Shiur #48: Spirituality (3): Knowledge of God

  • Rav Dr. Judah Goldberg
Dedicated in memory of Rabbanit Dr. Avigail Malka Rock z"l
 
 
In the previous shiur, we discussed how tzedaka u-mishpat are identified as derekh Hashem, both in Parashat Vayera and throughout Tanakh. Avraham first recognizes these values as Divine and thus their performance as a spiritual gesture that trumps even communion with God. The Prophets and Sages carry this message forward, repeatedly stressing that tzedaka u-mishpat is more desirable to God than the Temple worship.
 
In this shiur, we will relate to one final concept that frequently arises in Nevi’im regarding tzedaka u-mishpat: knowledge of God. While this concept, like “derekh Hashem,” can carry multiple different meanings, at least some uses describe the embrace and performance of tzedaka u-mishpat. Incredibly, knowledge of God is not exclusively the result of contemplation but can actually spring from a life of action. Moreover, these two modes of spirituality are complementary, together yielding a more holistic, authentic apprehension of the Divine.
 
 
The Prophets and the Knowledge of God
 
Yirmeyahu, in particular, speaks repeatedly of knowledge of God (or its absence) in the context of ethical behavior.
 
In a blistering rebuke, Yirmeyahu recounts the degree of distrust and deceit that has taken hold in society. Twice, he laments the people’s “ignorance” of God:
 
They drew their tongues as their bow [to shoot] lies, and not for truth did they rule in the land; for they go from one evil to another, and Me they did not know, so says God.
 
Each man, be wary of one’s fellow, and do not trust in any brother; for every brother is deceitful, and every fellow will spread gossip. Each man ridicules his fellow and will not speak truth. They have trained their tongues to speak lies; they toil in their distortions. You dwell surrounded by deceit, and out of deceit they have refused to know Me, so says God.[1] (9:2-5)
 
Several verses later, Yirmeyahu returns to the knowledge of God and its connection to ethical conduct:
 
Thus said God: Let not a scholar be praised for his wisdom, and let not the mighty one be praised for his might; let not one of means be praised for his wealth. But by this should one be praised — discern and know Me, that I am God, who performs chessed, mishpat u-tzedaka in the land, for these I desire, so says God. (9:22-23)[2]
 
Finally, in his rebuke of the kings of the House of David, Yirmeyahu is most explicit:
 
For your father ate and drank but performed mishpat u-tzdaka, and therefore all was good for him. He adjudicated the cases of the poor and destitute, and therefore [it was] good, for this is knowing Me, so says God. (22:15-16)
 
Radak notes the connection to 9:23, as does Rabbeinu Yona. About the earlier verse, Rabbeinu Yona asks:
 
How can a person discern to know God? It is impossible! Rather, by this can he know Him — through performance of justice and mishpat, for God performs these; and that is what it says, “He adjudicated the cases of the poor and destitute, and therefore [it was] good, for this is knowing Me, so says God.” (Commentary on Avot, 1:1)
 
In other contexts, when the meaning of “knowledge of God” is less obvious, the Sages or later commentaries interpret the phrase in light of Yirmeyahu. For instance, Yeshayahu, Chapter 11, anticipates the coming of the Messiah (verse 1), who will return justice to society and usher in an era of peace (verses 3-8). There will be no violence whatsoever “in all of God’s mountain, for the earth will be filled with knowledge of God, as the waters blanket the oceans” (verse 9).
 
On this final verse, the Sages comment:
 
Knowledge” — this is mishpat, for it says,[3] “Will you reign because you compete with cedars? For your father ate and drank but performed mishpat u-tzdaka, and therefore all was good for him. He adjudicated the cases of the poor and destitute, and therefore [it was] good, for this is knowing Me, so says God.” (Mekhilta De-Rabbi Shimon bar Yochai, Shemot 18:23)
 
Read this way, this anticipated wondrous day in which knowledge of God will be deep and ubiquitous does not refer to the flourishing of law or theology but to pervasive justice and harmony.[4] Furthermore, the connection is not merely semantic, but thematic: the Messiah will lead humanity back to knowledge of God by restoring the mishpat u-tzdaka of his ancestors from the House of David (also see Yirmeyahu 23:5).
 
