Psalms, Chapter 1:1-6
“The praises of man are that he walked not in the counsel of the wicked, And stood not in the path of the sinful, and sat not in the session of scorners.”
The Prophet Moshe wrote the entire Torah, however the closing chapter was more than likely closed off by his chief student Joshua ben Nunn. How do we know this? Because at the commencement of the final chapter the narrative abruptly shifts into the third person, describing Moshe’s supernatural viewing of the Land and finally his passing. Also interesting to note is a custom regarding the writing of Torah scrolls that has been around since the time of Moshe. When scrolls are written by scribes they remain incomplete at the time of their presentation to a synagogue. This is so the synagogue’s elders and those holding office can finish the scroll as an object lesson to symbolise their absorption into the very letters of the Torah.
Therefore, Moshe concludes the Torah with these expressions in the second last chapter: "Praiseworthy are you, O Israel; Who is like you, a people saved by YHWH, Who is the shield of your help And the sword of your majesty! So your enemies will cringe before you, And you will tread upon their high places." (Deuteronomy 33:29)
King David takes up the baton from Moshe by commencing Tehillim with, “The praises of man…”
meaning that man need not search far for his fortune, because he was created as a model of perfection, having the basic components of excellence fixed within him. This is the meaning of the term “Elohim made man straight” (Ecclesiastes 7:29)
supported from Psalms 19:9; “The orders of YHWH are upright…”
YHWH never lets any creation leave His factory floor with a broken part. Adam and Hava’s actions at the fall merely increased man’s propensity to sin - meaning that sin enters a man from his youth, rather than at the moment of conception Genesis 8:21; “…the imagination of man‘s heart is evil from his youth.”
If the common view of biologically inherited sin were true, then biologically inherited purity would also be true.
King David lists the acts of a righteous man that make him worthy of praise.
“The praises of man...”
or more commonly translated, “Praiseworthy is the man…”
implies that YHWH created man to enjoy great fortune in this world and the World to Come (Olam Ha-Ba).
The use of “praises”
in the plural denotes constant and consistent acts as being a characteristic of a righteous man. Chapters 1 and 2 of Psalms are viewed by the Sages as one complete chapter, because the opening and closing exclamatory statement is the same. Verse 1 of chapter 1 reads, “The praises of man…”
and verse 12 of chapter 2 is…“Praises for those who trust in Him.”
The duty of an Elohim fearing man is to protect his inherent goodness from external forces which seek to corrupt him. This is known as “watchfulness,” derived from our identifying Hebrew name, “Natsarim,” which means “Offshoot Branch Watchmen.”
King David is literally commencing Tehillim by saying ‘happy is the vigilant watchman who eradicates evil.’
This is the formula for good fortune. A task that is accomplished through ‘zeal,’ which is described in the next verse: “…his desire is in the Torah of YHWH, and in his Torah he meditates day and night.”(Psalms 1:2)
A man who is praiseworthy has a fiery passion and enthusiasm. This state will assure that such a man will flourish forever.
Observing Torah with a lazy dullness of heart will incur rejection from the Almighty. Revelations 3:16; “Since you are lukewarm and neither hot nor cold, I am going to spit you out of my mouth.”
There are parallels in the natural for this teaching. Physicians used lukewarm water to cause vomiting and while cold and hot drinks were common at feasts and festivals, they were never lukewarm. So too, one of lukewarm observance will have no place in the final feast. Even HaSatan, signifying one who is cold, is even granted permission to stand in the Throne Room of YHWH to bring accusations. Job 1:6; “Now there was a day when the sons of Elohim came to present themselves before YHWH, and HaSatan also came among them.”
“The fortunate man who sings (YHWH’s) praises is totally immersed in the ecstasy of (Elohim’s) closeness. Nothing can dampen his buoyant spirits. His joy is consistent, continuing undiminished from beginning to end.” - Artscroll TaNaK Series (Tehillim)
Only the righteous, a man who is in a constant state of honestly trying to perfect himself into YHWH’s perfect will, “…stride forward toward meaningful development.” (Artscroll TaNaK Series [Tehillim])
The wicked stride further away from meaning as they walk unsatisfied, constantly moving in an endless search for gratification. Isaiah 57:20; “But the wicked are like the troubled sea, when it cannot rest, whose waters cast up mire and dirt.”
The next part of verse 1 goes on to say, “…he (the praiseworthy man) walked not in the counsel of the wicked…”
Reference to a “counsel”
is used because the wicked enjoy persuading and gathering many others evildoers in the hopes that a large mass will justify their schemes. This verse warns against seeking the counsel of the wicked because it is impossible for them to offer advice without also injecting venom. The Sages teach that even staring into the face of the wicked can cause spiritual detriment.
