Shiur #62: Psalm 19 ֠"The Heavens Declare The Glory Of God" (Part II)

  • Rav Elchanan Samet

SEFER TEHILLIM

by Rav Elchanan Samet

 

Lecture 62: Psalm 19 –
"THe Heavens declare the glory of God" (Part ii)

 

 

(1) To the director of music. A psalm of David.

 

A1         (2)     The heavens declare the glory of God,

                        and the firmament proclaims His handiwork.

(3)      Day to day utters speech,

         and night to night expresses knowledge.

(4)      There is no speech, nor are there words.

         Their voice is not heard.

(5)      Their call goes out through all the earth,

         and their words to the end of the world.

 

A2                   In them He has set a tent for the sun.

(6)      And it is like a bridegroom coming out of his

         chamber.

                        It rejoices like a mighty man running along a path.

(7)      Its going forth is from the end of the heaven,

         and its circuit is to its ends,

         and nothing is hidden from its heat.

 

B1         (8)     The law of the Lord is perfect, restoring the soul.

                        The testimony of the Lord is faithful,

                        making the simple wise.

              (9)     The statutes of the Lord are upright,

                        rejoicing the heart.

                        The commandments of the Lord are pure,

                        enlightening the eyes.

              (10)  The fear of the Lord is pure, standing forever.

                        The judgments of the Lord are true:

                        they are all righteous.

              (11)  How much more desirable they are than much gold and

                        fine gold,

                        and they are much sweeter than honey and the

                        honeycomb.

 

B2         (12)  Also Your servant is careful about them.

                        In the keeping of them there is a great reward.

              (13)  Who can discern errors?

                        Cleanse me from hidden transgressions.

(14)   Also keep Your servant from willing sins.

         Let them not rule over me. Then I shall be

         faultless,

         and let me be clean of many transgressions.

 

(15)   May the words of my mouth

and the meditation of my heart be acceptable before You. O Lord, my rock and my redeemer.

 

IV. THE SECOND HALF (VV. 8-14)

 

            The second half of our psalm also clearly divides into two sections:

 

1.     Verses 8-11 – Praise of the Torah and its commandments and their influence on man.

2.     Verses 12-14 – The psalmist's prayer to God that He should save him from sin.

 

As we did regarding the first half of the psalm, here too we will first comment on each of the two sections, and afterwards discuss the connection between them.

 

1. VERSES 8-11: PRAISE OF THE TORAH

 

            Verses 8-10 discuss the praise of the Torah and its commandments in six clauses with a fixed structure that repeats itself six times, twice in each verse. These six clauses parallel each other in full, synonymous, and direct parallelism. As we will see, each clause is made up of five words and is divided into three parts: a) a designation of the Torah or its commandments in construct state with the name of God; b) a one word adjective for that designation of the Torah; 3) a two-word description of the Torah or its commandments' effect on man.[1]

 

            Here are the six clauses arranged in a way that makes it easier to see the fixed formula and the parallels between them:

 

 

 

The Torah and its designations

The name of God

An adjective

The effect upon man

1

The law

of the Lord

is perfect

restoring the soul

2

The testimony

of the Lord

is faithful

making the simple wise

3

The statutes

of the Lord

are upright

rejoicing the heart

4

The commandments

of the Lord

are pure

enlightening the eyes

5

The fear

of the Lord

is pure

standing forever

6

The judgments

of the Lord

are true

they are all righteous

 

            Here we must comment upon the connection between the second half of our psalm and psalm 119, which deals exclusively with praise of the Torah and praise of its observance.[2] Almost every verse in psalm 119 contains one or more designations of the Torah.[3] The Malbim in his commentary to that psalm notes that six designations of the Torah appear in each of the twenty-two stanzas of the psalm, and there are additional designations that appear in some stanzas, but not in others. The fixed designations are: Torah, "edut" (testimony), "pikudim" (precepts), "mitzvot" (commandments), "chukim" (statutes) and "mishpatim" (judgments). This list, as well as its order, underlies verses 8-10 in our psalm, but in place of "chukim" (statutes), our psalm has "yir'at Hashem" (fear of God), a designation of the Torah that is not found in psalm 119.[4]

 

