Psalms – Chapter 34

Words of a Madman

By Rabbi Jack Abramowitz

This Psalm was composed when David was on the run from Avimelech (also known as Achish) in I Samuel 21. David feigned madness so that the king would dismiss him as a harmless eccentric, rather than imprison or execute him as an enemy combatant.

David says that he will constantly bless G-d for His kindness, which is likewise unceasing. David’s very soul feels uplifted from the knowledge that G-d is looking out for him; David hopes that the humble will follow in his footsteps and recognize all that G-d does for them. David asks that they join him in praising G-d. (We say this verse, “gadlu laShem iti,” when we remove the Torah from the Ark.)

David says that he looked for G-d and G-d answered him, saving him from all manner of danger. Everyone who turns to G-d in times of trouble finds such comfort; they are never humiliated by turning to Him. David compares himself to a poor person, continuously saved by G-d. G-d dispatches His messenger to protect the faithful and save them. G-d is all good and those who place their trust in Him are fortunate.

Now David tells holy people, namely those who control their desires, to be in awe of G-d. Those who do so will not lack anything they need. It is those who indulge themselves like young lions who will hunger for things they are missing.

David now speaks to his audience as disciples, instructing them to listen and he will teach them how to be in awe of G-d. If you desire life, David says, then keep your tongue from slander and hypocrisy. Not only should one avoid evil, he should actively pursue good. G-d pays attention to the righteous and answers them in their times of trouble. On the other hand, He turns toward evil people to eradicate them. The righteous cry out and G-d saves them. He has a special fondness for the oppressed and He comes to their aid.

Many bad things can occur to a righteous person, but G-d saves them from all these troubles. (The Radak points out that these trials spiritually elevate the righteous.) G-d protects their bodies from harm. The wicked will ultimately perish from their evil deeds, but those who turn to G-d will be spared such a fate and never regret trusting in Him.

Like the previous Psalm, this one is also part of the morning service on Sabbaths and Festivals.

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