Shiur #49: "You Have MadeThem All In Wisdom" Psalm 104 According To Meir Weiss (Part III)

  • Rav Elchanan Samet

SEFER TEHILLIM

by Rav Elchanan Samet

 

 

Lecture 48: "You have made them all in wisdom"

Psalm 104 according to Meir Weiss (Part III)

 

 

III. THE FIRST HALF (SECTIONS 1-4) (Continuation)

 

4. SECTION IV (VV. 13-18) - THE RAIN

 

(13)   He waters the mountains from His upper chambers.

          The earth is satisfied with the fruit of Your works.

(14)   He causes the grass to grow for the cattle,

          and plants for the service of man,

          and He brings forth food from the earth.

(15)   And wine gladdens the heart of man,

          to brighten his face with oil,

          and bread sustains the heart of man.

(16)   The trees of the Lord are satisfied,

          the cedars of Lebanon that He planted.

(17)   Where the birds make their nests.

          As for the stork, the cypress trees are her house.

(18)   The high hills are for the wild goats,

          the rocks are a refuge for the badgers.

 

            The topic of the fourth section is the rain, even though that word is never explicitly mentioned.[1] An allusion to the rain is found at the beginning of the section, in verse 13:

 

He waters the mountains from His upper chambers.

The earth is satisfied with the fruit of Your works.

 

Once again in verse 16, we find an allusion to the role of rain: "The trees of the Lord are satisfied." The satisfaction of the trees is like that of the earth – the earth is satisfied from the fruit of God's works, that is, from the rain.

 

            In truth, however, the rain is the subject of the entire fourth section, as will be clarified below.

 

            In the previous sections we discussed the differentiation and subsequent meeting between the land and the water. Causing the rain to fall is another and even more important way that God brings land and water together, and the objective of this controlled meeting is also to allow for the maintenance of life on earth.

 

            What is the source of the rain? The answer to this question is found at the beginning of the section:

 

          He waters the mountains from His upper chambers.

 

We already encountered God's upper chambers in the first section of our psalm:

 

Who roofs His chambers with water (v. 3)

 

            The source of the rain is, then, "the water which was above the firmament" – the water that serves as a roof to God's upper chambers in heaven.[2]

 

            What is the difference between the two ways through which God restores the water to the land – creating springs and causing the rain to fall from His upper chambers? Weiss answers in his article as follows (p. 232):

 

God is not only He who "sends the springs into the streams" after having set a boundary for the water. He who "roofs His chambers with water" also "waters the mountains from His upper chambers" (v.13). There is watering from “His upper chambers” – from above; and there is watering from "the springs" – from below. The two are not the same, neither with respect to the doer, nor with respect to the deed. The watering "from His upper chambers" is performed by God ("He waters"), just as according to our psalm in general, He is the doer in all the acts of nature. The watering from "the springs," on the other hand, is performed by the water ("they water"). This teaches you that not only does the water not cause destruction ("that they would not return to cover the earth"), but rather it gives life ("they water every beast of the field").

The two waterings also differ with respect to the deed. The watering of "the springs" provides the animals with direct benefit ("the wild asses quench their thirst"). The watering "from His upper chambers" benefits the animals only indirectly. In direct fashion, "the earth is satisfied" (v. 13) and "the trees of the Lord are satisfied" (v. 16) from it. The water which was above the firmament is first received by the mountains, which are near to it. The earth is "satisfied" because the rain water that watered the mountains also reaches it, and afterwards "the trees of the Lord are satisfied" as well (v. 16).

 

            We can add a third difference between the two waterings: The watering of the springs is limited to those channels of life through which the spring waters stream; it does not touch upon man's world or his agricultural culture, but only to the wild and natural maintenance of the animal and plant kingdoms.[3] The watering of the rains from God's upper chambers spreads across the entire earth, and impacts first and foremost upon man – his agriculture and his cattle (vv. 13-14) - but also upon the plants and animals that are not part of man's cultural world (vv. 16-18). Let us now discuss these two realms of impact of the rain.

