Tehillim 19 and the Essence of Simchas Torah

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07 Oct 2019
Simchat Torah

Simchas Torah!

Surely near the top of everyone’s list for Most Joyous Holiday, vying only with Purim as serious competition.

And that starts when we are very young, too small to understand, but caught up in the excitement of the singing and dancing, each child in turn being given his or her moments in the sun, borne aloft high on Daddy’s shoulders. Each child is master of his own Personal Royal Chariot; all are rulers of all they survey from their perches high above mere lowly mortals, as they effortlessly sail round and round the Bimah. Some lucky ones have sole ownership of their Thrones of Glory for an entire Hakafah, seven chances to win the Lottery. And all the while, Daddy labors dutifully below, a beast of burden— performing a labor of love.

And each one of those seven Hakafos is introduced by one of seven consecutive pesukim, taken from the last half of Tehillim 19, a chapter very familiar to us from its inclusion in Pesukei d’Zimrah of Shabbos and Yom Tov.

Chapter 19 is an initially puzzling and surprisingly complex paragraph; let’s take a closer look at it to try to better understand its structure, its significance to the Avodas haYom of Simchas Torah, and indeed, to our Avodas haYom of every single day. We will divide it into logical sections to aid our analysis. Translation follows:

לַמְנַצֵּ֗חַ מִזְמ֥וֹר לְדָוִֽד׃ הַשָּׁמַ֗יִם מְֽסַפְּרִ֥ים כְּבֽוֹד־אֵ֑-ל וּֽמַעֲשֵׂ֥ה יָ֝דָ֗יו מַגִּ֥יד הָרָקִֽיעַ׃ י֣וֹם לְ֭יוֹם יַבִּ֣יעַֽ אֹ֑מֶר וְלַ֥יְלָה לְּ֝לַ֗יְלָה יְחַוֶּה־דָּֽעַת׃ אֵֽין־אֹ֭מֶר וְאֵ֣ין דְּבָרִ֑ים בְּ֝לִ֗י נִשְׁמָ֥ע קוֹלָֽם׃ בְּכָל־הָאָ֨רֶץ ׀ יָ֘צָ֤א קַוָּ֗ם וּבִקְצֵ֣ה תֵ֭בֵל מִלֵּיהֶ֑ם לַ֝שֶּׁ֗מֶשׁ שָֽׂם־אֹ֥הֶל בָּהֶֽם׃ וְה֗וּא כְּ֭חָתָן יֹצֵ֣א מֵחֻפָּת֑וֹ יָשִׂ֥ישׂ כְּ֝גִבּ֗וֹר לָר֥וּץ אֹֽרַח׃ מִקְצֵ֤ה הַשָּׁמַ֨יִם ׀ מֽוֹצָא֗וֹ וּתְקוּפָת֥וֹ עַל־קְצוֹתָ֑ם וְאֵ֥ין נִ֝סְתָּ֗ר מֵֽחַמָּתוֹ׃

תּ֘וֹרַ֤ת יְ-הוָ֣ה תְּ֭מִימָה מְשִׁ֣יבַת נָ֑פֶשׁ עֵד֥וּת יְ-הוָ֥ה נֶ֝אֱמָנָ֗ה מַחְכִּ֥ימַת פֶּֽתִי׃ פִּקּ֘וּדֵ֤י יְ-הוָ֣ה יְ֭שָׁרִים מְשַׂמְּחֵי־לֵ֑ב מִצְוַ֥ת יְ-הוָ֥ה בָּ֝רָ֗ה מְאִירַ֥ת עֵינָֽיִם׃ יִרְאַ֤ת יְ-הוָ֨ה ׀ טְהוֹרָה֮ עוֹמֶ֪דֶת לָ֫עַ֥ד מִֽשְׁפְּטֵי־יְ-הוָ֥ה אֱמֶ֑ת צָֽדְק֥וּ יַחְדָּֽו׃ הַֽנֶּחֱמָדִ֗ים מִ֭זָּהָב וּמִפַּ֣ז רָ֑ב וּמְתוּקִ֥ים מִ֝דְּבַ֗שׁ וְנֹ֣פֶת צוּפִֽים׃

