Week of 29 March 2018 – Psalm 72 & Shabbat Pesah

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.]

Psalm 72 is dedicated to Solomon. It is presumed to have been written by his father David when designating Solomon his successor, just before David’s demise (See I Kings 1:30).

At 20 verses it is slightly longer than average. This Psalm spells out the qualities of G-d’s ideal king. The Divinely-inspired monarch must not act for his own glory but to bring people to the worship of G-d and the fulfilment of mitsvot.

It follows 3 themes: a short prayer for a smooth succession, a prediction of Solomon’s extensive reign, and on offer of blessings to the G-d of Israel.

לִשְׁלֹמֹה: אֱ-לֹהִים–מִשְׁפָּטֶיךָ, לְמֶלֶךְ תֵּן; וְצִדְקָתְךָ לְבֶן-מֶלֶךְ. Of Solomon. O G-d give to the king Your judgments, and Your righteousness to the king’s son. (Psalms 72:1)

There is an understanding in the Babylonian Talmud that this Psalm also has a messianic connotation. The ideal Jewish king is one who champions the needs of the poor, the weak and the oppressed on the basis that a nation’s long-term stability and happiness is dependent on having justice as its foundation. The assumption is that peace will reign over the world when there is righteousness, not corruption.

יִשְׁפֹּט, עֲנִיֵּי-עָם–יוֹשִׁיעַ, לִבְנֵי אֶבְיוֹן; וִידַכֵּא עוֹשֵׁק. May he judge the poor of the people, and save the children of the needy, and crush the oppressor. (Psalms 72:4)

יִפְרַח-בְּיָמָיו צַדִּיק; וְרֹב שָׁלוֹם, עַד-בְּלִי יָרֵחַ. In his days let the righteous flourish, and there be an abundance of peace, till the moon be no more. (Psalms 72:7)

In his success, the ideal king’s rule will extend throughout the known world. Ancient nations as far flung as Arabia and Ethiopia will perceive his wisdom and voluntarily wish to be in alliance; even nomadic tribes that ordinarily resent any system of government. All will benefit from the material success that results. The Psalm also hopes for continuity of reign in the king’s family line.

מַלְכֵי תַרְשִׁישׁ וְאִיִּים, מִנְחָה יָשִׁיבוּ; מַלְכֵי שְׁבָא וּסְבָא, אֶשְׁכָּר יַקְרִיבוּ. The kings of Tarshish and of the isles shall render tribute; the kings of Sheba and Seba shall offer gifts. (Psalms 72:10)

וִיחִי– וְיִתֶּן-לוֹ, מִזְּהַב שְׁבָא: וְיִתְפַּלֵּל בַּעֲדוֹ תָמִיד; כָּל-הַיּוֹם, יְבָרְכֶנְהוּ. So they may live and he may give them of the gold of Sheba; that they may pray for him continually, yea, bless him all the day. (Psalms 72:15)

יְהִי שְׁמוֹ, לְעוֹלָם– לִפְנֵי-שֶׁמֶשׁ, ינין (יִנּוֹן) שְׁמוֹ: וְיִתְבָּרְכוּ בוֹ; כָּל-גּוֹיִם יְאַשְּׁרוּהוּ. May his name endure for ever; may his name be continued as long as the sun; may men also bless themselves by him; may all nations call him happy. (Psalms 72:17)

Psalm 72 closes the 2nd book in the division that sees the Psalms divided into 5 books. Psalm 41, which completed the 1st book, also ends with this liturgical formula praising G-d.

Curiously, the last verse signals the end of the words of King David, raising the question ‘who authored the remainder of the Book of Psalms?’

Rashi answers that this Chapter is out of order chronologically, and that it was actually the last to be written by David. Rabbi SR Hirsch suggests that when the ideal king succeeds to empower people throughout the world to live a righteous life, the goal of David’s prayers will have been achieved.

וּבָרוּךְ, שֵׁם כְּבוֹדוֹ– לְעוֹלָם:וְיִמָּלֵא כְבוֹדוֹ, אֶת-כֹּל הָאָרֶץ– אָמֵן וְאָמֵן. And blessed be His glorious name for ever; and let the whole earth be filled with His glory. Amen, and Amen. (Psalms 72:19)

כָּלּוּ תְפִלּוֹת– דָּוִד, בֶּן-יִשָׁי. This ends the prayers of David the son of Jesse. (Psalms 72:20)

HAPPENINGS THIS WEEK: It was deeply heartening to see that more than 1,500 people turned out to the Enough is Enough rally in front of the Houses of Parliament earlier this week. Well done to the Board of Deputies and Jewish Leadership Council for organising on short notice a campaign that hopefully will begin to address nearly 2 years of complaints of antisemitism in the UK Labour Party!

After 7 1/2 years leading the Rambam Sephardi community, we regret to announce that Rabbi Jeff Berger will, in the coming months, be stepping back from the day-to-day running of the community. The search for a suitable replacement is getting underway. The Board and community are thankful for the tireless work of both Rabbi Jeff & Michie in establishing the community and in helping us grow to the level we’ve achieved.

Many thanks to the brave few who helped clean the hamets from our storage room at Yavneh College, including: Ori, Emil, Lisa, Joey, Danielle, Leo, Coby, Justin & Michie. Photos of the tidied up room can be found here & here.

Heartfelt thanks to all who contributed anonymously to our Pesah Assistance Fund. We’re happy to inform that the sum raised was higher than last year and is already being distributed.