Psalms – Chapter 80

The Trampled Vine

By Rabbi Jack Abramowitz

Continuing the Psalms of Asaf, this one is to be accompanied on the Shoshanim. The name of this instrument is a reference to Israel, which is a delicate rose surrounded by dangerous thorns. This Psalm is also called eidus, a testimony. (Rashi says it testifies to the various periods of exile.)

Asaf asks G-d, Who is the Shepherd of Israel, to listen to his prayer. The subject of this Psalm is specifically the Ten Tribes, who were led by the Tribe of Ephraim, one of the sons of Joseph. Asaf speaks to G-d, Whose metaphorical throne is carried by cherubim (see Ezekiel 10).

May G-d arouse His might on behalf of Ephraim and Menashe (part of the Ten Tribes of Israel) and Benjamin (part of the kingdom of Judah). Asaf asks G-d to return to us, reveal the light of His “face” (a metaphor), and save us.

How long will G-d be angry at His exiled nation and refuse to hear their prayers? The Jews are surviving on their tears, which they have in abundance. G-d allows all the other nations to complain about us. By being able to do so, they think that G-d is incapable of rescuing us. And so, we hope that He will quickly reveal Himself.

Israel is compared to a vine (as they are in Isaiah chapter 5). The vine was transplanted from Egypt to the land of Israel. G-d cleared the land for it and the vine grew well. It excelled and covered the mountains, with branches like cedars. It reached from the river to the sea. Why has G-d now broken down the fences around the vineyard so that trespassers can pick at the grapes? A wild boar tears up the vine and other predators pick at it. (The boar may be a metaphor for Edom and this part of the Psalm may refer specifically to the Roman exile.) Asaf prays that G-d look down on us from Heaven and save the vine that He planted.

The nation has been burnt and razed; G-d allowed this because we angered Him. Now may He punish the invaders, whom He permitted to gain the upper hand. We will continue to trust in G-d and we will praise Him for our salvation. We ask that G-d restore us and redeem us with the metaphorical glow of His countenance.

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