Psalms – Chapter 120

The First Step

By Rabbi Jack Abramowitz

This is the first of fifteen Psalms that begin with the words “A Song of Ascents.” Rashi says these “ascents” are the 15 steps in the Temple, where the Levites would sing the Psalms.

David says that he called out to G-d from all his troubles and G-d answered him. David asks to be saved from lying and deceitful people. (A liar is overtly malicious, but a deceitful person pretends to be on your side.) David asks the gift of speech what G-d should do to keep it from abusing its power. (The Talmud in Erchin, 15b, says that the tongue is already confined behind two “walls,” the teeth and the lips. How many barriers must one erect to keep it in line?) Words are like sharpened arrows.

David laments the exile of the people among the nations. He is pained by having to live among people who spurn overtures of peace. He is peace-loving, but whenever he brings it up, all the other nations want is war. (Sound familiar?)

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