The Tosafist R. Moshe of Coucy also harnesses Yirmeyahu, in order to explain King David’s charge to his son Shlomo:
 
And so did I explain to the sages of Spain the meaning of this verse: “Know the God of your father and worship him” (I Divrei Ha-yamim 28:9); that just as He is Chanun ve-Rachum, and “performs chessed, mishpat u-tzdaka in the land,” so should you do. And these are your two witnesses: with Yoshiyahu, about whom it says that he “ate and drank but performed mishpat u-tzdaka, and therefore all was good for him. He adjudicated the cases of the poor and destitute, and therefore [it was] good, for this is knowing Me, so says God”; and it also says, “Let not a scholar be praised for his wisdom, etc., but by this should one be praised — discern and know Me, that I am God, who performs chessed, mishpat and tzedaka in the land, for these I desire, so says God.” (Sefer Mitzvot Gadol, Positive Commandment #7)
 
In Divrei Ha-yamim, then, King David is obliquely commanding Shlomo to follow in his own path of tzedaka u-mishpat, couching them in terms of knowing God.[5]
 
Notably, R. Moshe of Coucy also includes the traits of being compassionate (rachum) and favoring (chanun) along with tzedaka u-mishpat within knowledge of God, thus creating a certain parallel to the “way of God.” Just as the ways of God combine the values discovered by Avraham with the attributes revealed to Moshe, so too does knowledge of God encompass all of these characteristics.
 
Supporting evidence for R. Moshe may be adduced from the following rabbinic interpretation of familiar verses from Hoshea (2:21-22):
 
Seven attributes serve before the Throne of Glory: wisdom (chokhma),[6] tzedek, mishpat, chessed, rachamim, truth (emet), and peace (shalom), as it says, “And I will betroth you forever; and I will betroth you with tzedek[7] and with mishpat and with chessed and with rachamim; and I will betroth you with loyalty, and you will know God.”[8]
 
R. Meir said: What does it mean, “And you will know God?” It teaches that anyone who possesses all these attributes knows God’s thinking. (Avot De-Rabbi Natan, A, 37)
 
As with the verses from Tehillim (103:6-8) that we cited in the conclusion to the previous shiur, Hoshea blends together the Divine attributes learned from our Avot with those learned from Sinai. Through all of them together, R. Meir explains, one penetrates the thinking of God.
 
Finally, the various verses we have cited may shed light on other verses in Hoshea. Hoshea laments that “there is no truth and no chessed and no knowledge of God on earth” (4:1); Radak explains, in one interpretation, that there is no knowledge “to perform mishpat u-tzdaka,” citing Yirmeyahu 22:15-16.
 
One day, the Jewish people will say, “Let us go and return to God… and we will conclude, let us run to know God)6:1-3); again, Radak explains “to perform mishpat u-tzdaka,” based on Yirmeyahu.
 
And when God declares a few verses later, “For I desire chessed and not sacrifice, and knowledge of God more than burnt offerings” (verse 6), Radak explains that “performance of chessed is primary, as well as knowledge of God, which is to perform mishpat u-tzdaka.”[9]
 
 
Knowledge-in-Wisdom vs. Knowledge-in-Action
 
Importantly, the knowledge of God that Yirmeyahu and other prophets describe does not seem to be rooted in cognition, but in action. To be sure, deep reflection upon Divine attributes also affords knowledge of God; thus, in reference to Moshe’s request, “Make known to me, please, Your ways” (Shemot 33:13), Rabbeinu Bechaye cites Yirmeyahu 9:23, explaining that “knowledge of God is knowledge of His attributes.”[10] Practically, the Sages recommend diversity in study material as a path towards character refinement:
 
Expositors of the Written Word say: If you want to get to know “He Who spoke, and the universe was,” study aggada, for through this you will get to know “He Who spoke, and the universe was” and cling to His ways (derakhav). (Sifrei, Devarim 11:22)[11]
 
Here, too, familiarity with God develops through study, albeit of a non-legal curriculum.
 
