Psalms – Chapter 40

Like A Bridge Over Troubled Waters

By Rabbi Jack Abramowitz

This Psalm begins “lamnatzeach, l’David mizmor,” “To the conductor, of David, a song.” As we saw previously, when a Psalm begins “l’David mizmor,” it means that G-d’s spirit rested upon David, causing him to sing (as opposed to mizmor l’David, in which David sang first, causing G-d’s spirit to rest upon him).

David says that he has unceasingly hoped for G-d, so G-d has heeded his prayers. G-d picked David up out of the metaphorical muck and troubled waters and placed him on a solid foundation. G-d’s actions cause David to sing praises to Him. (Rashi relates this metaphor to the Exodus from Egypt and the crossing of the Red Sea, which was followed by singing Shira, The Song at the Sea.)

Crowds of people will see all this and be suitably impressed, causing them to likewise place their faith in G-d. A person is fortunate if he puts his trust in G-d, rather than in arrogant people, who think they have power. G-d has done it all. He conceived and created all the wonders of the universe; no human could do anything approaching that. G-d’s praises are so limitless that David doesn’t know where to begin – and he could never hope to list them all! G-d doesn’t ask for sacrifices as “payment” for all He does. Rather, he gave David the ability to accept Nathan’s rebuke (following the incident of Batsheva), enabling David to atone and draw closer to G-d that way.

When G-d gave the Torah, the Jewish people agreed unconditionally, a fact that is recorded in that selfsame Torah. A person’s natural inclination is to do the will of G-d and the desire for Torah should be internalized. David public acknowledges G-d’s righteousness and he doesn’t hold back or keep it to himself. No, David talks freely about G-d’s reliability and the way in which He has saved David. He doesn’t withhold G-d’s praises the way he hopes G-d will not withhold His kindness. David needs G-d’s generosity to get him through the many evils waiting to ambush him. There are more dangers waiting for David, he says, than there are hairs on his head! It’s very intimidating and he hopes that it pleases G-d to navigate him through this sea of trouble. (David does not use a nautical metaphor at this point; that’s just me paraphrasing in the vernacular.)

David hopes that those who pursue him be disgraced. Those who rejoice over his misfortunes should be astounded by their own, instead. On the other hand, those who faithfully pursue G-d should be rewarded with joy in Him and always praise Him for His salvation. Israel is a small, insignificant people. We must constantly rely upon G-d to succeed. He helps us and gets us out of trouble – we only ask that, since He will do so anyway, he do it soon!

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