גַּֽם־עַ֭בְדְּךָ נִזְהָ֣ר בָּהֶ֑ם בְּ֝שָׁמְרָ֗ם עֵ֣קֶב רָֽב׃ שְׁגִיא֥וֹת מִֽי־יָבִ֑ין מִֽנִּסְתָּר֥וֹת נַקֵּֽנִי׃ גַּ֤ם מִזֵּדִ֨ים ׀ חֲשֹׂ֬ךְ עַבְדֶּ֗ךָ אַֽל־יִמְשְׁלוּ־בִ֣י אָ֣ז אֵיתָ֑ם וְ֝נִקֵּ֗יתִי מִפֶּ֥שַֽׁע רָֽב׃

יִֽהְי֥וּ לְרָצ֨וֹן ׀ אִמְרֵי־פִ֡י וְהֶגְי֣וֹן לִבִּ֣י לְפָנֶ֑יךָ יְ֝-הוָ֗ה צוּרִ֥י וְגֹאֲלִֽי׃

For the Orchestrator, a psalm of David. The heavens recount the glory of God, the sky proclaims His handiwork. Day to day gives utterance, night to night reveals understanding. There is no speech, there are no words, with no voice being heard. To all the Earth goes out their measuring line, and to the edge of the inhabited world [go their silent] words, for the sun He placed a tent for them. And he [the sun] is like a groom going forth from his wedding canopy, bringing joy like a champion athlete, to run his [daily] course. His origin at one edge of the heavens, his circuit until their other extent, nothing is hidden from his heat.

The Torah of HaShem is perfect, returning spirit; the testimonies of HaShem are trustworthy, making the naive wise. The ordinances of HaShem are just, rejoicing the heart; the commandment of HaShem is lucid illuminating the eyes. The fear of HaShem is pure, enduring forever; the judgments of HaShem are true, righteous altogether. More desirable than gold, than much fine gold; sweeter than honey and the drippings of combs.

Also Your servant is careful regarding them [the various categories of commandments above]; in guarding them there is great reward. Who can be cognizant of accidental sins? Cleanse me of hidden trespasses. Also from willful sins withhold Your servant; let them not rule in me; then shall I be at the peak of my strength and clean of grave transgression.

May the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be desirable before You, HaShem, my Rock and my Redeemer.

As we start the kapitil, it seems pretty simple—it’s about the greatness of HaShem manifest through the magnificence of His Ma’aseh B’reishis, especially the life-giving Sun, who ‘praises’ God by virtue of flawlessly and joyfully  ‘doing his job’ of course; one of HaShem’s faithful Malachim, depicted by the Psalmist as animate, even though it is inanimate.

That works for the first seven pesukim.

Then we hit the eighth. Hmmm, all of a sudden we’re talking about learning Torah and doing mitzvos. Well at least that jibes with Pesukim 12-14, the heartfelt desire of the Psalmist to be free of sin, of transgressing those mitzvos.

But then we hit the last posuk, also a bit of a shocker. For Chazal abstract that posuk as the ‘sign-off’ for Shemonah Esrei, before which we cannot break our strict Stance of Attention, or even answer to Kedushah [Shulchan Orech, O”Ch, 122].

But that’s Tefilah, an entirely different service than either Avodah or Talmud Torah!

OK, so now I’m really confused. Are we talking about the sun, Avodah, Talmud Torah, Tefilah— or all of the above??

Let’s formalize our confusion into some discrete questions, and then attack them utilizing a textual analysis of a few choice words within the kapitil.

1) All of the classical meforshim understand that some sort of comparison is being made between the sun and the Torah:

— Rashi [19:8] understands either that the Torah is enlightening , (כי נר מצוה ותורה אור [משלי ו’]) just as is the sun, or that the Torah’s heat exceeds that of the sun, L’asid Lavo punishing evil-doers with Gehenom but protecting those that learn it;

— Both Ibn Ezra and Radak [19:8] learn that just as the powerful and life-sustaining sun gives testimony to the Glory of its Creator, the life-sustaining Torah gives even more eloquent testimony to the Glory of its Author— although the commentators differ in the specifics of that testimony;

— Metzudas Dovid avers that the Torah is more תְּמִימָה, perfect, whole, complete in all of its construction, details, and particulars than is the mighty sun;

— Malbim states that just as the Glory and greatness of God is manifest in the physical world by the sun, The Torah proclaims HaShem’s Glory through 6 different kinds of precepts (the same as those presented throughout Tehillim 119) in the spiritual universe, and develops that specific theme.

Given that background, is there any other specific comparison which we can make which augments all the above commentaries, especially in regard to how the chapter relates to Simchas Torah?

2) Does the essential theme of the chapter revolve around Torah, Avodah or Tefilah?

