Monthly Archives: October 2017

Week of 26 October 2017 – Psalm 53

This comment is in memory of my late mother (Brainah Leah bat Moshe Aharon) and for all those who read Tehillim for the sake of others. [To see the full Mechon Mamre text, please click here.]

Chapter 53: Psalm 53 is attributed to David and is identical to Psalm 14. At only 7 verses in length, it decries humanity’s tragic and foolhardy preoccupation with corruption and sin, offering the hope of salvation for the righteous. G-d chastises those whose pursuit of evil has led to persecuting others, while ultimately giving encouragement to Jacob, Israel & Zion to take heed and rejoice.

Yet it is deeply puzzling why David would have repeated here what seems almost entirely the same as Chapter 14. We’ll compare verses from both Psalms to demonstrate their similarity & difference.

אָמַר נָבָל בְּלִבּוֹ, אֵין אֱל-ֹהִים; הִשְׁחִיתוּ, וְהִתְעִיבוּ עָוֶל– אֵין עֹשֵׂה-טוֹב. The fool said in his heart: ‘There is no God’; they’ve dealt corruptly, and have performed abominable sins; none does good. (Psalms 53:2)

For the Leader. [A Psalm] of David. The fool said in his heart: ‘There is no God’; they’ve dealt corruptly, they’ve done abominably; there is no one who does good. (Psalms 14:1)

הֲלֹא יָדְעוּ, פֹּעֲלֵי-אָוֶן: אֹכְלֵי עַמִּי, אָכְלוּ לֶחֶם; אֱ-לֹהִים, לֹא קָרָאוּ. Shall not the workers of iniquity know, who eat up My people as they eat bread, and call not upon God? (Psalms 53:5)

Shall not all the workers of iniquity know, who eat up My people as they eat bread, and call not upon the LORD? (Psalms 14:4)

שָׁם, פָּחֲדוּ פַחַד- לֹא-הָיָה-פָחַד:כִּי-אֱ-לֹהִים–פִּזַּר, עַצְמוֹת חֹנָךְ; הֱבִשֹׁתָה, כִּי-אֱ-לֹהִים מְאָסָם. There are they in great fear, where no fear was; for God scattered the bones of the one who ‘encamped’ against you; putting them to shame, because God rejected them. (Psalms 53:6)

There are they in great fear; for God is with the righteous generation. (Psalms 14:5) You put to shame the counsel of the poor, but the LORD is his refuge. (Psalms 14:6)

מִי יִתֵּן מִצִּיּוֹן, יְשֻׁעוֹת יִשְׂרָאֵל: בְּשׁוּב אֱ-לֹהִים, שְׁבוּת עַמּוֹ; יָגֵל יַעֲקֹב, יִשְׂמַח יִשְׂרָאֵל. Oh that Israel’s salvation were to come out of Zion! When God turns the captivity of His people, let Jacob rejoice, let Israel be glad. (Psalms 53:7)

Oh that the salvation of Israel were to come out of Zion! When the LORD turns the captivity of His people, let Jacob rejoice, let Israel be glad. (Psalms 14:7)

According to Rashi, metaphorically Psalm 14 prophesied the destruction of the 1st Temple, thus Psalm 53 would do the same for the 2nd Temple. But King David obviously lived before the period of the 1st Temple (built by his son Solomon). So this Psalm – while it may have had a prophetic component – must have also had relevance to David’s life.

The clue may likely be in the disparity of Verse 6. The triple Hebrew reference to ‘a fear (pahad) where there was no fear’ can be linked to the Biblical chastisement known as the  Tokhaha appearing both in Leviticus 26 and in Deuteronomy 28 – the Israelite’s rebuke for not following G-d’s commands. Another clue may be the reference to ‘scattered bones’ which often connotes devastation from war.

Perhaps (like Chapter 52) this chapter refers to the life-threatening experiences David had with King Saul or worse, to Saul’s demoralising death during war with the Philistines. But, as for why David recorded this Psalm twice, further investigation is required.

Week of 19 October 2017 – Psalm 52

This comment is in memory of my late mother (Brainah Leah bat Moshe Aharon) and for all those who read Tehillim for the sake of others. [To see the full Mechon Mamre text, please click here.]

Chapter 52: Psalm 52 is attributed to David and is referred to as a Psalm of Trust in the Almighty’s assistance. Its theme is the accusation and indictment of a perpetrator whose crime was so great it precluded forgiveness. This Psalm warns of the immense evil of tale-bearing and slander, and bemoans those who misuse their G-d given talents.

The tragic story of Ahimelek and the priests of Nob betrayed by Doeg the Edomite is told in I Samuel Chapters 21-22. An exhausted David, who’d fled the irrational King Saul, sought help from a priestly city, where  Ahimelekh innocently provided David with 5 loaves of bread and Goliath’s sword.