Still, I don’t think this is what Yirmeyahu intends when he speaks of an earlier Davidic king knowing God by performing mishpat u-tzdaka and defending the underprivileged. Performance of mishpat u-tzdaka there is juxtaposed with eating and drinking; it is part of the bustling, material life of a monarch, rather than the intellectual world of a sage. For the House of David, I think, knowledge of God stems mainly from concrete action, rather than from contemplation.
 
Following our schematic from the previous shiur, we might differentiate here between the mode of berit Avot and that of berit Sinai. Perhaps knowledge of God in berit Sinai, like knowledge of the law, is primarily cognitive and formal, while in berit Avot it is more intuitive and experiential.
 
At Sinai, Moshe teaches us to seek deep understanding of God’s attributes and then mold our own character and conduct after them. But Yirmeyahu, I think, calls for the opposite: to roll up our sleeves, to get engaged, and to perform tzedaka u-mishpat; and from that involvement will naturally emerge intimate perception of God’s essence and goodness. Parallel to Avraham’s insight that he will find God more through welcoming guests than through spiritual communion, knowledge of God in Yirmeyahu comes mainly from practicing truth and kindness in the marketplace and from maintaining an open and just royal court, rather than from hours of meditation in the study hall.
 
 
Eitan Ha-Ezrachi and “Haskala
 
So far, we have seen Yirmeyahu’s linkage of tzedaka u-mishpat to knowledge of God and commentaries’ interpretations of other verses in the Prophets through it. But, as with the way of God, can we trace this idea back to Avraham himself? Perhaps, if not in Torah She-bikhtav, then in Torah She-be’al Peh.
 
In yet another context, the Midrash interprets a passage through the prism of Yirmeyahu 9:23, relating to the parallel use not of the verb “to know” (y-d-a), but of the accompanying verb “to discern” (s-k-l):
 
“Wisdom (maskil) to Eitan Ha-Ezrachi: God’s chassadim I will forever sing”: This is what Scripture says, “But by this should one be praised — discern (haskeil) and know Me [, that I am God, who performs chessed, mishpat and tzedaka in the land] (Yirmeyahu 9:23).
 
Eitan said: “I have discerned!” — “Maskil to Eitan Ha-Ezrachi.”
 
The Holy One, blessed be He, said to him: “You have discerned (hiskalta)? ‘For these I desire’ (Yirmeyahu, ibid.)! Anyone who wishes to praise Me should only praise Me by these [traits].” And so it says, “For I desire chessed and not sacrifice” (Hoshea 6:6).
 
[Eitan] said to Him: “You desire chessed; then through chessed I will praise you!” As it says, “To you, God, is chessed” (Tehillim 62:13), and not just a single chessed, but a multitude of chassadim. And so did Yeshayahu say, “I will recount God’s chassadim” (63:7). (Midrash Tehillim 89:1)[12]
 
Given the similarity in language, the Midrash compares the opening of Tehillim 89 to Yirmeyahu. According to this reading, Eitan Ha-Ezrachi has a great epiphany about God: His deepest attribute, and thus His greatest source of praise, is chessed. So Eitan praises God’s chassadim, continuing that God, whose own throne rests upon “tzedek u-mishpat” (verse 15), will establish the throne of King David forever (verses 4-5).[13]
 
But who is this mysterious Eitan Ha-Ezrachi? Based on I Melakhim 5:11 and I Divrei Ha-Yamim 2:6, Rashi and Radak identify him as an early figure from the tribe of Yehuda.[14] However, they also cite a rabbinic tradition that identifies Eitan as Avraham Avinu:
 
Rav said: Eitan Ha-Ezrachi is Avraham; it says here, “Eitan Ha-Ezrachi,” and it says there, “Who awoke from the East (Mizrach) [he who would proclaim tzedek wherever he went]” (Yeshayahu 41:2).[15] (Bava Batra 15a)[16]
 
If we stitch these two rabbinic teachings together, then it is Avraham who is being identified as first discerning God! Avraham not only recognizes God as Creator and thus Master of the Universe, but also perceives His nature as one who “loves tzedaka u-mishpat” and fills the world with chessed (Tehillim 33:5).[17] Avraham passes this knowledge down to his progeny and disciples and, in Tehillim 89, anticipates a future monarchy for the Jewish people that will embody God’s “governing” principles.[18]
 
 
Knowledge of God and the Study of Torah
 
As we noted, the phrases “knowledge of God” and “way of God” in Tanakh are admittedly ambiguous, and they can alternatively refer to the Torah and its way of life, respectively.
 