3) Shemini Atzeres/SimchasTorah is one of two regalim for which the Torah specifies no particular mitzvah for the individual (for more depth on this observation, see the Pesach/Shavuos and Sukkos/Shemini Atzeres sections of Where Does Hallel Come From?). Therefore the Avodas haYom is set by Chazal, not the Torah.

What is that avodah? how does our contemporary practice reflect that avodah, and how is that highlighted in Tehillim 19?


In any speech or literary work, the beginning and the ending are usually what are best remembered, and are where the most emphasis should be placed. Let’s cut to the last posuk, and focus on the most distinctive word of that posuk:

יִֽהְי֥וּ לְרָצ֨וֹן ׀ אִמְרֵי־פִ֡י וְהֶגְי֣וֹן לִבִּ֣י לְפָנֶ֑יךָ יְ֝-הוָ֗ה צוּרִ֥י וְגֹאֲלִֽי׃

From the standpoint of frequency within Tanach, the word וְהֶגְי֣וֹן (shoresh: הגה  ) wins the uniqueness contest. The shoresh הגה—to recite or to meditate— is not found in Chumash at all, and its first appearance is in Chapter 1 of Sefer Yehoshua—which just happens to the Haftorah for v’Zos haB’rachah—and hence is read on Simchas Torah itself! A promising lead for connectiveness!

In that first chapter, Yehoshua seems understandably nervous at stepping into Moshe Rabeinu’s shoes, and God delivers these words of reassurance [1:3-9]:

כָּל־מָק֗וֹם אֲשֶׁ֨ר תִּדְרֹ֧ךְ כַּֽף־רַגְלְכֶ֛ם בּ֖וֹ לָכֶ֣ם נְתַתִּ֑יו כַּאֲשֶׁ֥ר דִּבַּ֖רְתִּי אֶל־מֹשֶֽׁה׃ מֵהַמִּדְבָּר֩ וְהַלְּבָנ֨וֹן הַזֶּ֜ה וְֽעַד־הַנָּהָ֧ר הַגָּד֣וֹל נְהַר־פְּרָ֗ת כֹּ֚ל אֶ֣רֶץ הַֽחִתִּ֔ים וְעַד־הַיָּ֥ם הַגָּד֖וֹל מְב֣וֹא הַשָּׁ֑מֶשׁ יִֽהְיֶ֖ה גְּבוּלְכֶֽם׃ לֹֽא־יִתְיַצֵּ֥ב אִישׁ֙ לְפָנֶ֔יךָ כֹּ֖ל יְמֵ֣י חַיֶּ֑יךָ כַּֽאֲשֶׁ֨ר הָיִ֤יתִי עִם־מֹשֶׁה֙ אֶהְיֶ֣ה עִמָּ֔ךְ לֹ֥א אַרְפְּךָ֖ וְלֹ֥א אֶעֶזְבֶֽךָּ׃ חֲזַ֖ק וֶאֱמָ֑ץ כִּ֣י אַתָּ֗ה תַּנְחִיל֙ אֶת־הָעָ֣ם הַזֶּ֔ה אֶת־הָאָ֕רֶץ אֲשֶׁר־נִשְׁבַּ֥עְתִּי לַאֲבוֹתָ֖ם לָתֵ֥ת לָהֶֽם׃ רַק֩ חֲזַ֨ק וֶֽאֱמַ֜ץ מְאֹ֗ד לִשְׁמֹ֤ר לַעֲשׂוֹת֙ כְּכָל־הַתּוֹרָ֗ה אֲשֶׁ֤ר צִוְּךָ֙ מֹשֶׁ֣ה עַבְדִּ֔י אַל־תָּס֥וּר מִמֶּ֖נּוּ יָמִ֣ין וּשְׂמֹ֑אול לְמַ֣עַן תַּשְׂכִּ֔יל בְּכֹ֖ל אֲשֶׁ֥ר תֵּלֵֽךְ׃ לֹֽא־יָמ֡וּשׁ סֵפֶר֩ הַתּוֹרָ֨ה הַזֶּ֜ה מִפִּ֗יךָ וְהָגִ֤יתָ בּוֹ֙ יוֹמָ֣ם וָלַ֔יְלָה לְמַ֙עַן֙ תִּשְׁמֹ֣ר לַעֲשׂ֔וֹת כְּכָל־הַכָּת֖וּב בּ֑וֹ כִּי־אָ֛ז תַּצְלִ֥יחַ אֶת־דְּרָכֶ֖ךָ וְאָ֥ז תַּשְׂכִּֽיל׃ הֲל֤וֹא צִוִּיתִ֙יךָ֙ חֲזַ֣ק וֶאֱמָ֔ץ אַֽל־תַּעֲרֹ֖ץ וְאַל־תֵּחָ֑ת כִּ֤י עִמְּךָ֙ יְ-הוָ֣ה אֱ-לֹהֶ֔יךָ בְּכֹ֖ל אֲשֶׁ֥ר תֵּלֵֽךְ׃