            The medieval commentators understand that "the fear of God" in our psalm refers to the Torah's statutes: "The negative commandments" (Ibn Ezra); "the commandments whose rationale is not clear, such as the eating of pig, wearing of sha'atnez, and the like. These commandments are observed based on fear, as one would fulfill a royal decree" (Meiri).[5]

 

            Let us examine the terms appearing in the first stanza of psalm 119 (verses 1-8): The Torah of the Lord, His testimonies, His ways, Your precepts, Your statutes, Your commandments, Your righteous judgments, Your statutes. We have here five of the terms appearing in our psalm (those in bold), and they appear in the same order as in our psalm. It stands to reason then that psalm 19 serves as the foundation of psalm 119, which greatly expands upon it.[6]

 

            Presumably, the six terms used by our psalm to describe the Torah are not identical, but rather refer to different parts or dimensions of the Torah.[7] How can we identify the unique meaning of each of these terms? First of all, we can discuss the etymology of each. Second, we can infer the meaning of the term from the context in which it appears in the verse, from the adjective chosen to describe it, and from the description of its effect upon man. Third, we can examine the instances of each term elsewhere in Scripture.

 

            Several commentators undertook such an investigation, but they did not arrive at the same results. Regarding most of these designations, it is indeed difficult to arrive at an unequivocal conclusion. We, therefore, shall set this issue aside. Only regarding the last term, "the judgments of the Lord," will we bring the explanation offered by the Radak: "The judgments are the laws governing the relationship between man and his fellow, all of which are manifestly true, and all of which are righteous, there being no iniquity in any one of them."[8]

 

***

 

As stated above, verses 8-10 discuss the praise of the Torah and its effect upon man. Verse 11 completes this section with a statement going in the opposite direction - a description of man's attitude toward the Torah, these being its praises:

 

How much more desirable they are than much gold and fine gold,

and they are much sweeter than honey and the honeycomb.

 

            Man desires God's judgments, precepts, commandments, and Torah more than he desires gold, and he experiences the Torah as sweeter than honey. Even though this verse does not mention any of the designations of the Torah, verses similar to it are found in psalm 119:

 

The Torah of Your mouth is better to me than thousands of gold and silver. (v. 72)

Therefore, I love Your commandments above gold; yea, above fine gold.[9] (v. 127)

How sweet are Your words to my palate! Sweeter than honey to my mouth! (v. 103)

 

2. VERSES 12-14: THE PSALMIST'S PRAYER

 

            In our discussion of the previous section, we noted the parallels between its two parts (verses 8-10 and verse 11) and psalm 119. But we did not mention the striking and fundamental difference between the two chapters. The praise of the Torah in our psalm is proclaimed in declarative statements, whereas all of psalm 119 (apart from the three introductory verses [1-3]) is a prayer offered by the psalmist, in which he speaks of himself in the first person and turns to God in the second person.

 

            The second section of the second half of our psalm completes the parallelism to psalm 119 from this perspective. In this section (verses 12-14), the psalmist prays to God, speaking about himself in the first person and to God in the second person. The various designations of the Torah are not explicitly mentioned in this section, but there is an allusion to them at the beginning of the section: "Also Your servant is careful about them." The terms appearing in the continuation of the section – errors, hidden transgressions, willing sins, many transgressions – are various types of violations of the Torah's commandments, and thus they too may be seen as indirect allusions to the Torah and its commandments.

 

            There are several linguistic and substantive similarities between the psalmist's prayer in our psalm and the prayer in psalm 119 that are certainly not coincidental.[10] There is, however, a fundamental difference between the themes of these two prayers and between the mental states of the speakers in the two psalms. The prayer in our psalm deals with a single issue: a request of God that He save the psalmist from various sins. The psalmist perceives himself as one who tries to be careful about the Torah's commandments, but knows that he is far from perfect and that a terrible danger of failure lies in wait. Regarding his psychological state, it may be said that he suffers from a lack of religious confidence and aspires for perfection that he will never be able to attain.

 

            In contrast, the prayer in psalm 119 is rich and varied in its contents, as is made possible by the broad framework of the psalm. Here too the psalmist aspires to perfection in his study of Torah and observance of its commandments,[11] but he does not suffer from that same lack of confidence that characterizes the speaker in our psalm. On the contrary, he repeatedly declares over the course of the psalm that he is secure in his righteousness and in his cleaving to God's Torah, and he asks God to reward him for that.[12] Here, the psalmist's insecurity, which brings him to supplicate before God that He should save him, stems from the external enemies that threaten him, and not from internal insecurity regarding his righteousness.[13] Even if the author of psalm 119 made use of our psalm (which we see as a reasonable assumption), he took from it building blocks of various kinds and built out of them a magnificent edifice that suits his own needs and personality.