For example, while the passage from Avot De-Rabbi Natan we cited earlier asserts, based on Hoshea, that one can “know God’s thinking” by embracing all of His attributes, a different passage identifies another route to “God’s thinking”:
 
“For I desire chessed and not sacrifice, knowledge of God more than burnt offerings” (Hoshea 6:6) …. The study of Torah is more beloved to God than burnt offerings, for if a person studies Torah, he knows God’s thinking, as it says, “Then you will understand the fear of God, and knowledge of God will you find” (Mishlei 2:5).
 
From here [we learn] that a scholar who sits and expounds in public is considered by Scripture as if he offered fat and blood on the altar. (Avot De-Rabbi Natan, A, 4)
 
Avot De-Rabbi Natan does not equate the two halves of Hoshea 6:6, as Radak does, but interprets them separately: chessed, on the one hand, and “knowledge of God” = Torah study, on the other, are two distinct endeavors that are each more spiritually rewarding than ritual sacrifice.[19] One who studies God’s revealed wisdom “knows God’s thinking,” just like one who shares His values.
 
In other words, berit Avot and berit Sinai present two different paths towards apprehending God:
 
  1. Careful, reflective contemplation of His will (as well as of His attributes);
  1. Direct, raw apprehension and absorption of His values.
 
The two are complementary. The berit Avot encounter with God is intense, experiential, and unfiltered, but it necessarily lacks depth. Like the jogging partner (or chessed buddy) of a great philosopher, one knows God intimately through direct engagement and active partnership but cannot necessarily articulate His doctrines. The berit Sinai encounter, by contrast, is cognitive, analytic, and comparatively cold, but at the same time sophisticated, illuminating, and intellectually enthralling. It is like reading the same philosopher’s great works or even hearing her voice, but not knowing what she looks like.
 
In our quest for God, we seek both dimensions. We don’t want to have to choose, metaphorically, between sitting in His classroom and venturing out to feed the poor by His side. They are different windows into the grand Divine essence, each view enhancing the other.[20]
 
Forced to choose though, we must recognize that the potential costs involved are not symmetric. For a Jew can live with partial knowledge of God that reveals His ways — His personality, so to speak — but not so much of His wisdom. As R. Ya’akov Tzvi Mecklenburg comments, after citing Yirmeyahu 22:15-16 and other verses:
 
It is apparent from here that one does not so much need analysis of the wonders of [God’s] singularity and His existence, as just observance of His ways, for one who knows them, is called knowledge of God. (Ha-ketav Ve-hakabbala, Bereishit 18:19)
 
Extensive Torah study neither is mandatory for all Jews, nor was it widely accessible for much of history. With just imitation of God’s attributes, one’s apprehension of the Divine may not be as refined or detailed as it could be, but the general outline is at least accurate.
 
The opposite, though, is not true. Knowing God through His Torah but not through tzedaka u-mishpat is not merely imperfect; it is a distortion:
 
Rav Huna said: One who engages only in Torah is like one who does not have a God, as it says, “For a long time the Jewish people have been without a true God” (II Divrei Ha-yamim 15:3). (Avoda Zara 17b)
 
About whom is Rav Huna speaking? We might imagine that he is addressing someone who studies but does not observe Jewish law.[21] However, the Gemara applies his statement to the righteous R. Chanina ben Teradyon, who criticizes himself that he only engaged in Torah study but not in chessed. The Gemara continues that R. Chanina ben Teradyon ran a charity fund and gave tzedaka himself; still, though “he indeed did do [chessed], he did not do as much as he should have.” Apparently, even a relative imbalance between Torah and chessed warps one’s perception so much that it leaves one “without a true God”!
 
Even more chilling is Yirmeyahu’s rebuke:
 
The guardians of the Torah did not know Me. (2:8)
 
At the very least, Yirmeyahu is telling us that it is possible to be an accomplished scholar of Torah and yet not know God! Moreover, if we interpret this verse in light of Yirmeyahu’s other statements about “knowledge of God,” we might conclude that the scholars of his time were erudite but morally lacking. They might have known the entire Jewish library by heart but still not have known the first thing about the God of Avraham.
 
 
Do’eg and David
 
Sadly, one can be knowledgeable and unvirtuous, a phenomenon that played a role in bringing down both of our Temples. Yirmeyahu’s rebuke of his generation’s scholars is echoed by R. Yochanan ben Torta’s familiar comment about the last days of the Second Temple:
 
We know of them that they toiled in Torah and were careful about tithes; why were they exiled? Because they were infatuated with money and despised one another. (Tosefta, Menachot 13:4 [Vilna ed.])[22]
 
Moreover, as Yirmeyahu hints, one can be knowledgeable and wholly ignorant at the same time. For Chazal, the epitome of this absurdity is Do’eg Ha-Adomi, who, according to tradition, is a leading Torah scholar (see Sanhedrin 106b and Midrash Tehillim 3:4) but betrays David to King Shaul and slaughters the priests of Nov (I Shmuel 22:9-19). So bitter is David about Do’eg’s conduct that he devotes an entire psalm (52) to the subject. The Midrash links David’s rhetorical question towards Do’eg – “Why do you, the mighty one (ha-gibbor), seek praise (tithalel) through evil?” (verse 2) — to verses from Yirmeyahu:
 
David said to Do’eg… “You are a Torah scholar, mighty and wealthy, and head of the Sanhedrin. Why did you do this?!”
 
“Let not a scholar be praised (yithalel) for his wisdom, and let not the mighty one (ha-gibbor) be praised (yithalel) for his might; let not one of means be praised (yithalel) for his wealth. But by this should one be praised (yithalel ha-mithalel) — haskeil and know Me [, that I am God, who performs chessed, mishpat u-tzedaka in the land, for these I desire, so says God].” (Midrash Tehillim 52:7)
 
“Do’eg’s Torah,” R. Ami says, “was from the lips outward” (Sanhedrin 106b); it did not penetrate any further. In the ritual realm, too, we find that he is outwardly pious: We first encounter Do’eg as he is lingering before God at the Tabernacle (I Shmuel 21:8). Little does he understand, though, that this God desires “chessed and not sacrifice.”
 
In light of the verses from Yirmeyahu, the Midrash then contrasts Do’eg with David himself:
 
And so does it say, “David would perform mishpat u-tzdaka for his whole nation” (II Shmuel 8:15); and it says, “David was maskil (successful) in all his ways, and God was with him” (I Shmuel 18:14).
 
The Midrash pits Do’eg opposite David. Both are recognized by Chazal as Torah scholars, even intellectual rivals (see Zevachim 54b). Do’eg, however, is cruel and thus knows nothing of God. David, on the other hand, through “mishpat u-tzdaka,” is indeed “maskil,” exactly as Yirmeyahu exhorts. Do’eg is erased from history, while David rises to the throne and, like Avraham,[23] passes on his profound “haskala” to his descendants: King Chizkiyahu, whom Yeshayahu says will perform mishpat u-tzdaka (9:6), is also “yaskil” (II Melakhim 18:7); and the Messiah, who will fill the earth with knowledge of God, will “hiskil and perform mishpat u-tzdaka in the land” (Yirmeyahu 23:5).[24]
 
 
Torat Chessed” (Mishlei 31:26)
 
Ethical behavior without Torah is like a foundation without upper floors, but Torah without ethical behavior is like a palace without any foundation.[25] Thus, the Rambam writes, “the true religion is upheld only through tzedaka” (Hilkhot Mattenot Aniyim 10:1).[26]
 
Furthermore, perhaps this is what Mishlei intends when, in the voice of wisdom (chokhma)/ Torah, it says:
 
On the path of tzedaka I will walk, within trails of mishpat. (8:20)[27]
 
On one level, Torah can only thrive when it is situated in the midst of tzedaka u-mishpat and on the shoulders of the Avot and their covenant. But more than that, perhaps Torah is declaring that this is where she is most comfortable: her true radiance will only shine when her elaborate, towering structures are encircled by winding paths; when her rigid laws are infused with a deep spirit; and when her program for halakhic living is coupled with a transcendent vision for ethics and godliness.
 