God essentially reassures Yehoshua that successful leadership does not depend on the individual leader at all, rather it depends on DAY-AND-NIGHT, constant review of HaShem’s TORAH, and GUARDING its MITZVOS assiduously:

But you must be very strong and resolute to GUARD, to DO, as in all the TORAH that My servant Moshe commanded you, do not deviate from it to the right or to the left, that you may be successful wherever you go. Let not this ACCOUNT of the TORAH cease from your MOUTH, but MEDITATE [וְהָגִ֤יתָ ] in it DAY AND NIGHT, so that you may GUARD to DO like all that is written in it; only then will you prosper in your path and only then will you be successful.  [1:7-8]

 The central phrase וְהָגִ֤יתָ בּוֹ֙ יוֹמָ֣ם וָלַ֔יְלָה not only encompasses the first use in Tanach of הגה, found in the second half of Tehillim 19, but also references the repetitive passage of day and night, the focus of the first half of 19. Thus this one short phrase unifies both halves of the kapitil! In Yehoshua, it is the Torah which must be studied “day and night”, whereas in the kapitil that interval is served by the heavens and the heavenly bodies… a neat transposition by the Psalmist! Note also the presence of the ancillary highlighted sherashim within Tehillim 19, further suggesting the strong relationship between the two chapters.  Even the “Shemesh” puts in a ‘cameo appearance’ within 1:4 of Yehoshua, further cementing the textual— and thematic— relationship!

Thus by linking it with the first chapter of Yehoshua, we’ve now postulated that the focus of this last posuk of the kapitil is indeed talmud Torah and the performance of its mitzvos, NOT tefilah. (We will deal with this posuk’s appearance at the end of Shemonah Esrei at the end of the article.)

In the process, we’ve highlighted that an important feature in this relationship is the continuous, repetitive, day-and-night aspect of our relationship to Torah.


Another significant phrase within the kapitil finds its source in a much lesser known, and rather chilling reference, buried deep within Sefer Iyov. For those who may be unfamiliar with Iyov, it is one of the most perplexing and linguistically difficult works of the entire Tanach, yet it is obviously of central importance for the Jew, written by none other than Moshe Rabeinu himself [Bava Basra 14b].

Briefly, HaShem challenges the Sotan to test His faithful servant Iyov, a perfect and righteous man whom HaShem has blessed with great riches, and a large, pious, and happy family. The Sotan goes about his duties assiduously, first destroying Iyov’s wealth and murdering all his children one by one, and finally afflicting Iyov’s very body, torturing him up to the very point of death (and possibly beyond that point, miraculously), says the Gemorah [ Bava Basra 16a, Chullin 43a].  The bulk of the sefer consists of dialogues between three of Iyov’s so-called ‘friends’ who seem more intent on casting blame on the unfortunate victim as an explanation for his misfortunes rather than consoling him, and Iyov himself who protests his innocence over and over again. The profound thematic message of Moshe’s cryptic work is far beyond the scope of this article.

[Please understand that in Jewish ideology, the Sotan is a malach, like any other, charged with a particular task. The verb לשטן means to oppose, and the Sotan’s task is that of a Quality Control Manager of sorts, or perhaps a good Cardiologist. His job is to administer ‘Stress Tests’ to test the integrity of his “patients’ ”  hearts. But unlike our clinical colleagues who essay to check hearts noninvasively, the Sotan’s stress tests can present very real adversity and pain for their unfortunate subjects! Such can be the effects of personal— and national— nisyonos…]

In Iyov’s reply in Chapter 16 to Eliphaz’s second speech, he muses, stunned, in shock, at the viciousness and most especially at the persistence and repetitiveness of the Sotan’s attacks upon him.

Come, hear Iyov’s pain. Hear his pain not only in his words, but even in his very dikduk! (Highlighted words share sherashim with words in the kapitil, and even though many [ but not all!] are nondescript, they further suggest connection between the two paragraphs). We’ll focus on the central part of the chapter with a translation and italicized commentary.