 

1.     THE RAIN WITH RESPECT TO MAN AND HIS CATTLE (VV. 13-14)

 

Weiss writes as follows:

 

The earth's satisfaction leads to the vegetation (v. 14), although not directly… It is God who causes the grass and plants to grow ("He causes the grass (chatzir) to grow… and plants (esev)"). "Chatzir" refers to vegetation, which, in its natural form, serves as animal feed – it use is unmediated; whereas God causes “esev” to grow "for the service of man." "Esev" refers to vegetation resulting from man's working the land, such as grain, from which bread is made (compare: "And no plant ['esev'] of the field was yet in the earth…. For there was not a man to till the ground" [Bereishit 2:5]). This is the source of the parallelism between "and plants ('esev') for the service of man" and "He brings forth food ('lechem') from the earth."

As for the clause "He brings forth food from the earth," the commentators disagree whether it is subordinate to the clause "He causes to grow… and plants for the service of man" – In other words, is God the subject of "He brings forth" (an understanding that is reflected in the ha-motzi blessing) or is the clause subordinate to the clause "for the service of man" - i.e., is man the subject? This question cannot be decided based on the verse's grammar. The words "He brings forth food from the earth" can be understood as “God causes the plants to grow for the service of man, so that man will bring forth food from the earth” or it can be understood as “God causes the plants to grow for the service of man, so that God will bring forth food from the earth.” In any event, according to our verse, even if it is God who brings forth food from the earth, He only does this after man works the land. Expression is hereby given (as in verse 23 below) to the psalmist's understanding of man's place in the animate world. God causes plants to grow for both animals and man, but for animals He causes them to grow for food, whereas for man He causes them to grow for work. Food is only given to man in exchange for work.

 

            Verse 15 is not simple from a grammatical perspective, and consequently its substantive meaning is also not simple:

 

And wine gladdens the heart of man,

to brighten[4] his face with oil,

and bread sustains the heart of man.

 

            Weiss devotes three pages of his article to clarify the meaning of this verse, and he proposes several possibilities regarding its grammatical analysis and meaning. In the end, he chooses one understanding that he finds most persuasive. The explanation that we shall bring here is not the explanation that Weiss adopts, but rather one that he rejects.[5]

 

            Let us open our discussion with a question. Why does the word "lechem" repeat itself in two consecutive verses: "And He brings forth food ('lechem') from the earth" (v. 14); and "and bread ('lechem') sustains the heart of man"?

 

            In G. Tzarfati's book, Simantika Ivrit,[6] the author discusses the narrowing of the meaning of certain words over the course of the development of the Hebrew language. Regarding the word "lechem," he writes as follows:

 

Its original connotation, "food" (e.g., Bereishit 31:54),[7]

was narrowed down in Hebrew to "bread" and in Arabic (lachem) to "meat." Regarding this, Frankel commented:[8] The primary meaning of this root in all Semitic languages is the main food. The southern Semites (the Arabs), especially the herdsmen, whose main food was meat, used the word “lechem” for this food, whereas the northern Semites, whose main food was wheat and the like, used the word “lechem” for this food.

 

            In Scripture, the word "lechem" is usually used in the sense of "bread," but the other two usages are also found: "lechem" in the sense of "meat" (as in Arabic) appears in Bereishit 31:54 (see note 15); Shemot 16:3 (?); Shemot 18:12 (Ibn Ezra; peace-offerings); and Malachi 1:7. In many places with respect to sacrifices, we find the expression "lechem isheh la-Shem" (Vayikra 3:11 and many other verses in Vayikra and other books in Scripture).

 

            In many verses in Scripture, the word "lechem" is used in the sense of "food" in general.[9] It stands to reason, then, that the word "lechem" in verse 14 – "He brings forth lechem from the earth" - is used in the sense of "food" in general, or to be more precise, the food which man brings forth "from the earth" by working the "plants" that God causes to grow for him.

 

            What are the primary foods of the typical Israelite in Scripture? Grain, grapes, and olives are mentioned together several times in Scripture. These primary foods are mentioned in verse 15: "And wine… with oil… and bread…." It stands to reason, then, that verse 15 spells out in detail what was stated in general terms in verse 14, "and He brings forth lechem ('food') from the earth." The change in verse 15 from the usual order, according to which grain should appear first, and its location here at the end, comes to distance this “lechem as far as possible from the “lechem” at the end of verse 14. This distancing alludes to the fact that we are dealing with two different senses in which the word "lechem" is used.