 

            The difference between the prayer in our psalm and that in psalm 119 can be explained by the fact that different needs and different contexts gave rise to different prayers. Later, we will relate to the question that arises in light of this: What is the context in which the psalmist in our psalm offers his prayer? To put it differently, why does the psalm as a whole, with its two parts, dictate that at the end of its second half a prayer should appear that expresses insecurity and imperfection in the observance of the Torah's commandments?

 

***

 

            Verses 13-14 mention four types of sins, arranged from most lenient to most severe:

 

  • "Who can discern errors (shegi'ot)" – "Who can be careful not to sin unintentionally (bi-shegaga)?" (R. Yeshaya).
  • "Cleanse me from hidden transgressions (nistarot)" - "Hidden transgressions" are also a type of unintentional sins (shegagot), and the distinction between them (if, indeed, such a distinction exists) is between an unintended act and one based on ignorance (based on the Meiri).
  • "Also keep Your servant from willing sins (zedim)" – based on the context, it stands to reason that "zedim" are sins committed by a person intentionally.[14]
  • "And let me be clean of many transgressions (pesha)" – "A pesha is worse than a zadon, because in the case of zadon, it is owing to his lust that the person sins intentionally, but pesha denotes rebellion, like a servant who rebels against his master.[15] He mocks His commandments and commits the transgression even though he does not lust for it" (Radak).[16]

 

3. THE CONNECTION BETWEEN THE FIRST SECTION AND THE SECOND SECTION

 

            The differences between the two sections comprising the second half of our psalm are very clear: the first section deals with the praise of the Torah and is made up of a series of declarative sentences, whereas the second section is the personal prayer of the psalmist, who asks God to help him not to transgress the Torah's commandments.

 

            Is it possible to point to linguistic connections between the two sections? The most overt connection is between the opening line of the second section and the section that precedes it:

 

Also Your servant is careful about them.

 

            The word "gam" (also) is connected to what is stated in the previous verse: "How much more desirable they are than much gold…." That is to say, people desire the commandments of the Torah, and "I too, Your servant, am careful about them” – the Torah's commandments.

 

            There are also other, less obvious linguistic connections:

 

  • The word "rav" appears once at the end of the first section – "How much more desirable they are than much (rav) gold," and two more times in the second section: "in the keeping of them there is a great (rav) reward"[17]; "and let me be clean of many (rav) transgressions." This linguistic connection emphasizes the contrast between the Torah and the person: the commandments are more dear than much gold, and therefore the person observing them aspires to great reward for keeping them,[18] but he knows that he can expect many transgressions.
  • The root t-m/t-m-m appears both in the first section – "the law of the Lord is perfect (temima)" – and in the second section – "then I shall be faultless (eitam)" (i.e., then I shall be whole and perfect). Here too there is an allusion to the contrast between the Torah and the person: The Torah is "perfect" in its very essence, but the verse, "Also keep Your servant from willing sins. Let them not rule over me. Then I shall be faultless," implies that man is in need of God's grace in order not to sin, and that only when he frees himself of willing sins can he become perfect. What this means is that he is still far from perfection in observing the Torah's commandments.

 

V. THE RELATIONSHIP BETWEEN THE TWO PARTS OF THE PSALM - THE EXPLANATIONS OF THE MEDIEVAL COMMENTATORS

 

            After having explained in the previous sections each of the two halves of our psalm, and after having pointed out the two-part structure of each of them, the question regarding the relationship between the two parts of the psalm rises in greater force. The two previous sections enriched our perception of each part of the psalm by pointing out the literary and conceptual complexity of each one. This complexity turns the revelation of the relationship between the two parts of the psalm into a more difficult task, for now this relationship must relate to each of the sections in the two parts of the psalm.

 

            In this section, we will examine the answers provided by our medieval commentators to the question of the relationship between the two parts of the psalm, and we will try to clarify the basis for these explanations in the wording and structure of the psalm.