וַיַּ֥עַן אִיּ֗וֹב וַיֹּאמַֽר׃ שָׁמַ֣עְתִּי כְאֵ֣לֶּה רַבּ֑וֹת מְנַחֲמֵ֖י עָמָ֣ל כֻּלְּכֶֽם׃ הֲקֵ֥ץ לְדִבְרֵי־ר֑וּחַ א֥וֹ מַה־יַּ֝מְרִֽיצְךָ֗ כִּ֣י תַעֲנֶֽה׃ גַּ֤ם ׀ אָנֹכִי֮ כָּכֶ֪ם אֲדַ֫בֵּ֥רָה ל֤וּ־יֵ֪שׁ נַפְשְׁכֶ֡ם תַּ֤חַת נַפְשִׁ֗י אַחְבִּ֣ירָה עֲלֵיכֶ֣ם בְּמִלִּ֑ים וְאָנִ֥יעָה עֲ֝לֵיכֶ֗ם בְּמ֣וֹ רֹאשִֽׁי׃ אֲאַמִּצְכֶ֥ם בְּמוֹ־פִ֑י וְנִ֖יד שְׂפָתַ֣י יַחְשֹֽׂךְ׃ אִֽם־אֲ֭דַבְּרָה לֹא־יֵחָשֵׂ֣ךְ כְּאֵבִ֑י וְ֝אַחְדְּלָ֗ה מַה־מִנִּ֥י יַהֲלֹֽךְ׃ אַךְ־עַתָּ֥ה הֶלְאָ֑נִי הֲ֝שִׁמּ֗וֹתָ כָּל־עֲדָתִֽי׃  וַֽ֭תִּקְמְטֵנִי לְעֵ֣ד הָיָ֑ה וַיָּ֥קָם בִּ֥י כַ֝חֲשִׁ֗י בְּפָנַ֥י יַעֲנֶֽה׃

 אַפּ֤וֹ טָרַ֨ף ׀ וַֽיִּשְׂטְמֵ֗נִי חָרַ֣ק עָלַ֣י בְּשִׁנָּ֑יו צָרִ֓י ׀ יִלְט֖וֹשׁ עֵינָ֣יו לִֽי׃ פָּעֲר֬וּ עָלַ֨י ׀ בְּפִיהֶ֗ם בְּ֭חֶרְפָּה הִכּ֣וּ לְחָיָ֑י יַ֝֗חַד עָלַ֥י יִתְמַלָּאֽוּן׃

His [either HaShem’s or His agent, the Sotan’s] anger rips at, and shows hatred of me, he has gnashed his teeth at me; My distressor sharpens his gaze against me. They [Iyov’s “friends”] have opened wide their mouths at me, with contempt they struck my cheeks, unified, they satisfy themselves [with vilification] against me.

The next posuk validates that Iyov well knows that the Sotan is his relentless tormentor, HaShem’s ‘hatchet man’— but also shows he is aware Who’s giving the Orders (see endnote 1)!

יַסְגִּירֵ֣נִי אֵ֭-ל אֶ֣ל עֲוִ֑יל וְעַל־יְדֵ֖י רְשָׁעִ֣ים יִרְטֵֽנִי׃[1]

The Powerful One has confined me into the custody of an evildoer [the Sotan], and has caused me to hurriedly fall into the clutches of the wicked.

 שָׁ֘לֵ֤ו הָיִ֨יתִי ׀ וַֽיְפַרְפְּרֵ֗נִי וְאָחַ֣ז בְּ֭עָרְפִּי וַֽיְפַצְפְּצֵ֑נִי וַיְקִימֵ֥נִי ל֝֗וֹ לְמַטָּרָֽה׃

I had been at peace, and he crumbled me to bits; and he grabbed me by the scruff of the neck, and he shattered me to smithereens; and he set me up as his bull’s eye target.

Hear Iyov’s pain, even in the dikduk. Even if you don’t know that פרר  means ‘to separate into small pieces’, the Sotan doesn’t just ‘par’, Iyov, he ‘par-par’s’ him, over and over again. Even if you don’t know that פצצ means ‘to explode’, the Sotan doesn’t just ‘patz’ him, he ‘patz-patz’s’ him, over and over again.

One doesn’t shoot just one arrow at a target for practice. He shoots over and over— and over again—until he finally hits his mark, the bull’s eye! The Sotan’s onslaught is repetitive—and merciless! Iyov continues the description of the relentlessness of the attack upon him:

 יָ֘סֹ֤בּוּ עָלַ֨י ׀ רַבָּ֗יו יְפַלַּ֣ח כִּ֭לְיוֹתַי וְלֹ֣א יַחְמ֑וֹל יִשְׁפֹּ֥ךְ לָ֝אָ֗רֶץ מְרֵרָֽתִי׃

His archers surrounded me, he eviscerated my kidneys and showed no mercy, he spilled my bitter bile to the earth.

