Parshas Ki Teitzei (5775)
It is a long-standing minhag (tradition) for Jews all around the world to recite Psalm 27 at the conclusion of the Shacharis (Morning) services throughout the Hebrew month of Elul (which we are in presently) and during the Ten Days of Repentance from Rosh Hashanah to Yom Kippur. Many continue to recite it throughout the Festival of Sukkos.
The Book of Psalms (Hebrew Tehillim, lit.“Praises”) from which this Psalm is taken, is the first book of the third section of the Bible, the Kesuvim or Sacred Writings, and comprises 150 psalms.
In the famous Talmudic passage on the authorship of the biblical books (see Bava Basra 14b), we are taught that King David composed the Book of Tehillim but that he also included in his book psalms written by great tzaddikim (righteous people) who preceded him.
Many of the psalms are obviously liturgical compositions. The Levites in the Holy Temple in Jerusalem] sang a psalm for each day of the week and on the Sabbaths and festivals, accompanying the song with instrumental music.
In fact, many of the daily prayers that were instituted by the Anshei Knesses HaGedolah (Men of the Great Assembly) over 2000 years ago were taken from King David’s psalms. It is no wonder that King David is described as ‘the pleasing composer of the songs of Israel’ (see Samuel II 23:1).
For centuries and millennia, Jews have turned to the Book of Psalms for solace, guidance, faith, renewal, and much more. The 150 psalms that King David wrote reflect a wide range of experience and expression: anger and acceptance, complaint and comfort, despair and delight, fatigue and faith, and so on.
David went through so much in the seventy years of his life – and expressed his innermost feelings to G-d and to all of us in the psalms that he composed. So that a Jew can find a psalm in Tehillim to recite and to cry over for every conceivable challenge, test, illness, loss, etc. that he experiences in life.
Indeed, holy Yiddishe Mommas throughout the ages have been crying over their tear-stained Tehillims so that they should merit to have good Yiddishe kinderlach (children).
The Chafetz Chaim's daughter once related the following story concerning her grandmother. She said, "My grandmother was not a miracle worker. I do remember that at the end of her life, after her son, my father, had become renowned throughout the Torah world as the saintly Chafetz Chaim, a number of close friends approached her with the obvious question: How did you merit to have a son that illuminated the eyes of the world? What was your recipe for success? She replied that she could not remember anything that she had done that would have catalyzed such success. After they pestered her some more, she added that there was one small thing that came to mind. Prior to her wedding, her mother had asked to speak to her. These were her words: “My daughter, listen to what I have to say. We are commanded to raise our children to study Torah and have Yiras Shomayim, fear of Heaven. Therefore, I ask of you that every free moment that you have, take your Siddur [Prayer Book] in hand and pray to G-d that you merit to raise your children to be G-d-fearing and observant Jews who will devote themselves to Torah study. Do not forget to shed tears when you pray.” She gave her daughter a Siddur in which Sefer Tehillim was included. The Chafetz Chaim's mother continued, "That is all I did. Whenever I had a free moment, I would take out the Siddur and recite Tehillim, crying out my heart to G-d that my Yisrael'ke would develop into a Talmid Chacham (Torah scholar) and a Yarei Shomayim.” [Quoted from www.puretorah.com/resources ]
I would like to share with you one verse from Psalm 27 that really resonated with me as it reflects on the nature of the relationship that King David had with G-d and that all of us are meant to emulate.
King David writes: “…Your Presence, G-d, I do seek. Conceal not Your Presence from me, repel not your servant in anger” (Psalms 27:8-9).
The Malbim (1809-1879) in his commentary to Psalms explains this verse as follows: King David is saying to G-d, “I seek Your Presence and I want to have a real relationship with You. So please don’t conceal Your Presence from me. If I need a little push, a reminder, a wake-up call, whatever You think I need to get me back on track and focused on my relationship with You – please go ahead and do it. Please don’t ever give up on me. I always want to be close to You and I need You to help me be the best I can be – even if sometimes that means that You need to punish me or otherwise make my life challenging so as to help me improve in the way that I need to improve.”
Then King David continues: “Please don’t repel Your servant in anger. Please don’t put an obstacle in our relationship by becoming so angry at me – and making my test so unbearable – that the punishment will break my faith and take away my desire to have a relationship with such a wrathful G-d”.
We should all merit to have such an open and honest relationship with our Father in Heaven just like King David, the pleasant composer of the songs of Israel.