 

            Let us present the generalization and the details with a few added words of interpretation in a way that will clarify the meaning of the verses:

 

He causes the grass to grow for the cattle,

and plants for the service of man,

(in order to) bring forth lechem (food) from the earth.

(15) And wine [= this lechem includes wine], [which] gladdens the heart of man,

to brighten [=that will brighten] his face with [because of] oil,

 

and lechem [bread], [which] sustains the heart of man.

 

 

          The obvious difficulty is how to understand the clause "to brighten his face with oil" that separates between the two objects of the verb "brings forth:" the wine and the bread. Had it stated here, "And wine gladdens the heart of man, and oil brightens his face, and bread sustains the heart of man," everything would be understandable. But the verse would be a little clumsy owing to the threefold repetition, "and wine… and oil… and bread…." For the sake of variety, the second clause mentions the oil's effect on man, and only afterwards does it mention the source of that effect – the oil. Thus a chiastic parallelism is created between the two clauses:


 

  

The third clause once again puts the subject at the beginning of the clause, as in the first clause, but the word order of the predicate is the reverse of that found in the first clause, thus emphasizing the end of the verse:

 

 


          

 

            It is true that there is a certain difficulty with the verse as it appears before us, "le-hatzhil panav mi-shemen," owing to the lamed with which it opens. Had it read instead, "yatzhil panav mi-shemen," or "hitzhilu panav mi-shemen,"[10] this difficulty would disappear, and it is in this sense that the text appearing before us should be understood. This is also the way it was understood by the medieval commentators (for example, Rashi).

 

2.     THE RAIN WITH RESPECT TO PLANTS AND ANIMALS THAT ARE OUTSIDE THE HUMAN REALM (VV. 16-18)

 

(16)     The trees of the Lord are satisfied,

            the cedars of Lebanon that He planted.

(17)     Where the birds make their nests.

            As for the stork, the cypress trees are her house.

 

            Weiss writes as follows:

 

Just as when God waters the mountains "from His upper chambers, the earth is satisfied with the fruit of Your works" (v. 13), so too "the trees of the Lord are satisfied" from the fruit of Your works. Verses 14-15 constitute a sort of parenthetical statement, which describes the results and the goal of "the earth's satisfaction." The unit of verses 16-17 describes the goal of "the trees of the Lord are satisfied…." "The trees of the Lord, the cedars of Lebanon that He planted," are the tallest trees.[11] Their growth in itself brings no direct "benefit" to the world,[12] but owing to the greatness of the Creator's wisdom, there is nothing that He created that is not beneficial to something. Even the growth of "the trees of the Lord" has indirect benefit: "where the birds make their nests. As for the stork, the cypress trees are her house." And just as when our psalmist spoke about the benefit of the springs, alongside the generality ("beast of the field") he mentioned the particular ("wild asses"), so too when he speaks about the benefit of the "trees of the Lord," alongside the "birds" he mentions "the stork."[13]

 

(18)     The high hills are for the wild goats,

            the rocks are a refuge for the badgers.

 

            Verse 18 is one of the verses that are liable to lead the reader to the conclusion that our psalm is not built with a systematic literary structure, but it rather offers a colorful panorama to the world, a journey cutting across diverse landscapes.[14] This stands in contrast to what Weiss has thus far demonstrated.

 

            Why does the psalmist all of a sudden mention the wild goats and badgers? This is the explanation offered by the Radak, which is similar to that given by other commentators as well:[15]

 

The high hills are for the wild goats – Since he mentioned the home of the birds in the high trees, he also mentions that the high hills are the home of the beasts of the field… and so too the rocks are beneficial to animals, for they have caves and crevices in which the badgers can take refuge… Everything was created for some need and utility, nothing was made without purpose. The lower in status was created for the benefit of that which enjoys higher status.

 

            It turns out according to this that verse 18 is not part of the topic discussed previously – the importance of the rain for the various created beings - but rather is an associative continuation of verse 17, which is also merely an aside connected to verse 16. Only verse 16, "the trees of the Lord are satisfied," is still connected to the topic of rain, whereas the verses that follow express the general idea that "everything was created for some need and utility." The tall trees were created for the birds and the stork; the high mountains were created for the wild goats; and the rocks were created for the badgers.