And just in case you missed the dikduk, the relentless repetitiveness of the next posuk is unmistakable.

Hear Iyov’s shock and pain…

 יִפְרְצֵ֣נִי פֶ֭רֶץ עַל־פְּנֵי־פָ֑רֶץ יָרֻ֖ץ עָלַ֣י כְּגִבּֽוֹר׃

He breached me, breach after breach; He rushed at me like a strongman-warrior.

 שַׂ֣ק תָּ֭פַרְתִּי  עֲלֵ֣י גִלְדִּ֑י וְעֹלַ֖לְתִּי בֶעָפָ֣ר קַרְנִֽי׃ פָּנַ֣י חמרמרה [חֳ֭מַרְמְרוּ] מִנִּי־בֶ֑כִי וְעַ֖ל עַפְעַפַּ֣י צַלְמָֽוֶת׃

I sewed sackcloth over my skin; I sullied my essence in the dirt. My face has become deep crimson [redder than red!] with my weeping, and upon my fluttering double eyelids is the shadow of death. (Iyov 16: 9-16)

Again, notice the duplicative forms of the words, both verb [חֳ֭מַרְמְרוּ]  and noun [עַפְעַפַּ֣י], in the previous posuk. There can be no question of the repetitiveness of the Sotan’s attacks!

עַ֭ל לֹא־חָמָ֣ס בְּכַפָּ֑י וּֽתְפִלָּתִ֥י זַכָּֽה׃ אֶ֭רֶץ אַל־תְּכַסִּ֣י דָמִ֑י וְֽאַל־יְהִ֥י מָ֝ק֗וֹם לְזַעֲקָתִֽי׃ גַּם־עַ֭תָּה הִנֵּה־בַשָּׁמַ֣יִם עֵדִ֑י וְ֝שָׂהֲדִ֗י בַּמְּרוֹמִֽים׃ מְלִיצַ֥י רֵעָ֑י אֶל־אֱ֝-ל֗וֹהַ דָּלְפָ֥ה עֵינִֽי׃ וְיוֹכַ֣ח לְגֶ֣בֶר עִם־אֱ-ל֑וֹהַּ וּֽבֶן־אָדָ֥ם לְרֵעֵֽהוּ׃ כִּֽי־שְׁנ֣וֹת מִסְפָּ֣ר יֶאֱתָ֑יוּ וְאֹ֖רַח לֹא־אָשׁ֣וּב אֶהֱלֹֽךְ׃

יָרֻץ עָלַי כְּגִבּֽוֹר”he ran against me like a strongman.  An electrifying and chilling statement.

A גִבּֽוֹר— a warrior, a gladiator. A sadistic brute of an animal who smashes my face over and over again, even though he’s already felled me. I’m already a broken and beaten man, but he doesn’t stop. And then when I try to get up, he laughs, and smashes me yet again.

יָרֻץ עָלַי כְּגִבּֽוֹר. Hear Iyov’s pain…


And yet, an unmistakable echo within our kapitil—׃ וְה֗וּא כְּ֭חָתָן יֹצֵ֣א מֵחֻפָּת֑וֹ יָשִׂ֥ישׂ כְּ֝גִבּ֗וֹר לָר֥וּץ אֹֽרַח. Note the nearly consecutively treatment of יָרֻץ  (mentally ‘heard’ very similarly to לָרוּץ) and  כְּגִבּֽוֹר in Iyov, and furthermore the presence of  אֹֽרַח within the final posuk quoted from Iyov 16 above. Also note the underlined, bolded words, whose sherashim are shared in common with Tehillim 19, further suggesting relationship, including some relatively uncommon ones as , מלה, ספר, ארח, חשכ, עדה קצצ.

Hear Dovid haMelech’s optimism and positivity. He takes that sadistic brute, the גִבּֽוֹר who punishes his victim over and over again, and magically transforms him into the benevolent and life-giving sun, a גִבּֽוֹר, a champion athlete who can’t wait to run the track to bring joy to the cheering crowd, yet one more time!

But why? You just set a World’s Record yesterday!