בְּבוֹא, דּוֹאֵג הָאֲדֹמִי- וַיַּגֵּד לְשָׁאוּל: וַיֹּאמֶר לוֹ- בָּא דָוִד, אֶל-בֵּית אֲחִימֶלֶךְ. When Doeg the Edomite came and told Saul, ‘David is come to the house of Ahimelech.’ (Psalms 52:2)

Unbeknown to Ahimelekh (who was a direct descendant of Eli), David was a fugitive. Shortly afterwards, Doeg betrayed this deed to King Saul. And in his wrath, Saul commanded Doeg to kill all the priests (85) and then obliterate the town of Nob.

אָהַבְתָּ רָּע מִטּוֹב; שֶׁקֶר, מִדַּבֵּר צֶדֶק סֶלָה. You love evil more than good; falsehood rather than speaking righteousness. Selah (Psalms 52:5)

Rashi comments that Doeg was well-versed in Torah. Maimonides, referring to those who can never achieve repentance, lists Doeg as an example.

גַּם-אֵ-ל, יִתָּצְךָ לָנֶצַח: יַחְתְּךָ וְיִסָּחֲךָ מֵאֹהֶל; וְשֵׁרֶשְׁךָ מֵאֶרֶץ חַיִּים סֶלָה. G-d will likewise break you forever, taking you up, and plucking you out of your tent; and rooting you out of the land of the living. Selah (Psalms 52:7)

הִנֵּה הַגֶּבֶר- לֹא יָשִׂים אֱ-לֹהִים, מָעוּזּוֹ: וַיִּבְטַח, בְּרֹב עָשְׁרוֹ; יָעֹז, בְּהַוָּתוֹ. Behold, this is the man who didn’t make G-d his stronghold; but trusted in the abundance of his riches, and strengthened himself in his wickedness.’ (Psalms 52:9)

The sole surviving child of Ahimelekh, Aviatar, escaped, finding David and bringing with him the priestly regalia (Ephod with Urim & Thumim). David felt great remorse for the calamity caused and appointed Aviatar as their priest.

אוֹדְךָ לְעוֹלָם, כִּי עָשִׂיתָ;    וַאֲקַוֶּה שִׁמְךָ כִי-טוֹב, נֶגֶד חֲסִידֶיךָ. I give thanks for ever, because You’ve done it; and I give hope in Your name, for it’s good, in the presence of Your saints. (Psalms 52:11)

When David was anointed King, Aviatar was made High Priest, proving his loyalty to the King when David’s son Abshalom tried to usurp the throne. But later, Aviatar was deposed and banished to his home for attempting to support the appointment of Adoniah rather than Solomon.

Week of Sukkot 5778


It’s only a few days since Jews around the world spent 25-hours fasting, reciting so many words in the prayer book, trying to remind ourselves of the need to reach into our hearts & subconscious minds to reconnect with G-d, Creator and Master of the Universe.

How shocking to be taken out of our euphoric bliss yesterday by news of the brutal mass killing of 59 human lives – and the wounding of 527 others – who happened to love country music. The gunman planned with precision, using automatic weapons to rain down a hailstorm of bullets from the 32nd floor of a nearby Las Vegas hotel room.

Many will be struggling to ask how this might have been prevented. Could the police have acted more quickly? Should the hotel have paid more attention to his behaviour beforehand? How did he manage to bring so much ammunition into the hotel undetected? Is it time for stricter gun control?

New laws will likely be put into place, and hotels may even have to begin metal-scanning guests and their luggage for weapons – like at airports. But, sadly, lone wolf syndrome (the motive being suggested) is unpredictable and nearly always unpreventable. Once again, the United States will be seen as a country where, despite it’s status as a world leader, pockets of violence and hatred seem out of control.

We offer continuing prayers to the Almighty that as human beings we learn to stop taking the lives of others so casually and callously. Instead, we share in the grief of the bereaved and pray for the recovery of the wounded. Almighty G-d, hear our prayers now, just as You heard them at Neilah!



Sukkot is an 8-day festival (outside of Israel) that reminds us of our Faith in the Almighty and of how G-d protected Bnei Yisrael during our ancestors stay in the Midbar. According to the rabbis of the Talmud, Sukkot was also the time to commemorate the Heavenly Clouds of Glory which G-d provided to lead the nation through the Wilderness.

Over the generations, by leaving our homes especially during the in-gathering of the autumn harvest, we attested to our gratitude for bounty received and for basic necessities of food and shelter provided to us by G-d.

The relevance of Sukkot today is obvious. We live in a time when disparities between rich and poor have never been greater. It’s so easy for those of us who have much to think our success is our own and to ignore the lives of those who have little, to consider them less worthy of basic care and concern.

The message of Sukkot is that we too were once homeless, wondering from place to place without a fixed roof over our heads. We therefore know the suffering of the dispossessed. Sitting in our Sukkot we acknowledge our dependence on the Almighty – which ironically is meant to convey a deep sense of joy. For, in trusting G-d to provide our needs, we feel less anxious and more at ease.

Realising that others require the same comfort and stability gives us the opportunity to emulate G-d – in showing our ability to care for others. What could be more joyous than that!