“אשרי העם שככה לו, אשרי העם שה’ אלוקיו– Happy/fortunate is the nation for whom this is so, Fortunate is the nation that has Hashem as their G-d.” Interestingly this verse is also not from the same psalm as the rest of the prayer. It is the last Pasuk in Psalm 144. Why then is it inserted at this point? It is explained that with the addition of this verse the word Ashrei is then mentioned three times demonstrating that we say the Ashrei prayer three times a day.
“Fortunate is the nation for whom this is so..” For whom what is so?
The Etz Yosef explains that this is referring to the previous verse in the prayer i.e. we are fortunate that we are able to be יושבי ביתיך – those that may dwell in the house of G-d. He also writes that “We are fortunate that to have Hashem as our G-d” refers to the fact that the Jewish people are intertwined with G-d i.e. that even our name Israel is graced with a name of G-d – E-L.
The Gaon of Vilna advances a different idea to interpret the verse. He states that since the Gematria/ numerical equivalent of the Hebrew word שככה =445 is the same as the Hebrew word of our Teacher משה=445, the implication of the verse at hand is that we are thankful for our leaders from the time of Moses and Mt. Sinai until today.
The Radak at the end of Psalm 144 explains the latter part of the verse in its most simple form. “אשרי העם שה’ אלוקיו-Fortunate is the nation that has Hashem as their G-d” states clearly that we the Jewish people should feel happy, fortunate, and privileged that Hashem is our G-d. He is our Source; He is the origin and cause of all blessing and success for everyone and everything on this earth.
It is the combination of all three approaches to this verse that provides us with a richer understanding of this prayer. Ashrei – Fortunate are those who have such a beautiful liturgy to approach G-d; and fortunate are those who understand well the prayers they are reciting.
Rabbi Epstein, Congregation Sons of Israel Cherry Hill NJ