“That was yesterday,” says the sun, bubbling with passion. “Today’s a brand new day! I have to do it again!! And tomorrow? My adoring crowd awaits, another record-shattering performance, over and over again! It’s who I am, what I was created to do!!!  I am HaShem’s faithful Malach, the Shemesh, literally, ‘One who Serves’! It’s my mahuss, my very essence! I can’t wait…”

וַיֹּ֣אמֶר אֱ-לֹהִ֗ים יְהִ֤י מְאֹרֹת֙ בִּרְקִ֣יעַ הַשָּׁמַ֔יִם לְהַבְדִּ֕יל בֵּ֥ין הַיּ֖וֹם וּבֵ֣ין הַלָּ֑יְלָה וְהָי֤וּ לְאֹתֹת֙ וּלְמ֣וֹעֲדִ֔ים וּלְיָמִ֖ים וְשָׁנִֽים׃

And the Lord said, “Let there be light-givers in the division of the heavens to separate the day from the night; they shall serve as signs and for set times and for days and years.

וְהָי֤וּ לִמְאוֹרֹת֙ בִּרְקִ֣יעַ הַשָּׁמַ֔יִם לְהָאִ֖יר עַל־הָאָ֑רֶץ וַֽיְהִי־כֵֽן׃  [בראשית א: י”ד-ט”ו]

Timekeepers they are, as well as light-givers. Over and over again, repetitively.


It seems to me that that is the specific focus of the comparison within the kapitil. The sun’s task is to serve God, by serving Man, over and over again. Repetitively.

And our task is to do that which HaShem charged Yehoshua: to serve God by learning Torah constantly to do the mitzvos, day and night, over and over again. Repetitively.

The sun has its ‘Torah’. And we have ours.

The mashal in the kapitil is not strictly between the sun and the Torah. It is also between how the sun approaches his task, and how we approach our task.

So here we are on Simchas Torah—rejoicing that we have achieved a significant milestone. Over the past year we have completed the entire Chamishei Chumshei Torah, all 80,000 words!

We could just give each other a high-five, a big “ ‘Skoi’ach”, then all go home to eat, to celebrate a job well-done.

But we don’t do that. We finish— and then we immediately start over— to do the whole thing yet again, from The Beginning. Repetitively. Like the sun, we can’t wait

And not only do we start over— we also progress onward, beyond the Chumash, to the very beginning of Nach, as we read from the beginning of Sefer Yehoshua!

Like the sun. It is who we are. It is what we were created to do.

And the Avodas Hayom?

Very simple. We dance Hakafos — Circuits. Round and round, over and over again. Just like the faithful sun. It’s right there in the kapitil: מִקְצֵ֤ה הַשָּׁמַ֨יִם ׀ מֽוֹצָא֗וֹ וּתְקוּפָת֥וֹ עַל־קְצוֹתָ֑ם.

The shoresh for ‘Tekufah’ is קפפ. The exact same shoresh as for ‘Hakafah’ [2]. The sun dances hakafos—and so do we.


So now, if you’ll pardon the pun, we have come full circle. The kapitil is all about studying Torah to do the mitzvos, and not so much about tefilah, although there is a prayer of sorts within the last three pesukim. So why is the last posuk chosen to seal the tefilah of Shemonah Esrei?

I’d like to suggest that all it takes is an examination of how Shemonah Esrei ends. Look at the last brachah, the one for Shalom, shleimus— completion.  And the additional request at the end, ‘אֱ-להַי. נְצר לְשׁונִי מֵרָע’, paying attention to the underlined phrases:

שים שָׁלום טובָה וּבְרָכָה. חֵן וָחֶסֶד וְרַחֲמִים עָלֵינוּ וְעַל כָּל יִשרָאֵל עַמֶּךָ. בָּרְכֵנוּ אָבִינוּ כֻּלָּנוּ כְּאֶחָד בְּאור פָּנֶיךָ. כִּי בְאור פָּנֶיךָ נָתַתָּ לָּנוּ ה’ אֱ-להֵינוּ תּורַת חַיִּים וְאַהֲבַת חֶסֶד. וּצְדָקָה וּבְרָכָה וְרַחֲמִים וְחַיִּים וְשָׁלום. וְטוב בְּעֵינֶיךָ לְבָרֵךְ אֶת כָּל עַמְּךָ יִשרָאֵל בְּכָל עֵת וּבְכָל שָׁעָה בִּשְׁלומֶךָ: בָּרוּךְ אַתָּה ה’, הַמְבָרֵךְ אֶת עַמּו יִשרָאֵל בַּשָּׁלום:

