Psalms – Chapter 77

The Last Word?

By Rabbi Jack Abramowitz

Continuing the Psalms of Asaf, this one on the Yedusun, which Rashi says refers to the harsh decrees that would be made on Israel by their oppressors in exile.

Asaf says that he raises his voice and cries out to G-d, Who hears him. On his day of trouble, Asaf looked for G-d. He is spiritually wounded and blood metaphorically pours from his injury through the long night of exile; he is inconsolable. He remembers how G-d used to favor us and it makes him feel even worse! He relates it to others and he just can’t stand it. His troubles keep him up all night and he becomes so disoriented from them that he can no longer speak. He looks back on “the good old days,” pre-exile, and remembers the former joy of the nation, trying to recapture it.

“Has G-d rejected us forever?” Asaf asks. “Will He stay angry and never rescue us? Is that His last word on the subject?” Asaf replies to his own question that the current troubles are meant to inspire us to return to G-d. This is why He changed the way He treats us. Asaf resolves to remember G-d’s deeds and His wonders, such as He performed for our ancestors. G-d’s ways are in holiness (the Radak understands this in a number of ways, one of which is that the Exodus from Egypt culminated in the Revelation at Sinai); there is no one as mighty as He is. He works miracles and punishes nations for the evil they do.

G-d redeemed Israel from Egypt, where the brothers had sent Joseph. He split the sea as they departed and G-d protected the Jews with a supernatural cloud. The skies thundered and hail battered the Egyptians like arrows. Lightning lit the night sky so the Jews could see. (Don’t remember that part of the Exodus story? See Exodus 14:20.) The Jews crossed the sea safely and their pursuers perished. G-d then led His people like a shepherd leads a flock, designating Moses and Aaron as His representatives.

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