Indeed, how affirming and utterly enchanting is the fusion of Torah and moral excellence, of knowledge-in-wisdom and knowledge-in-action, to those who are privy to behold it. They can but say: “Praiseworthy is the nation for whom it is such; praiseworthy is the nation for whom Hashem is its God” (Tehillim 144:15).[28]
 
 
For Further Thought:
 
  1. Are there other figures in Tanakh who gain wisdom but lack concomitant ethical insight? Consider the following examples:
 
  1. According to the Sages, Bilam is granted prophecy that parallels that of Moshe (Bamidbar Rabba 20:1) and even surpasses it in some ways. Tanna De-vei Eliyahu Zuta (10), for instance, contrasts the language that appears by each:
 
Regarding Moshe, it says, “Make known to me, please, Your ways” (Shemot 33:13), but regarding Bilam, it says, “And who knows the thinking of the Most High (yode’a da’at Elyon)” (Bamidbar 24:16).
 
Still, the passage continues, Bilam’s extraordinary knowledge does not translate into virtue:
 
A good derekh was not found in him, and he never engaged in any tzedaka, but rather in gossip, and sought to destroy the entire world.
 
  1. My father-in-law and teacher R. Yaacov Lerner once noted that the generation that leaves Egypt, on the one hand, is called “all dei’a” (Vayikra Rabba 9:1), yet about them Tehillim says, “They did not know My ways (lo yadeu derakhai)” (95:10). Similarly, “in Egypt they did not discern (hiskilu) Your wonders” (106:7). Apparently, despite learning the entirety of Torah at Sinai, literally, something is lacking in their apprehension of God.
 
  1. Achitofel, King David’s adviser, is a brilliant strategist (II Shmuel 16:23) and, like Do’eg, a Torah scholar (see, for example, Midrash Tehillim 3:4). His behavior also falls short: when King David’s son Avshalom rebels against him, Achitofel joins Avshalom and even advises Avshalom to humiliate David by seizing the king’s concubines in public (II Shmuel 16:20-22). The Sages often lump Do’eg and Achitofel together, even though they never overlap (see, for instance, Sanhedrin 106b). Could it be that they suffer from a common character flaw? See also Chagiga 15b.
 
  1. Do’eg, Bilam, and Achitofel are three of the “four commoners” who have no share in the World to Come (Sanhedrin 90a). According to R. Akiva, the generation that leaves Egypt, too, has no share (Sanhedrin 110b). The fourth commoner is Geichazi, servant to Elisha the Prophet; what does he have in common with the rest? See Yerushalmi, Sanhedrin 10:2 and the Rambam’s Commentary on the Mishna, as well as Berakhot 17b.
 
  1. My teacher R. Menachem Leibtag observes that the verbs “y-d-a” and “s-k-l” also appear regarding the Tree of Knowledge in Gan Eden (Bereishit 3:5-7). Can the parallel language in Yirmeyahu 9:23 shed light on the Gan Eden narrative?
 
 
Questions or Comments?
 
Please email me directly with your feedback at [email protected]!
 