Notice “the wicked”
and “the sinful”
are segregated in the opening verse. There is a difference between a wicked person and one who sins. A wicked person makes an occupation out of disregarding Torah. Whereas, one who commits a sin (whether intentionally or otherwise) is considered as having missed the mark. Nevertheless, ‘one who misses the mark’ is just as condemned. Therefore repentance must be at the forefront of every believer’s daily observance. A Torah observant person who commits an occasional sin should not be called, ‘a sinner,’ because this term also denotes a vocation. On the contrary a Torah observant person who sins, but also repents sincerely is called “righteous.”
The scorner is the antithesis of the humble man. While a humble man will never go out of his way to dishonour his neighbour, the scorner will not only go out of his way to shame him but also clothe his repulsive words into finely polished phrases. Although the scorner commits no crime with his body, he commits terrible crimes with his tongue. Idle talk always serves as the prelude to scorning.
According to a Midrash, when Adam lamented over his sin he said, ‘How praiseworthy I would have been had I not stood on the path of the evil serpent! How praiseworthy I would have been had I not sat in the place where he came to scorn [the command and warning of Elohim]!”
“His desire is in the Torah of YHWH, and in His Torah he meditates day and night.”
The basic principle of Torah study is derived from this verse. 2 Timothy 2:15; “Study to show yourself approved to Elohim, a workman that needs not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the Word of Truth.”
There should exist a preoccupied yearning for YHWH’s view on a matter within the heart of an Israelite. There should be no inclination to develop and follow a cunningly devised opinion, but to have a continuous longing to find the Torah’s perspective on a matter. “Meditates” refers to deep, personal thoughts that weigh heavily on the mind.
A good study program consists of a superficial reading of the Torah to whet the appetite. This will instil a desire to investigate the text further. The student then goes back “…and painstakingly analyses each topic with deep deliberation.” (Artscroll TaNaK Series [Tehillim])
Joshua 1:8; “And you shall meditate therein day and night.”
The obligation to study Torah is renewed everyday. One should fix a time for Torah study each day, rather than squeeze study in when there is time between worldly pursuits.
“He shall be like a tree replanted.”
A man who studies Torah, by reading, note taking and reviewing constantly will be rewarded in the same way that a tree planted near a river receives abundantly flowing water. Such a man will always be satisfied, whether he has much or has little. Philippians 4:11-13; “…for I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. I can do everything through Him who gives me strength."
A wicked person is enchanted by the charms of the world and is therefore considered planted permanently in the earth. Not so the righteous man who is considered “replanted,”
because he has uprooted his desire for worldly gain and planted his soul in the higher spiritual realm, constantly seeking sustenance from there.
signifies self-replenishing water. The Torah is frequently paralleled to an endless stream of life giving water throughout Scripture. John 4:14; “…whoever drinks the water I give him will never thirst. Indeed, the water I give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life.”
“…yields its fruit in due season…”
A Torah scholar is likened to a tree because upon achieving maturity and perfection, the fruits of his studies can be given to other students.
…and whose leaf never withers.”
Even the leaf of a tree that is soon discarded is precious, because its purpose is to protect the fruit of the tree on which it hangs. So too, do the words of a Torah scholar that leave his mouth protect the very Torah they speak of and in the process elevate those who hear them.
“And everything he does will succeed.”
A man who occupies himself with Torah is prosperous in all of his undertakings, even if his undertakings appear to fail in the eyes of the world. What may appear to be a setback can later turn into a man’s greatest fortune.
“Not so the wicked: They are like chaff which the wind drives away.”
“Unlike the righteous who produce beneficial fruit, the wicked are like chaff, which only irritates and damages.” (Artscroll TaNaK Series [Tehillim])
A stalk of grain has three main parts: The kernel, which contains nutrition, the straw, which makes good animal fodder and the chaff, which has no value whatsoever. Chaff has no value, because every drop of nutrition is squeezed out of it. Such is the lot of the wicked who live an existence drained of meaning. Jeremiah 13:10; “This wicked people, who refuse to listen to My words, who walk in the stubbornness of their hearts and have gone after other Elohim to serve them and to bow down to them, let them be just like this waistband which is totally worthless.”
“Therefore the wicked shall not be vindicated in judgment.”
The wicked will not be able to stand up or survive YHWH’s final judgment. The measure of their punishment is constantly filling up.
“For YHWH recognizes the way of the righteous, while the way of the wicked is doomed.” YHWH constantly supervises the way of the righteous, assuring them of the finest reward. A righteous man has a mind that is constantly bound to the intellect and will of Elohim.
The wicked are literally pushed out of view. Proverbs 15:9; “The way of the wicked is an abomination to YHWH, But He loves one who pursues righteousness.”
The conclusion to this chapter reinforces the opening words that glory and praise come by avoiding temptations and distractions. 1 Timothy 6:11; “But flee from these things, you man of Elohim, and pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, perseverance and gentleness.”