 

            This is not the way that Weiss understood verses 17-18. We have already seen his explanation of verse 17: The trees of the Lord are satisfied by the rain in order to serve as a nesting place for the birds. It turns out, then, that the birds and the stork also need the rain, without which they would have no place to live.

 

            Let us now see how Weiss understood verse 18:

 

The tall trees that become satisfied when God waters them from "His upper chambers" serve as a home to the birds. "The high mountains" which do not become satisfied, even though they too are watered from "His upper chambers," and therefore are bare of vegetation, serve as a home for animals. "The high hills are for the wild goats, the rocks are a refuge for the badgers" (v. 18).

 

            "He waters the mountains from His upper chambers" (v. 13) – this is the way the fourth section opens its description of the importance of the rain for the various created beings. The trees of the Lord, the cedars of Lebanon, are the trees that grow on the mountains, and therefore they become satisfied from the water with which God waters them. But even "the high mountains," where no trees grow and vegetation is minimal, are included under the heading of "He waters the mountains from His upper chambers." What is the benefit of the rain with which God waters the "high mountains," and who is nourished by it? Verse 18 comes to answer this question: There are no tall trees in these high places, but there are animals – wild goats and badgers – and they too need the rain that falls in the places where they live.[16]

 

            According to this explanation of verse 18, this verse joins the previous verses, verses 13-17, all of which revolve around the same topic: the importance of rain for the world's plants and animals, both in areas of human settlement ("the grass to grow for the cattle, and plants for the service of man") and in places where there is no human settlement (tall trees for birds and high mountains for wild goats and badgers) – all plants and animals depend upon rain.[17]

 

            Weiss summarizes the fourth section – a description of God's watering the world with rain – with this illuminating table:

 

(13) He waters the mountains from His upper chambers

with the fruit of Your works

The earth is satisfied

 

 

(14)   He causes the grass to grow for the cattle,

and plants for the service of man,

and He brings forth food from the earth.

(15)     And wine gladdens, etc.

 

(16)   The trees of the Lord are satisfied

(17)     Where the birds make their nests, etc.

 

(18)   The high hills are for the wild goats,

the rocks are a refuge for the badgers

 

 

 

 

5. THE STRUCTURE OF THE FIRST HALF OF THE PSALM

 

            This is the way that Weiss summarizes the connection between sections 2-3-4:

 

Verse 18 concludes the unit that began in verse 5. This unit relates God's praises regarding His greatness that revealed itself in the foundation of the earth (vv. 5-9) and the greatness of His wisdom that reveals itself in His concern for the maintenance of life on earth (vv. 10-18). Just as the foundation of the earth resulted from an act of God in connection with water, so too the maintenance of life on earth results from His actions in connection with water. The foundation of the earth followed in the wake of setting a border for the water and separating it from the land for once and for ever, and the maintenance of the earth follows in the wake of the perpetual sending of springs from the depths to the earth's surface (vv. 10-12) and the recurrent fall of rain from heaven upon the earth (vv. 13-18). The springs of the deep provide the animal world with water and satisfy it. Rain water provides the inanimate world with water and satisfies the earth and the tall trees. The satisfaction of the earth leads to vegetation. The earth's vegetation is the source of food for animals,[18] and the trees serve as a place where they live. The watering of the high mountains does not serve vegetation. The high mountains are not a source of food, but a place to live. This is the structure of the unit:

a)     vv. 5-9: the foundation of the earth (the separation of water from land).

b)     vv. 10-18: the maintenance of life on earth (the bringing together of water and land).

1)     vv. 10-12: watering with water from the deep.

2)     vv. 13-18: watering with rain water.

 

Weiss was not familiar with the principle that literary units in Scripture are divided into two halves, and therefore the heading that we assigned to this section, "The Structure of the First Half of the Psalm," would not have been understandable to him. An entire psalm can have a structure, as can a unit within a psalm, like the one that he discussed with in the above-cited passage. But what is the structure of a half a psalm?

 

According to our understanding, however, the first half of the psalm constitutes a large and unified unit, and thus we must strive to uncover the structure of the entire first half.

 

In effect, a question may be raised regarding section 1: Can it be integrated into the structure that Weiss proposes for sections 2-4?

 

At the end of our discussion of section 1 (end of section III), we raised the following problem: Our psalm is primarily interested in describing the world that is familiar to us at this time, but in order to do this, it relates to the creation story in the book of Bereishit; the maintenance of the world in our time depends upon arrangements that had been made at the time of creation. Does the first section (vv. 1-4) also serve this purpose? This section seems to be dealing with the images of God's kingship through the first things that were created, light and heaven. Its concern lies not in the mundane world – the home of man, animals and plants – but rather in heaven, the seat of God. The role of this section, so it would appear, is to praise God for the greatness of His kingdom, this serving as an introduction to the entire psalm. This seems to be the way that Weiss understood this section.[19]

 

          At the end of that discussion, however, we "promised" that upon reaching section 4 we would see that even section 1 is needed for the understanding of the arrangements found in the mundane world in which we live at this time; it is not merely an introduction to the psalm. We kept this promise in our discussion of section 4, when we showed that the source of the rain under discussion in that section is in God's "upper chambers," which are described in section 1 in verse 3: "Who roofs His chambers with water."

 

          According to the understanding presented in this psalm and based on the creation account in Bereishit 1, the foundation of the earth was conditioned on the distancing of the water from it and the revelation of the dry land. This act is described on the third day of creation, but the truth is that it already began in an act that had been performed on the second day:

 

And God made the firmament and divided the waters which were under the firmament from the waters which were above the firmament; and it was so. And God called the firmament Heaven. And there was evening and there was morning, a second day. (Bereishit 1:7-8)

 

            Only after the separation of the upper waters from the lower waters was it possible to continue and command:

 

Let the waters under the heaven be gathered together to one place, and let the dry land appear…. (v.9)

 

            It turns out, then, that two "types" of water were set apart from the land, and the setting apart of both types of water was a condition for the foundation of the earth.

 

            We can argue that the first section of our psalm, which states (in the wake of Bereishit 1) that God "spreads the heavens like a curtain, who roofs His chambers with water" (vv. 2-3) – even though it speaks of "heaven above" - relates in fact to the process of the foundation of "earth below." Hence, it is necessary for the understanding of the present world, which the psalmist describes in this psalm.

 

            The foundation of the earth, however, is not a sufficient condition for the maintenance of creation. Now the water must once again meet the land in a controlled encounter that will allow for the maintenance of life on the face of the earth. Sections 3-4 are devoted to a description of this encounter. Just as the removal of the water was a twofold process, relating to two "types" of water, the land's meeting with the water involves a twofold act of God: in section 3 He sends the springs – the source of which is the "deep," i.e., the sea – to the streams; and in section 4 He waters the entire earth with water from heaven – the source of which is the upper waters "above the firmament," water which was separated from the earth on the second day of creation by way of the creation of the firmament and which, according to our psalm, was fixed as a roof of "God's chambers."[20]

 

            It turns out, then, that section 4 stands in contrasting parallelism to section 1, just as section 3 stands in contrasting parallelism to section 1. The structure of the entire first half of the psalm can be diagrammed as follows:

 

Section 1            

Section 2           

Section 3             

Section 4          

 

Section 1: A description of the greatness of God who sits in heaven in connection to the first and second days of creation. An allusion to the separation of the water which was above the firmament: God "spreads the heavens like a curtain, who roofs His chambers with water."

 

Section 2: A description of the removal of the water from the land: the foundation of the land, the foundation of the sea in connection to the third day of creation.

 

Section 3: A description of the return of the water of the deep that was gathered together in the sea by way of the springs that flow into the streams.

 

Section 4: A description of the return of the water which is above the firmament to the land by way of the rain that waters the earth.

 

            Before concluding, let us add two comments regarding this structure:

 

1)            Section 4 stands in more overt relationship to section 1 than does section 3 to section 2. In section 3, it is difficult to find any linguistic connection to section 2, and in any case it is nowhere explicitly stated that the springs come from the water of "the deep," the removal of which was described in the previous section.[21]

 

In section 4, on the other hand, it is explicitly stated that the water with which God waters the earth comes from "His upper chambers," and thus a clear connection is made to what was stated in section 1, "who roofs His chambers with water." And this is not the only connection between the two sections.[22]

 

2)            With respect to the foundation of the land, section 2 is more important that section 1, for section 2 is entirely devoted to a description of the foundation of the land (and the sea), all this being stated explicitly, whereas in section 1 only two half-verses are dedicated to this purpose, and there only by allusion.[23]

 

On the other hand, with respect to the maintenance of life on earth thanks to its renewed connection to the water, section 4 (which continues section 1) is much more important than section 3 (which continues section 2): The rain waters the entire earth and satisfies it, and thus it allows for the continued existence of plants, animals, and man. In contrast, the importance of the springs described in section 2 for the maintenance of the world is limited, both because of the limited areas of the streams and because of their lack of relevance to human life.

 

            This finds clear expression in the length of section 4 – twice as long as section 3 - and in the great detailing of the "motifs" whose existence depends on rainfall.

 

            Thus, balance is created between the elements comprising the first quarter of the psalm (sections 1-2) and its second quarter (sections 3-4).[24]

 

(To be continued.)

 

(Translated by David Strauss)



[1] A similar phenomenon is found in section 2: verses 6-9 describe the founding of the sea in a very detailed manner, but the word "sea" is not mentioned even once. I have no explanation for this two-fold silence. (A similar phenomenon is found in section 1 as well: God is described there as king, but the word "king" is not mentioned. In our discussion of that section, we tried to offer an explanation for this peculiarity.) 

[2] This may explain why in the second clause of v. 13 the rain is referred to as "the fruit of Your works."
God's work is that which is described in the first clause: "Who roofs His chambers with water," and the water which reaches the earth is the fruit of that roof made by God.

[3] We noted this point at the end of the previous section.

[4] Based on the common phenomenon that the letters lamed, mem, nun and resh often interchange with each other, the word "le-hatzhil" may be understood as "le-hatzhir" (from the root tz-h-r, from which are derived the words "tzaharayim," "tzohar," and "yitzhar"). Oil is called "yitzhar" because it causes its user's face to glow ("le-hatzhir").

[5] In this framework, we will not discuss the various considerations that led Weiss to reject this explanation, and the reasons that we prefer it to the explanation adopted by Weiss. We recommend that the interested reader see Weiss's article.

[6] Simantika Ivrit (Jerusalem, 5745), pp. 159-160.

[7] The verse cited by Tzarfati is not a good example: "Then Ya'akov offered sacrifice upon the mount and called his brethren to eat lechem." This instance of the word "lechem," in the context of a sacrifice, probably refers to meat, as we find in the Arabic. See what we write below following the citation from Tzarfati. Rashi, however, understood the verse the way Tzarfati did.

[8] The citation is taken from Ben-Yehuda's dictionary, s.v. lechem, note 2.

[9] Wherever a meal is called "lechem," as in "call him that he may eat lechem" (Shemot 2:20), or wherever we are dealing with the general eating needs of a particular creature, as in "Who gives lechem to all flesh" (Tehillim 136:25), the word "lechem" should be understood as referring to food in general. See also Tehillim 147:9 ("He gives to the beast its lechem") and Mishlei 6:8 ("provides her lechem in the summer"). In many cases we cannot determine whether the reference is to bread or to food in general, and it stands to reason that the second possibility is the correct one. For example, Bereishit 3:18-19: "And you shall eat the herb ('esev' – the totality of agricultural crops, as in our psalm, 'and plants for the service of man') of the field; in the sweat of your face shall you eat lechem."

In order to distinguish between "lechem" in the wider sense of food in general and "lechem" in the narrower sense of bread, many verses use the expressions "pat lechem," "kikar lechem," "chalet lechem" or the like.

[10] The difference between these two proposed readings relates to the identity of the subject of the clause – the oil or the face - and whether the verb "le-hatzhil" is transitive or intransitive, but the meaning is the same. The first alternative is more similar to the clauses that surround it, "and wine gladdens the heart of man" and "and bread sustains the heart of man" – "oil brightens the face." The second alternative is closer to what is actually stated in the psalm, "le-hatzhil panav mishemen." There, too, the subject of the clause is "face" and the verb "le-hatzhil" is intransitive."