[1] Rabbeinu Yona links this verse to 22:16, which will be discussed below (Sha’arei Teshuva 4:5).
[2] On the translation of verse 23, see mori ve-rabbi Ha-Rav Aharon Lichtenstein, “Does Judaism Recognize an Ethic Independent of Halakhah?” Leaves of Faith: The World of Jewish Living, 37-38.
[3] The word “le-shalom” appears here in the text, but it seems out of place and is therefore removed by the R. David Tzvi Hoffman edition.
[4] Contrast, for instance, with the conclusion of the Rambam’s Mishneh Torah (Hilkhot Melakhim 12:4-5).
[5] As such, this verse parallels Tehillim 72 (see Shiur #39).
[6] The Vilna Gaon replaces this term with “emuna” (faith/ loyalty).
[7] Devarim Rabba 3:9 interprets “tzedek” here as tzedaka; see Shiur #41.
[8] The Vilna Gaon adds: “And it says, ‘chessed and emet met, tzedek and shalom kissed’ (Tehillim 85:11).”
[9] On knowledge of God as ethics, also see Yeshayahu 58:2 and Radak and Malbim; Yirmeyahu 31:33 and Radak (who links to 22:16; also see Radak on Hoshea 2:22); Tehillim 67:3 and Radak and Malbim; and Iyov 21:14 and Malbim.
[10] Also see R. Ovadya of Seforno, as well as the conclusion of the Rambam’s Moreh Nevukhim (3:54).
[11] Also see the Ramban’s gloss to the Rambam’s Sefer Ha-mitzvot, Positive Commandment #7.
[12] The Midrash continues, “Therefore, it says, ‘[about] chessed and mishpat I will sing’ (101:1)” (Midrash Tehillim 89:1). However, the Buber edition emends this.
[13] Amos Hakham notes that a parallel develops in this psalm between God’s throne (verse 15) and that of David (verses 5, 30, and 37); also see I Divrei Ha-yamim 29:23 (Da’at Mikra on verse 15). Also see Shir Ha-shirim Rabba 1:10.
[14] Also see Tehillim 88:1.
[15] Also see Yeshayahu 46:11 (according to Bereishit Rabba 15:4 and 54:1).
[16] Also see Vayikra Rabba 9:1, Bamidbar Rabba 19:3, Kohelet Rabba 7:1, and Midrash Mishlei 1:1. The listing of Avraham among the authors of Tehillim also appears in Midrash Tehillim itself (1:6).
[17] Also see Rashi on Yeshayahu 40:14.
[18] See Yad Rama on Bava Batra 14b (#189): “Even though it is written there, ‘I swore to My servant, David’ (89:4) and other subjects that did not exist in the days of Avraham, it is Avraham who is prophesying about the future.”
[19] For Avot De-Rabbi Natan’s commentary on the first half of the verse, see Shiur #46.
[20] Also see Tana De-vei Eliyahu Zuta 1, which highlights Biblical parallels between Torah and tzedaka.
[21] Compare, for instance, to Yevamot 109b.
[22] Regarding the Tabernacle at Shilo, see I Shmuel 2:12 and Radak, as well as the Tosefta, Yoma 9a-b, and Shabbat 55b.
[23] Regarding the verb s-k-l and the Avot, also see Sifrei (Finkelstein ed.) on Devarim 32:29; Midrash Tehillim on Tehillim 53:3; and Midrash Tanchuma, Vayera, 5. Also see Iyov 34:27.
[24] Malbim references Yeshayahu 52:13; also see Midrash Tanchuma, Toledot, 14. In the context of the kings of the House of David, also see I Melakhim 2:3, Yirmeyahu 10:21, and Tehillim 101:2.
[25] Thus, according to the Sages, Do’eg’s Torah is not “grounded”: He is able to list “300 clear rulings about a tower that flies through the air” and even more insoluble questions about it, but he cannot steer his analyses towards actual halakhic practice (Sanhedrin 106b). David, however, prides himself that “my hands are dirty with blood and sacs and placentas in order to permit a woman to her husband” (Berakhot 4a); coincidentally, “the halakha follows him in all areas” (Sanhedrin 93b; also see Eruvin 53a and Rashi).
[26] See R. Joseph B. Soloveitchik, “Tzedakah: Brotherhood and Fellowship,” in Halakhic Morality: Essays on Ethics and Masorah, 126-127.
[27] Also see Shemot Rabba 30:3.
[28] For a personal account of my own encounter with such greatness, see “Who Prop, Thou Ask’st, In These Bad Days, My Mind?” in A Life Steady and Whole: Recollections and Appreciations of Rabbi Aharon Lichtenstein, zt”l (New York: 2018), 163-174.