 

            The various explanations can be divided into two categories: We will first bring the explanations that see a similarity between the two parts of the psalm, and then we will bring the explanations that see a contrast between the two parts.[19] The remarks of the commentators are generally found in the place where the question of the relationship between the two parts of the psalm arises, namely, on the seam between the two parts - verse 8, which opens the second part of the psalm.

 

1. THE EXPLANATIONS THAT SEE A SIMILARITY BETWEEN THE TWO PARTS OF THE PSALM

 

a. RASHI'S FIRST EXPLANATION

 

The law of the Lord is perfect – it too illuminates like the sun, as it is stated later: ["The commandments of the Lord are pure,] enlightening the eyes." And it is stated, "For the commandment is a lamp, and the Torah a light" (Mishlei 6:23).

 

Rashi assumes that the relationship between the two parts of the psalm can be located in the words near the seam between the two parts. The end of the first part of the psalm describes the sun, which illuminates the world, whereas the second part describes the Torah and its benefits to man. Now, it may also be said about the Torah that it illuminates for man, as is proven in the continuation of the psalm, which describes the Torah as "pure, enlightening the eyes,"[20] and as is proven from the verse in Mishlei. We see, then, that the comparison between the Torah and the sun is not the exclusive novelty of our psalm (according to this explanation), but rather a comparison that appears in other places in Scripture as well.

 

            It turns out, then, that the relationship between the sun and the Torah, according to Rashi, is like the relationship between an allegory and that which it represents.

 

b. THE IBN EZRA

 

In my opinion, he mentioned thus far [until the verse, "The Law of the Lord is perfect"] how the intelligent person can find testimony to God and know His actions. David then said: There is also another witness, more distinguished and faithful than it, namely God's law, testimony, statutes, commandments, fear, and judgment.

 

The Ibn Ezra seems to maintain that the first part of the psalm expresses one idea, that is, "how to find testimony to God and know His actions," and even the description of the sun comes exclusively for that purpose.[21] The Ibn Ezra sees the second part as another track "to find testimony to God" - contemplation of God's Torah.

 

According to the Ibn Ezra, the entire psalm has a theological objective – to propose two parallel paths to knowledge of God and His actions. These two paths are, of course, very different from one another, and the knowledge that one acquires through each path is also different.

 

Is one of these two paths preferable to the other? The Ibn Ezra explicitly states that knowing God through the Torah is better than knowing God through contemplation of the heavenly bodies. Is the Ibn Ezra's position based on what is stated in our psalm or on his personal judgment? The Ibn Ezra's comments about the first part of the psalm do, indeed, stem from what is explicitly stated therein: "The heavens declare the glory of God" – in other words, they attest to the One Who created them. But from where does the Ibn Ezra understand that the praise of the Torah in the second half of the psalm is also meant to testify to God? Is there a hint to this in the psalm itself?

 

The Ibn Ezra himself alludes to the support for his understanding that he found in the wording of the psalm when he says: "There is also another witness, more distinguished and faithful than it." He is, of course, alluding to the second half of verse 8:

 

The testimony of the Lord is faithful.

 

            Thus, the Torah is also testimony to its giver, and its testimony is more faithful than that of the heavens.

 

c. THE RADAK'S FIRST EXPLANATION

 

Just as the heavens and the sun testify to and declare the glory of God and His wisdom, so too the Torah and the commandments which He commanded to His people Israel testify to His wisdom and uprightness.

 

This explanation is very similar to that of the Ibn Ezra. The Radak also understands the first half of the psalm as uniform in its idea, as he explicitly states that "the heavens and the sun testify to and declare the glory of God."

 

            Like the Ibn Ezra, the Radak alludes to the fact that the testimony of the heavens and the testimony of the Torah are not the same in content. Both testify to God's wisdom, but the quality that joins to it in the heavens' testimony is the "glory of God," whereas in the Torah's testimony, what joins to His wisdom is His uprightness. In other words, the Torah testifies to something to which the heavens cannot testify - the moral qualities of God. Without a doubt, the Radak found an allusion to this in the wording of the psalm:

 

The statutes of the Lord are upright.

 

d. THE RADAK'S SECOND EXPLANATION

 

Just as the heavens and the sun benefit the world, and through them the world stands, so too the Torah, which is "perfect" and "restores the soul," and the existence of the soul [depends] upon it in the same way as the existence of the world [depends] upon the sun.