יִהְיוּ לְרָצון אִמְרֵי פִי וְהֶגְיון לִבִּי לְפָנֶיךָ ה’ צוּרִי וְגואֲלִי: אֱ-להַי. נְצר לְשׁונִי מֵרָע וּשפָתַי מִדַּבֵּר מִרְמָה. וְלִמְקַלְלַי נַפְשִׁי תִדּם. וְנַפְשִׁי כֶּעָפָר לַכּל תִּהְיֶה. פְּתַח לִבִּי בְּתורָתֶךָ. וּבְמִצְותֶיךָ תִּרְדּף נַפְשִׁי. וְכָל הַחושְׁבִים עָלַי רָעָה. מְהֵרָה הָפֵר עֲצָתָם וְקַלְקֵל מַחֲשַׁבְתָּם: עֲשה לְמַעַן שְׁמֶךָ. עֲשה לְמַעַן יְמִינֶךָ. עֲשה לְמַעַן קְדֻשָּׁתֶךָ. עֲשה לְמַעַן תּורָתֶךָ. לְמַעַן יֵחָלְצוּן יְדִידֶיךָ הושִׁיעָה יְמִינְךָ וַעֲנֵנִי: יִהְיוּ לְרָצון אִמְרֵי פִי וְהֶגְיון לִבִּי לְפָנֶיךָ ה’ צוּרִי וְגואֲלִי: עשה שָׁלום בִּמְרומָיו. הוּא יַעֲשה שָׁלום עָלֵינוּ וְעַל כָּל יִשרָאֵל. וְאִמְרוּ אָמֵן:

It’s not about prayer. It’s about talmud Torah and the performance of mitzvos (the ‘Torah of Life’ embodies brachah and chein given to us by ‘the LIGHT of HaShem’s Face’, a referent to the Birchas Kohanim which was just said, [יָאֵר הפָּנָיו אֵלֶיךָ וִיחֻנֶּךָּ:  יִשּא ה’ פָּנָיו אֵלֶיךָ וְיָשֵם לְךָ שָׁלום  : יְבָרֶכְךָ ה’ וְיִשְׁמְרֶךָ], and ALSO is a parallel to the shining ‘face’ of the sun of Kapitil 19).


In a sequel to this article to be posted later b’li neder, we will uncover fascinating parallels between the nussach of the tefilos and Tehillim 19, emplaced by Chazal within the daily davening, not surprisingly morning and night. In the process we will offer a novel understanding of the flow of the Birchos Kri’as Shema.

‘Til then, Good morning, and good night…


Written in honor of the 27th yahrtzeit of my father, my teacher, Harvey Myer Yaffe, OB”M,הערשל מאיר בן שמואל ע”ה, who taught me by his lifelong commitment to the principles of the Torah. נפטר ח’ תשרי תשנ”ג


[1] How does this statement implicate the Sotan?

The verb Iyov uses in this posuk is ירט—to hurry [esp. into the depths]. That shoresh is found in only one other posuk in all of Tanach, in the revelation to Bilaam at the beginning of Parshas Balak,  of the sword-wielding malach, previously visible to his donkey, but not to him, obstructing his path, multiple times:

וַיֹּ֤אמֶר אֵלָיו֙ מַלְאַ֣ךְ יְ-הוָ֔ה עַל־מָ֗ה הִכִּ֙יתָ֙ אֶת־אֲתֹ֣נְךָ֔ זֶ֖ה שָׁל֣וֹשׁ רְגָלִ֑ים הִנֵּ֤ה אָנֹכִי֙ יָצָ֣אתִי לְשָׂטָ֔ן כִּֽי־יָרַ֥ט הַדֶּ֖רֶךְ לְנֶגְדִּֽי׃

The angel of HaShem said to him, “Why have you beaten your donkey these three times? Behold, it is I who went out as an Adversary, for He hurried the way for me to oppose [you]. (Bamidbar 22:32)

Note that the shoresh שטן appears in only one other parshia in all of Chumash. The close juxtaposition of 2 such unusual words is surely no accident! And note the repetitive nature of the ‘attack’ on Bilaam here as well, characteristic of the Sotan’s tender blandishments! One thing you can count on—just when you think you’ve got the Sotan beat, he comes at you again and again, often from unanticipated directions!!

[2]  See Rashi and Metzudas Tzion on Tehillim 19:7.

ותקופתו על קצותם. הקפת סבובו מקצה אל קצה:                Rashi:

ותקופתו. מלשון הקפה וסבוב:                           Metzudas Tzion: