Tehilim 22 is a journey along the path of the People of Israel, reaching the present moment. In the first part, up to verse 19, it deals mainly with the difficult aspects, and from 20 to 32, faces the most favorable part. This week we will deal with the difficult part.
א לַמְנַצֵּחַ, עַל-אַיֶּלֶת הַשַּׁחַר; מִזְמוֹר לְדָוִד
1 “For the director, on the Gazelle of the Morning. A Psalm of David.”
This first line describes the general theme of the Psalm, collected above all in the term “Ayelet ha-Shachar”. From the word “Ayelet” [אַיֶּלֶת] we get the numerical value (gematria) 441, the same as the word “Emet” (“truth” [אמת]). On the other hand, “shachar” [שַּׁחַר] means “morning”, so “Ayelet ha-Shachar” can be interpreted as “The Morning’s Truth”. Now, according to Tradition, the Torah was received by the People of Israel in the morning, so “Ayelet-HaShachar” refers to the Torah, the Truth that in the morning of the 6th of Sivan of 3,330 years ago we received from the Creator at Mount Sinai.
If we analyze now the number 3,330, on the one hand the 3,000 is 3 multiplied 1,000 times, and the 3 is Rachamim (mercy and compassion); The Sages tell us that we must strive so that the Redemption, which is the last consequence of the giving of the Torah, may be given to us by the Eternal with mercy. As for 330, several words with this number give us information, and two are:
- The first is “chesrono” [חסרונו], “His need”: the Creator “needs” us to implant the Torah, first in our hearts, and then in the world, in order to bring us Redemption. In order to impel us to do it, in turn, He creates an immense void, a “need” in our hearts, which is linked to our national deficiencies (see verses 2 to 19).
- The second expression is “vaAní abarechem” [ואני אברכם], “and I will bless them”: we will apply the ethics of Sinai in our lives, and He will bless us (second part of this post, bli Neder, next week).
2 “O my G’od, my G’od, why have you forsaken me? I perceive you far from helping me, from my words of lamentation”.
This is a verse of lament, bordering on complaint, spilled towards G’od, directed to Him when He expresses Himself with rigor towards us, with the harshness and coldness of distance, when it seems that He does not respond to our laments. This is one of the products of the Exile, of having been expelled from our Promised Land, be it (a) the Promised Land on the physical plane, the Land of Israel, or (b) the Promised Land as the rectified emotional state.
3 “O my, I have called You in the morning, but You do not answer me (“velo taaneh” [וְלֹא תַעֲנֶה]); and at night, but there is no rest for me.”
Throughout our National history, the lack of response from the Creator to our morning laments is contrasted with “the Morning’s Truth”; it denotes that, for a long time, we have not called the Creator with a sincere heart.
When, from the Exile, we made a call to the creator with a sincere heart, we went from “velo taaneh” (gematria 562) to Zionism (“Tzionut” [ציונות] (562]) (taken from the website “Mizrakhí Olam”):
“The pioneer of the national return to the Land of Israel was Yehudah Alkalai [יהודה חי אלקלעי], and he was fully rooted in the Torah of Sinai. Rabbi Alkalai raised the question of Jewish political independence and the land of Israel for the first time in the calendar year 1,834 in a small bulletin called “Shema Israel” (“Hear, oh Israel”). In his essay, he proposed a beginning of Jewish settlement in the Land of Israel as a precursor to the Messianic Redemption. This idea was not only original, but it was considered heretical among many Jews who believed that the Redemption would only come through a miraculous event caused by G’od […].
“There was a drastic change in the life and prospects of Rabbi Alkalai in 1840 with the appearance of the blood libel in Damascus, shaking the very foundations of the Jewish world and elements of the non-Jewish world. This libel convinced Rabbi Alkalai (and many other younger members of the generation, such as Moses Hess) that freedom and security for the nation could only be achieved in the Land of the ancestors, and that Redemption would only come through of effective action on the part of the Jewish community.
“From this moment on, Rabbi Alkalai dedicated himself to disseminating these ideas through writing and discourses in various Jewish communities in Western Europe. He approached Jewish leaders such as Moses Montefiore and Adolfo Cremieux for their political and financial support.
“Rabbi Alkalai was convinced that it would be possible to buy part or even most of the Holy Land from the Turkish government, that is, the sultan and his empire, as Abraham had done with the cave of Machpelah when he bought land from Ephron the Hittite . He dreamed of establishing a world organization in line with the different national organizations that prevail among other European nations. The purpose of these organizations would be to buy and recover land, in addition to offering loans for new settlers. These ideas were later adopted by Herzl (name related to the word “heart”) and the World Zionist Organization.”
Regarding the lack of rest at night, the lack of rest refers to the spiritual darkness, in which we now find ourselves as a People, whether inside or outside of the Land of Israel, and which in fact affects the entire world. And where is the root of the problem?
The spiritual darkness is idolatry. The expression “velo dumiah li” (“there is no rest for me” [ולֹא דמיה לי]) has the same numerical value as the word (“Mamon” [ממון]), one of the names of money in Hebrew, linked to the name of a pagan god. The conclusion is that the spiritual darkness in which the world finds itself, inside or outside of Israel, is the cult of the god of riches. The world’s idolatry of the present is the cult of money, which is the concentrated expression of material wealth.
According to the Ethics of the Fathers, the Ethics of Sinai, in Sodom the norm was strictly followed: “what is mine is mine and what is yours is yours” (Pirkei Avot, 5:13). “Sodom” (“Sdom” [סדם], as it appears in the Torah) and the expression “veló dumiá li” [ולֹא דמיה לי] share the letters Dalet [ד] and Mem [מ], which form the word “dam” [דם], “blood“, and we see how in the world the bloodshed has no restraint, since, as the Sages tell us:
“The sword comes to the world for lack of justice, delay in justice, and for those who interpret the Torah out of the Law” (Pirkei Avot, 5:8)
Likewise, we see here that this harsh idolatry derived from the cult to the money produces lack of justice in the style of Sodom –“what is mine is mine…“–, and is one of the bases of the destruction that is taking place in the world.
4 “But You are Holy, You who reside in the praises of Israel.”
To recover from the painful situation, desperate for many, we have to return to the basis. And the first basis is to reanimate our hearts; this can only be done real by recovering the sincere, personal contact with the Creator. This is enhanced by the precepts (Mitzvot), but in a very special way with the Tefillah, which is called by the Sages “Service of the heart” (Talmud, Taanit, 2a). And the form of Tefillah that connects our heart more to the Eternal is praise, expressed in a sublime way in the Psalms (Tehillim), which are a favorite weapon precisely to revive our hearts: restore the Love of the Creator (Ahavat HaShem), and rekindle our Ahavat Israel (Love for our Jewish brothers). When Love is alive, we can fulfill the Precepts in a qualitatively optimal way, and we can advance in the recovery of the heart of our closest ones, and then further on.
5 “Our fathers trusted in You; they trusted, and You liberated them.”
And where Sodom failed (Talmud, Sanhedrin, 109a), if we emulate our fathers, we know that we will triumph there, starting with Abraham Our father: we should practice hospitality (Genesis, 18:2-8) and Tzedakah –justice (Genesis 18:19).
6 “They cried to You and escaped; in You they trusted, and they were not ashamed.”
Precisely, Our father Abraham was saved from the fiery furnace of Nimrod because in You he trusted (Genesis Rabbah, 38:11); may we have the merit of following in his footsteps and trusting You too, and so we honor our parents, as we are requested through the Fifth Commandment!
7 “But I am a worm, and not a man; reproach of humans, scorned by the People.”
But I have an instinctive part that makes me fall into transgression; the struggle to fulfill the precepts correctly is difficult, I have to start by recognizing it.
8 “Everyone who sees me laughs, to make fun of me; they click their tongues, shake their heads:”
I do not lack uncontrolled impulses (like clicking my tongue) and bad thoughts (which make me shake my head) that boycott my effort to comply with the precepts.
9 “‘Let him commit himself to the Lord! Let Him rescue him; let Him release him, seeing that he delights in him.”
When we have not yet strengthened our personal relationship with the Creator, we can even have doubts about whether it is worth committing ourselves completely to Him. If we persist, while avoiding transgressing the Ninth Commandment of not making false testimony, we will eventually forge an intense relationship with him, and we will see that our doubts were completely unfounded.
10 “Since You are the One who took me out of the womb; You caused me to trust when I was on my mother’s breasts.”
For the Jews, the “womb” is an analogy of the slavery of Egypt: the Eternal took us out of that womb; and then He caused us to trust Him “over the breasts” of our mother, which are the hills of Mount Sinai. Trust we reached when the Eternal made us the Revelation of the Torah. Why is Revelation done on “mother’s breasts”? Because as Proverbs says, the “Torah” comes from the mother:
“Hear, my son, the admonition –Mussar– of the father, and do not turn away from the teaching –Torah– of the mother” (Proverbs, 1:8).
11 “To You I have been pounced from my birth; You are my G’od from my mother’s womb.”
From our birth as a People, from the womb of Egypt, with the climax of Mount Sinai, every Jew can say of the Creator: “I am the Eternal, your G’od,” which was the First Commandment.
12 “Do not be far from me, for the tribulation is near, and I have no other help.”
“Far from me” are situations with danger of falling into idolatry, or being a victim of the idolatry of others. And the root of all idolatries is the ego. Precisely, having spoken of the lack of justice nowadays, which is institutionalized, the numerical value of “far from me” (“tirchak mimeni” [תִּרְחַק מִמֶּנִּי]) is the same as that of “beBeit HaMishpat” (“in the court of justice” [בבית המשפט]). Based on this excess of existing ego, it is not uncommon to see how judges are part of the “star system” of the countries, and how they work in collusion with politicians, or do politics on their own.
13 “Many bulls have surrounded me; strong bulls from Bashan have surrounded me.”
