available to be studied by a wider audience of Israelites.
These sessions are based on the material contained in the Artscroll Tanach Series - Tehillim, which are a two-volume work that examines every verse of Psalms from a rabbinic perspective.
It is my hope that, with the concrete knowledge of the Brit Chadasha, a Nazarene Israelite may delve freely into these fascinating rabbinical insights, which more often than not bring Messiah into sharper focus, and finally make full sense of verses (even in the New Testament) that have eluded the sincere student for decades.
Please enjoy this last stop of priming the pump, before we enter into a chapter-by-chapter tour of the Psalms.
Hymns of the Nation
A little known fact among the Natsarim (at this time) is that ten righteous men of Israel sought to compose the book of Tehillim (Psalms). Abraham, Malki Zedek (Shem), Moshe, David, Solomon, Assaf, the three sons of Korach and Jedusun all attempted to compile songs of praise to YHWH. But, the Holy One, Blessed be He, said to them, “All of you are pleasing and devoted, praiseworthy and fit to sing a hymn before me. However, it is David who will compose Tehillim through all of you. Why? Because his voice is sweet! As it says, “The sweet singer of Israel” (2 Samuel 23:1)
This is why some chapters of Psalms are credited to Solomon, the sons of Korach, Moshe and Assaf. King David is still credited with their writing, because he compiled and edited them.
The seventy years of David’s life are the years of Adam who was fashioned by Elohim Himself. Therefore no man of flesh and blood, born of a mother can compare his songs with those of David who personifies the father of all men. David alone sings the songs of the entire creation (Mabit, Introdution to Perek Shira). Herein lays the final key to the unique connection between King David and Adam, which was introduced at the beginning of these introductive sessions to the Psalms.
Many have composed exquisite hymns to Elohim, but their verses are confined to their personal experience. Their songs are written in the singular, not plural. Even when recording miracles and events of national importance, their feelings are essentially private ones.
King David transcended these narrow limitations. His universal soul blended and merged with the spirits of all men – present, past and future. Every subtle nuance and variation of human emotions finds expression in Psalms. This talent was derived from David’s “beautiful eyes.”
David’s eyes were a mixture of all colours. There was no eye in the world whose vision was as good as David’s eye. All of the colours in the world sparkled in David’s eyes (Zohar, Balak).
King David observed life from a universal vantage point; never was his scope constrictive. In every event he was able to detect the broad spectrum of colours which emerged. In his personal misfortunes he saw reflection of the tragedies plaguing the nation down through the pages of history. In his victories David caught a glimpse of the ultimate triumph and redemption of his people.
King David had the ability to sing of past present and future in the same word. A double strand of meaning runs through the fabric of the Psalms. Things written in the singular were actually motivated by national concern and things written in the plural were motivated by personal experiences.
A Voice for All Mankind
King David’s need to make a special request that Psalms be considered like the tractates of purity is interesting and still needs further discussion. Why did King David not resort to encouraging the study of the tractates of purity themselves? The answer is that King David had no doubt that the Psalms would have a purify affect on himself. He was after all breathed on by the Holy Spirit; new vistas opened up before him with every word he uttered. His concern was for the nation, for the people of all generations who would turn to the Psalms for enlightenment and inspiration.
David’s wish was that every man should find in it some plural to his own circumstances and a vehicle for his particular need. The tears that roll down the cheek of every person sprang from the heart of the king and sprang forth anew in the form of chants and consolation. The two gifts that Adam bestowed upon King David, “sovereignty” and “song” are in actuality one gift.
A Monument for Adam
“No one may sit in the Temple courtyard, [not even the ministering angels – they too must stand in honour of the Almighty] except for the kings of the House of David. [Elohim Himself accorded them this honour to demonstrate that their sovereignty is complete and total (Rashi) - Sotah 40b]
Nowhere, in all of the Scriptures or the Talmud, do we find an obligation incumbent upon the king to build himself a palace for the sake of his honour. Where then is the seat of Davidic royalty? The Temple! It was in this sacred palace that the songs of sovereignty were meant to be sung. And in the Temple, the songs of only one human being were ever performed – the sweet singer of Israel (2 Samuel 23:1)
Throughout the Books of Samuel and Psalms we find again and again that David’s lifelong aspiration was to build a Beit Hamikdash (Temple). In truth, not only was this magnificent building destined to be his spiritual palace, but even the location of the Temple had a very special bond with David’s soul.