 

This explanation is similar in its content to that of Rashi, but the Radak does not see here an allegory and what it represents, but rather two points to be understood in their literal sense. The sun is an essential requirement for the existence of the world, and the Torah is an essential requirement for the proper existence of man: "The Torah shows man the straight path and removes him from worldly lust and from many stumbling blocks."

 

2. EXPLANATIONS THAT SEE A CONTRAST BETWEEN THE TWO PARTS OF PSALM

 

a. RASHI'S SECOND EXPLANATION

 

Another explanation: "And nothing is hidden from its heat” – on the day of judgment – "And the day that is coming shall burn them up" (Malakhi 3:19).[22] But "the law of the Lord is perfect, restoring the soul" – for the paths of life, and it protects those who study it from that burning heat, as it is stated (ibid. v. 20): "But to you who fear My name [those who study the Torah], the sun of righteousness shall arise with healing in its wings."

 

In this explanation, Rashi constricts the relationship between the two parts of the psalm even more than in his first explanation; the connection is only between the last line of the first half and the first line of the second half. The first half of the psalm ends with the words, "And nothing is hidden from its heat," referring to the sun, which Rashi interprets as an allusion to the manner in which God will punish the wicked on the Day of Judgment through the heat of the sun, as is explained in the words of the prophet Malakhi. In contrast, the first praise said of the Torah in the beginning of the second half of the psalm is that "the law of the Lord… restores the soul" – that is to say, the Torah gives life to those who occupy themselves with it and protects them from that punishment of the sun on Judgment Day.

 

            Rashi's explanation is eschatological - it deals with the end of days. However, the contrast between the sun, from whose heat nothing is hidden, and the Torah, which is the crown of perfection and lacks nothing, can be applied to all times, as we shall see in the next explanation.

 

b. THE RADAK IN THE NAME OF "THOSE WHO EXPLAIN"[23]

 

            The Radak records the explanation that we cited above in the seam between the two parts of the psalm. Later in his commentary, following his explanation of the Torah's praises in verses 8-10, he brings another explanation in the name of "those who explain." The reason for this delay can be understood from the explanation itself:

 

There are those who explain the reason that the Torah is juxtaposed to the sun to magnify its benefit beyond the benefit of the sun. For there are things that the sun damages, but the Torah is beneficial in all things. It, therefore, says: "The law of the Lord is perfect" – it is complete, for in all the ways of this world and the World-to-Come, a person will find benefit in it.

(1) And it says, "restoring the soul," because the sun – when a person sits in its heat for too long, perhaps he will become sick with a fatal illness. As it is stated in Yona (4:8): "And the sun beat down upon the head of Yonah, so that he fainted." But the Torah is not like that, for it restores life to the body and exists in it.

(2) Sometimes, the sun enters a person's mind and he goes crazy, but the Torah is not like that, but rather it makes the simple wise.

(3) When a person sits in the sun for a long time, he worries about its heat, but the statutes of the Lord are not like that, for they cause the heart to rejoice.

(4) The sun – when a person looks at the sun itself, his eyes weaken. But the commandments of the Lord are not like that, for they are pure, enlightening the eyes.

(5) The sun is covered by clouds, but the fear of the Lord is pure, nothing covers or conceals it.

(6) The sun shines by day but not at night, whereas the fear of the Lord stands forever.

(7) The sun's light and heat is not the same all day, for until the middle of the day it increases, whereas from the middle of the day on it diminishes. This is not the case with the judgments of the Lord, but rather they are all true and righteous, and do not contradict each other.

 

            This explanation discerns in the psalm an entire array of contrasts between the deficiencies of the sun in various realms and the advantages of the Torah in those very areas. The basis for this explanation is the understanding that the last thing said about the sun, "and nothing is hidden from its heat," was said in disparagement, and this last sentence is connected to the praises of the Torah that follow by way of contrast.

 

            The first three oppositions (1-3) are indeed based on the contrast between the heat of the sun that causes harm to man and the blessed effects of the Torah upon him. On the other hand, the last four oppositions (4-7) are based on various deficiencies of the sun that are not connected to its heat, but rather to the way it is seen. From where did the author of this explanation take these four contrasts?

