Psalms – Chapter 88

Hey, Man

By Rabbi Jack Abramowitz

Another Psalm of the sons of Korach, played on an instrument called the machalas l’ananos, which refers to troubles of the afflicted nation in exile. This Psalm is a maskil (a Psalm meant to enlighten) and it is attributed to Heiman. Who was Heiman? There are two men by that name in I Chronicles. The first (in chapter 2) was from the Tribe of Judah. The second (in chapter 6) was a Levite and a descendant of the prophet Samuel. Either of these could be the Heiman of Psalms, but the former is more likely. Here, Heiman is called “the Ezrachi.” This could refer to his father, Zerach. (The Radak says that if Heiman is the Levite, then he doesn’t know what “the Ezrachi” means.) From Rashi, it would seem that Heiman wrote the music and the sons of Korach wrote the words.

So, what do Heiman and the sons of Korach have to say? They say that they cry out to G-d by day and they come before Him by night; may He answer their prayer. Their soul is full of troubles and their life is at its depths. They were as good as dead in exile and without strength to defend themselves. Exile is a kind of living death; G-d’s punishment for our sins pushes us down. Once-friendly allies now shun us; it is as if we are in prison.

The authors say that they are pained by all the suffering they see, so they call out to G-d. Will He please save the nation before they perish? Please strengthen Israel, rather than the wicked. The nation is worth more alive than dead because we can’t praise G-d if we perish. So they turn to G-d and pray to Him the very first thing in the morning.

Why should G-d abandon the nation and ignore their prayers? The authors say they are afflicted and have been sickly since childhood because of the stream of horrors that have befallen the nation. The punishments G-d has imposed on us have ravaged them and enemies surround them, without an ally in sight.

The Psalm ends on that solemn note.

Download Audio File