When returning the Torah to the Ark we recite Mizmor LeDovid-Psalm 24. This prayer is also included in our liturgy as the sixth Psalm recited on Friday night prior to the singing of Lecha Dodi. Due to the importance and holiness of the prayer, we always stand when reciting it.
The Tur, Rav Yaakov Ben Asher (1270-1340) explains that there are two reasons why we recite Mizmor Ledovid before returning the Torah to the Ark on Shabbat:
1. It contains many references of the Divine Transcendence of Torah at Mt. Sinai, which originally took place on Shabbat.
2. In the prayer, we mention Seven Divine and Eternal Kolot, Seven Great Voices/Sounds of God, i.e. Kol Hashem Al Hamayim, Kol Hashem Bakoach, Kol Hashem Behadar, Kol Hashem Chotzev Lahavot Aish, Kol Hashem Yachel Midbar, Kol Hashem Shovair Arazim, Kol Hashem Yecholel Ayalot–over the water, with strength, with beauty, which pierces fire, causes the desert to tremor, breaks the cedar trees and astounds animal life. The number seven is significant because, like the Seven Voices of God, there are also seven blessings in the Shabbat Mussaf.
Since it is connected to Mussaf, we recite the psalm only when returning the Torah Shabbat morning, and not when we take it out or any other time that we remove and return the Torah to the Ark. When we return the Torah to the Ark on other days, we recite Psalm 24, LeDovid Mizmor, which reveals God’s all powerful strength, creativity and dominion over the world.
The Talmud explains that in the middle of Psalm 24, the verse, Seu Shearim Roshaychem…Let the Gates Open so the Honorable King may pass through, is a prophetic reference to a later time when King Solomon, the son of King David, attempts to transport the Holy Ark into the newly built Beit Hamikdash (Holy Temple) in Jerusalem. After an initial delay, God opens the gates specifically in the merit of his father King David – hence: Seu Shearim Roshaychem…Let the Gates Open. We model the Psalmist’s vision of the opening of the gates of the Holy Temple which accepted the Sacred Ark. So too, we re-open our Synagogue Ark and return the Torah, the living word of God to its place of honor.
Take Home Tip – Every time we take out the Torah from the Ark and return the Torah to the Ark, we are reenacting the Divine Transcendence of God at Sinai. Therefore, when we listen to the Torah reading each week, we should understand and appreciate that we are listening to the actual eternal Word of God.