“Many bulls” (“parim rabim” [פרים רבים]) is numerically equivalent to “tests” (“nissionot” [נסיונות]). Many tests have tested the trust in the Eternal of the People of Israel over the centuries. The strong bulls of Bashan refer to our angry temper, which we have inherited and transmitted over the centuries, and which we have transplanted in the Land of Israel. (I refer here to the reference that “Bashan” [בשן] is numerically equivalent to “Morocco” (“Morroco” [מרוקו]), a country with the characteristic of anger, which many Jews have brought to our Land.)
14 “They open their mouths wide open against me, like a lion that roars in rage.”
The lion refers to the leadership of our country. The angry temper also affects our rulers, and in fact already affected Moses himself, and has impacted on the lack of fluidity of relations between collectives of Israelis with disparate thinking, under different labels: “datim/religious”, “chilonim/laic”, etc.
15 “And I drain away like water, all my bones are broken; the heart, like wax, melts in my bossom.”
“Draining like water” refers to the expendidure of effort to unite the People by the compassionate. The reference to bones evokes Yossef, and makes us think that the result of the lack of self-control over anger is the reproduction of the disunity that affected us in Yosef’s time, with the main schism having occurred between the Jews of Israel and the current “Yossefs”: the Jews in the diaspora. The reference to the “wax-like” heart indicates that love between brothers is fragile, like wax. That it is founded in the entrails means that the resulting disenchantment affects our self-love as Jewish people.
16 “My strength is dry like mud, my tongue sticks to my palate. It makes me lie in the dust of death.”
“My strength” (“cochi” [כֹּחִי]) has equivalence with “His Honor” (“Kevodo” [כבודו]): our lack of communion of wills within Israel creates dishonor of the Eternal. In relation to “the tongue sticks to my palate”, it refers to the forgetfulness of Israel and Jerusalem by the Jews who are settled in the diaspora, as Tehilim 137 says:
“If I never forget you, Yerushalayim, let my right hand fall into oblivion. Let my tongue stick to my palate if I fail to remember you, if I do not put Jerusalem on high in my joy.”(Psalm 137:5, 6)
Regarding the reference to lie down “in the dust of death”, it refers to the “pulverized bones” of the Jews of the diaspora who forget their country, and also assimilate through mixed marriages, a silent Holocaust.
17 “A pack of dogs corners me, a band of criminals surrounds me; like lions, they have bound me hand and foot.”
And as a result of all the collective complaints that we drag, like dogs, we have mistakenly taken refuge in pursuing materialism. The lions, the leaders, have bound us hands and feet, and it seems that we only have present the materialistic course of action.
18 “I can count my bones. They look at me, they look at me satisfied;”
“Counting my bones” refers to the national task we must urgently undertake: to try to recover the lost Jewish souls in exoduses, exiles, and deserts.
I) The souls lost in the exodus are 80% of Jews who stayed in Egypt. It is probable that a fraction of these souls will be reincarnating or doing Ibur (“pregnancy of souls”) in the present time if we can stimulate it with our fulfillment of Torah and mitsvot.
II) The souls of the exiles refer to the Jews who died in the diaspora in earlier times. In the case of Iberia, among them we must count:
- Very likely, a significant contingent of Jews from the time of King Solomon, who moved to Tarshish together with inhabitants of Tire and Phenicia (possibly, 1 Kings, 10:22);
- Exiles of the First Temple displaced to Iberia (deduction from Obadia, which refers to the exiles of Sepharad);
- Exiles of the Second Temple deported to Hispania (information received from friend M. L.).
III) As for the souls in the “deserts”, their situation is also complex:
- Of the total of recognized Jews at the time of the Inquisition, 90% of those of the Crown of Aragon remained as Christian converts. Their descendants now find themselves as native population of Iberia, the immense majority without being aware of their Jewish heritage.
- There is population, in the diaspora and in Israel, who knows that they are Jewish, but they have a deep ignorance of what the Torah is and what consequences it brings to their lives.
- There is population, the diaspora and in Israel, who practice Torah and mitsvot but who have a severely dysfunctional relationship with the Creator and with His People.
To these three categories of “bones” that I have mentioned we must help them find an appropriate outlet; offer them ways to redeem themselves.
19 “They divided my clothes, cast lots for my coat.”
That the evildoers share among them “my clothes” means that our destructive tendencies, above all confort and despair, make us abandon the struggle for the complete restoration of our People; a path that we would start from “dressing it” departing from the information and impressions that we have been collecting throughout life about the trajectory of Israel.
About “for my coat they cast lots” can also be translated as “on the aim of taking me to shame, they cast lots”. This expression denotes the state of defenselessness in which the Jews of the diaspora find themselves: our enemies draw lots among themselves, planning to lead us to reproach and shame. The verse is indicative of a glaring truth: we have to react now if we do not want to lose many Jewish souls along the way.
The starting point in positive should be to remember another truth, in this case, happy: that when our enemies throw dice against us, we are guaranteed that the Creator will end up favoring us, ken yehi Ratzon [כן יהי רצון].