 

            The basis for these four contrasts lies in the praises stated about the Torah, starting with "the commandments of the Lord are pure, enlightening the eyes." The anonymous commentator took these praises and noted their opposites with respect to the sun.[24] The commentator acted in this manner because he saw the deficiency explicitly noted in the psalm – "and nothing is hidden from its heat" – as an example of other deficiencies found in the sun that are not spelled out in it. Since the first three praises of the Torah stand in contrast to the deficiency of the heat of the sun explicitly mentioned in the psalm, the commentator concluded that the rest of the praises must also stand in contrast to deficiencies found in the sun. And if these deficiencies are not stated explicitly in the psalm, they must be inferred as being the opposite of what is said in praise of the Torah.

 

(To be continued.)

 

(Translated by David Strauss)

 



[1] In the last two clauses (clauses 5 and 6 in the table below) there is room to question whether the third component indeed describes the Torah's effect on man, as in the previous clauses, or if it perhaps constitutes an additional description of the Torah.

Regarding the fifth clause, it can easily be suggested that the third component plays the same role as the third component of the previous clauses: "The fear of the Lord is pure, standing [for man] forever," so that the last two words do indeed describe the great benefit that the Torah's commandments bestow upon man. This, however, is not the way these words were understood by the Ibn Ezra and the Radak. The Radak explains: "God did not command it for [a limited] time, but rather forever."

As for the last clause ("The judgments of the Lord are true; they are all righteous"), it is more difficult to explain the third component in similar fashion. Here, it seems that the words, "they are all righteous," describe God's judgments, and not their effect upon man. This, indeed, is the way that Rashi understood them: "They are all perfect in righteousness and truth." Perhaps, however, this is the effect that God's judgments have on one who observes them - his life is conducted in righteousness and truth.

[2] Chazal refer to psalm 119 as "timnaya api," "eight faces," because of its alphabetical structure in which each letter is repeated eight times.

[3] To the exclusion of v. 122: "Be surety for Your servant for good; let not the proud oppress me." This exception has been explained in various ways, but this is not the forum to discuss the matter.

[4] See, however, v. 38.

[5] This is the way that Chazal understand the term "chok": "I ordained a statute ('chuka'), I made a decree - you are not permitted to violate My decree" (Bamidbar Rabba 19, 1). It should be noted that the Radak explains that "the fear of God" refers to "those things that a person does secretly without anybody knowing, like stealing and [fraudulent] weights, and these are the thing about which the Torah states: 'And you shall fear your Lord.'"

[6] We will return to the comparison between our psalm and psalm 119 later in this section.

[7] The comments of Rashi and R. Yeshaya imply that they understood differently, maintaining that all six designations are synonymous terms referring to the entire Torah.

[8] It should be noted that all three methods suggested above for clarifying the meaning of each designation support the Radak's explanation.

[9] The similarity between this verse and the verse in our psalm is particularly striking, because of the reference to both gold ("zahav") and fine gold ("paz"). As for the previous verse, what stands out in the similarity is the idea of plenty: "than much gold and fine gold" – "is better to me than thousands of gold and silver." See also Tehillim 119:14, 36, 162.

[10] The psalmist's reference to himself as "Your servant" (119:17); his testimony about himself that he is careful in his observance of the mitzvot (in many verses in psalm 119); the word "ekev" used not in its usual sense of "because" (119:33, 112), similar to the words, "in the keeping of them there is a great reward ("ekev rav") in our chapter; "who can discern errors ('shegi'ot')" in our chapter corresponding to "O let me not wander ('tashgeni') from Your commandments" (119:10); "cleanse me from hidden transgressions ('mi-nistarot')" in our chapter corresponding to "do not hide ('taster') Your commandments from me" (119:19); the word "zedim" repeats itself several times in psalm 119, although always in the sense of wicked people; "then I shall be faultless ('eitam') in our chapter corresponding to "let my heart be sound ('tamim') in Your statutes" (119:80); "may the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable" in our chapter corresponding to "accept, I beseech You, the freewill offerings of my mouth" (119:108).

[11] See verses 5, 9, 18, 20, 27, 33-36, 44, 80, 106 and others.

[12] See verses 8, 17, 22, 31, 77, 94, 121, 173, and 176.

[13] See verses 22, 23, 39, 42, 46, 51-53, 61, 69-70, 78, 84-87, 95, 110, 115, 121, 157-158, and 161.

[14] This is the way the term is understood by Rashi, the Radak, R. Yeshaya, the Meiri, and others. Regarding their understanding, it should be noted that in all 12 other instances of the word "zed" and "zedim" in Scripture, the word refers to a "wicked man" or "wicked men." This apparently is the reason that the Ibn Ezra understands that the psalmist prays here "that [God] should spare him of the company of wicked people and their evil, and that they should not rule over him." Nevertheless, it seems that the context in our psalm necessitates the explanation of the other commentators.

[15] Rashi cites the verse "The king of Moav has rebelled ('pasha') against me" (Melakhim II 3:7) as proof for this explanation.

[16] Midrash Tehillim (ad loc.; ed. Buber, p. 172) notes that the petitions in our psalm are arranged in the order of their severity:

R. Acha said: These Cutheans know how to beg at [people's] doors. They first say: Give us water so that we may drink. After drinking, they say: Give us an onion, and they give him. He [then] says to them: An onion without bread has no substance. So too the righteous know how to seduce their Creator.

[17] Here is the place to say a few words about the meaning of the word "ekev" in this verse. This term appears 15 times in Scripture. In most cases, it serves as a conjunction in the sense of "because, owing to the fact that," and usually it makes a connection between an action and its recompense. In our case, the ancient translations and commentators agree that the word "ekev" is not a conjunction, but rather a noun, and that it means "reward." The reason for this explanation seems to be the context in which the word appears, although there is no other place in Scripture regarding which it can be stated with certainty that the word is used in this sense (the meaning of the term in Tehillim 119:33 and 112 is unclear).

[18] The commentators deal in various ways with what seems to emerge from the verse - that the psalmist observes the commandments for the sake of reward. Amos Chakham suggests that we distinguish between the parts of the verse and see the words "be-shomram eikev rav" as an independent clause. Some commentators emphasize that the reward under discussion is primarily in the World-to-Come. Others propose alternative solutions to temper the plain meaning of the text.

[19] R. Sa'adia offers an entirely different explanation. In his Arabic translation of the psalm, he adds the following words between its two parts: "And all of them together prove that the law of the Lord is perfect" (following R. Kafih's translation into Hebrew). In other words, the heavens, day and night, and the sun – the subjects of the first half of the psalm - prove what is stated in its second half. As he says in his commentary to the psalm, "The prophet made what is found in the first half of the psalm into proof regarding what is stated in the second half. The proof is from 'the heavens declare' until 'the law of the Lord is perfect.' What he means is that the intelligent person, when he sees the results of the movement of the sphere and the travels of the sun and the other stars, will learn from this… And after having first stated these proofs, he says in the second half, 'the law of the Lord is perfect,' and the rest of the matter. What he means with this is that the intelligent person, when he understands as true that the world has a Creator, he will understand that His words are true and that His law is light, and everything else stated about the matter." The Ibn Ezra brings the gist of R. Sa'adia's position: "R. Sa'adia Gaon said that word 'yomar' is missing, for the sun shall say: The law of the Lord is perfect."

[20] The word "bara" appears also in Shir Ha-Shirim 6:10 in the description of the beloved: "Fair as the moon, clear ('bara') as the sun." This use strengthens Rashi's interpretation.

[21] In our explanation of the first half of the psalm, we reached a different conclusion: the sun does not declare God's glory, but rather executes its mission to illuminate the world faithfully and to perfection. Rashi seems to understand the objective of the sun's illumination as we do, and therefore draws a connection between its role in illuminating the world and the similar role of the Torah.

[22] Here is the entire verse: "For, behold, that day is coming; it burns like a furnace, and all the arrogant, and all who do wickedly, shall be stumble. And the day that is coming shall burn them up, says the Lord of hosts" (Malakhi 3:19).

[23] This view of "those who explain" was adopted by the author of the Metzudot as the sole explanation of the connection between the two parts of the psalm.

[24] One might ask, from "The commandments of the Lord are pure…" and on there are only three praises of the Torah. How, then, did this commentator arrive at four contrasting parallels in relation to the sun? The answer is that he found two contrasts to the sun in the praise, "The fear of the Lord is pure, standing forever" (nos. 5-6).