The place where David and Solomon built the altar in the field of Aravna was the same place where Abraham built his altar and bound Isaac on it as a sacrifice. It was there that Noah built his altar when he left the Ark, there that Cain and Abel offered their sacrifices. And it was there that Adam offered a sacrifice when he was created because it was from that very place where he was made. The Sages say that Adam was created from the place where he was destined to find atonement (Hilcohos Beis HaBechirah 2:2).
Psalms presents David’s efforts to raise Israel back to the level of Adam before sin. The Temple Mount, the birth place of Adam, is a shrine dedicated to man in all his primeval glory. Therefore the Temple is the destination to all who seek the Path of the Upright.
Of Adam, King Solomon once said, “Elohim made Adam upright” (Ecclesiastes 7:29)
Adam followed one consistent path of behaviour. It wasn’t till he sinned that he is describes as “seeking out many calculations.” For when man is no longer satisfied with his lot he moves outside his domain and seeks many inconsistent, conflicting calculations and desires.
In seeking to construct the Temple, King David had an opportunity to rectify a long ingrained flaw in all men, the lustful desire to attain acquisition. David said of himself many times, “As for me, I am poor and needy.” (Psalms 40:18, 70:6, 86:1 and 109:22)
Satisfaction and Selflessness
When King David completed the Book of Psalms he was uplifted with satisfaction [that he had succeeded in accomplishing his purpose on earth]. He said to the Holy One, Blessed be He, “Does there exist any creature which you created anywhere in the entire universe that has songs and praises which surpass mine?” At that moment a frog passed and said, “David, do not be uplifted with pride, for I sing songs and praises which surpass yours! Not only that, but I also perform a mitzvah. On the seashore there is a creature which draws sustenance from the sea. When the creature is hungry it takes me and eats me. That is my mitzvah (Introduction to Perek Shira).”
The song of the frog is “Blessed be the name of the glory of His Kingdom forever and ever.” A tradition says that when Moshe ascended to heaven he heard the angels singing the same words. Thus the most faithful service one can render is to live out his life as YHWH intended as apposed to attaining exceeding greatness in the service of Elohim.
The function of all creatures, whether great or small, is to recognize and sing praises to YHWH.
Beyond the Psalms
The Midrash derives from “This month [literally ‘New Moon.’] shall be for you” (Exodus 12:20) that the royalty of Israel will resemble the cycle of the moon. It will endure thirty generations just as the month has thirty days. The light of Jewish royalty began to rise in the time of the Patriarch Abraham whom the Canaanites called a g-dly prince (Genesis 23:5)
David (whose name has the numerical Hebrew value of 14) was fourteen generations from Abraham and resembled the nearly full moon, Solomon, was the fifteenth generation; in his days the royal house of David reached its zenith like the full moon. The house of David began to decline like the waning moon until its eclipse with King Tzidkiyahu of Judah who was thirty generations from Abraham. In his time the royalty of David disappeared into the darkness of exile, like the vanishing moon.
Therefore, every new month, when we sanctify the new moon, we proclaim, “David, king of Israel lives on and endures!” (Rabbeinu Bachya, Genesis 38:30). Similarly, the congregation of Israel is destined to join once again with her mate, the Holy One, Blessed be He, just like the moon which will renew its status as equal to the sun, as it says,“For YHWH is a sun and a shield” (Psalms 84:12).
The three Hebrew letters of Adam’s name represents the initials of the three men, Adam, David and Messiah. What Adam began, David continued, and Messiah will complete. The Messiah was a universal man that embodied the best traits of humanity. Each saint possesses a single trait which singles him out from all others. But Messiah Yahshua was blessed with the finest collective qualities of them all.
Adam’s universal melody will be struck up again – never to be interrupted. Man will discover that the Psalms we sing today are the rehearsal for the perfect symphony of tomorrow. Messiah Yahshua will echo the timeless words of Tehillim and proceed further and far beyond.
Join with me now as we enter into the Psalms. A whole new world of perspective and insight awaits….