[11] In Scripture, the appearance of God's name after a noun in the construct state, as in our case, "atzei HaShem," often comes to magnify that other noun. This is learned from the parallelism in our verse: "Atzei HaShem, the cedars of Lebanon that He planted," the cedars being the tallest trees in the region. See also Tehillim 80:11: "The hills were covered with the shadow of it, and the mighty cedars ('arzei El') with its bows."

[12] It stands to reason that when Weiss speaks here of "the world," he means the world of man, for the cedar forests on the mountains of Lebanon are not sites of human settlement (like the "streams" described in the third section). It certainly did not escape our psalmist that the cedars do indeed serve man: he cuts them down and uses their trunks in the building of magnificent palaces. But he does not regard this type of "benefit" as part of the arrangements included in the wisdom of God's act of creation. As opposed to man's farming culture ("and plants for the service of man, and He brings forth food from the earth"), which is indeed part of the arrangements included in the act of creation, for this culture is the foundation of human existence, the building of magnificent palaces at the expense of chopping down the cedar forests in Lebanon is seen as an impairment of the world that God created with wisdom and balance. The fact that today only meager remnants of these forests remain, and they have been declared protected nature reserves, prove how right this perception is. (This comment stands in opposition to the Radak's comment on verse 17.)

[13] This system of mentioning a kind in general and afterwards illustrating it with a particular species is found in other places in our psalm as well:

1)      "and plants for the service of man. He brings forth food" – three kinds of "food" are then spelled out: wine, oil and bread.

2)      "the trees of the Lord" – the great trees; an example – "the cedars of the Lebanon that He planted."

3)      "the forest beasts" which are active at night (v. 20); an example – "the young lions roar for their prey" (v. 21).

4) The sea has "small beasts and big ones" (v. 25); an example – "the leviathan that You made to play with" (v. 26).

[14] Regarding the possibility of understanding our psalm in this manner, see the introduction to our study, section II, 3.

[15] Meiri, the author of the Beiur, and Tz.P. Chajes explain similarly.

[16] These animals' need for water is twofold. In a direct manner, the water quenches their thirst, and indirectly it causes the growth of plants which they will later eat. Weiss did not spell out what he means, but this seems to be his intention.

[17] Weiss did not note that his explanation of verse 18, which follows from the structure of the psalm and its main topic until now – the relationship between land and water in the created world – is an original explanation, different than all the earlier explanations of this verse. This is another example of something that we have seen before – uncovering the structure of a psalm affects how we understand its various elements, and our interpretation of those elements reinforces the structure and fits them in to the topic of the entire unit. This is what Weiss calls "total interpretation."

[18] It is appropriate to add that the earth's vegetation is the source of food for animals and for man.

[19] This understanding follows from Weiss's analysis of this section on p. 222 and p. 227. On the latter page, Weiss writes: "Verse 5 opens a new unit… From now on the psalm will no longer speak about heaven above, but about the earth below." The account of "the earth below" continues until v. 18, and indeed Weiss sees these verses as a unit that is separate from the psalm's opening verses. See his words cited in the body of this study.

[20] Of course, we cannot raise an objection against our psalm from what we know today, that the source of rain is in the evaporation of ocean water and not in the stores of water which are found above the firmament. Scripture speaks in the language of man and in accordance with the concepts of its time (and much later). See Lecture no. 48, note 11.

[21] Weiss points to two linguistic allusions that connect the two sections: "Ha-meshale'ach" means "free, liberate," and thus alludes that we are dealing with the water that God had "set a boundary that they could not pass over, that they would not return to cover the earth;" the spring waters "go between the mountains," whereas the water of the deep covered the land, and even "stood above the mountains."

[22] In note 10 above, we conjectured that the designation of the rain, "the fruit of Your works," follows from what is stated in section 1, that God roofed His chambers with water; in section 1, God is described as "He who makes the clouds His chariot, who walks upon the wings of the wind. He makes His angels winds." Clouds and wind herald the coming of rain and cause its arrival.

[23] Understanding this allusion depends on understanding the background of section 1 in the act of creation as described in Bereishit 1.

[24] It should be noted in connection with this balance that each of these quarters is comprised of 9 verses.