The Rhythm of the Heart – Chapter 56

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The Rhythm of the Heart

By Rabbi Yitzchak Reuven Rubin


Tehillim – Chapter 56

Circles within circles, agendas built upon agendas, and we find the world busy with our miniscule piece of land once again. Death stalks the streets of our holy Yerushalayim, the blood and flesh of our brethren embedded in its walls.

What has a Yid ever wanted from this material world? Just to be allowed to daven, to build a sukkala, to chap a moment to learn a blatt of Gemara. We never sought power or wanted to convince others of our point of view, we just wanted to serve Hashem, yet…bombs in Yerushalayim and guns in Bnei Brak.  So many tears have been spilled; the pain is there constantly and the ache never recedes. We want peace so badly, but we find hate in its stead.

This galus seems to stretch out so long, and our hearts find it harder to bear each day. We will never be privy to the whys and wherefores of all this; it’s beyond human understanding just as it is beyond our comprehension how we have continued to exist as a people until now. However, one thing is certain.  We will survive, and we will find comfort in our Torah. This is vouchsafed by the Creator of all that we see about us, by the one true Father who took us as His children.

But children get frightened and cry, they lose heart, become intimidated, and yes, sometimes they even give up. What does a broken neshama do when everything about him seems alight with the fire of fear and hate? He turns to those who came before him, who faced the same types of fears and somehow triumphed.

David Hamelech is a great example to us all. He suffered so much, yet though his pain he found the prophetic wisdom to leave us poetic inspiration.

This kapitel was written at one of the most disheartening junctures in David’s eventful life. While running away from his homeland because Shaul was convinced that he was his mortal enemy, he finally thinks he has found refuge with the Philistine king Achish only to learn that the king’s bodyguard is none other than Yishbi, brother of the slain giant Goliath, David’s most famous casualty. He is now a dispossessed man, wanted in his homeland and in fearful danger in this strange and now hostile environment. He cries and prays, doing so with an intuition of what his future brethren would have to go through.

Lamenatzeiach al yonas eilem rechokim…, “To the Chief Musician, upon yonas eilem rechokim, [a psalm] of David, a michtam, when the Philistines seized him in Gath.” The expression yonas eilem rechokim has two meanings.  Some say it is an instrument with a sound similar to the cooing of doves. Its literal translation is “the silenced dove of those who are far away.” Rashi tells us that this describes David’s situation of a hunted man far away from his home, trapped and silenced by fear.

David speaks from the heart. He describes feeling lost and bewildered by the constant onslaught of tribulation. Alone in a foreign land that now threatens him with bristling revenge, he speaks of the sweet dove, that ancient symbol of peace, being so tormented that it is silenced.

Who amongst us does not feel a kinship to David’s plight? Since the beginning of this bitter galus we have been like that sweet dove, flying from one place to the next, never really secure, too frightened to speak.

Chaneini Elokim ki she’afani enosh…, “Be gracious to me, Hashem, for man yearns to swallow me; each day the fighter oppresses me.” We are surrounded by those who actually crave the moment when the Jews will disappear. They don’t say it, but the yearning is there. As for the open haters, the fighters, they seem ever ready not only to exclude us from their society, but to revel in the oppression they wreak upon us.

Sha’afu shorerai kol hayom…, “My watchers yearn to swallow me each day, for many battle against me, most High.” The enemies of our people do not weary. Day in, day out, they seek to cause us pain. Sometimes we think the worst is over, that things have changed and the world has come to terms with our survival. Just then a new “cause” arises and the “spokesmen” are back with the same hate, the same desire to hurt us.

Yom ira ani eilecha evtach…, “In the day when I am afraid, I will put my trust in You.” To the rest of the world it may seem as bright and cheerful as daylight, but beneath the veneer bleeds the soul of Hashem’s beloved children. At the darkest moment Jews always turn to the one certainty that is theirs. Hashem is with us, even in the dungeons of hatred, and He will never let us fall.

BEilokim ahallel devaro…, “Through Hashem’s judgment I will praise His word, in G-d I have put my trust; I will not fear, for what can [mortal] flesh do to me?” Even in times when we are subject to Hashem’s strict judgment and this antagonism is somewhat deserving, still we turn to Him, as an errant child to a loving parent. We refuse to disown ourselves from His Torah.  Come what may, we trust in His love.

Kol hayom devarai ye’atzeivu…, “Each day they cause my words to be sad; all their thoughts are for evil about me. They gather together, they lie in ambush, they watch my footsteps as they wait for my soul.” We are such a small and minute proportion of the world’s population, yet they watch our every step. They want us to stumble so they can grab our soul and feel vindicated with their hatred for us.

Nodi safarta…, “My wanderings You have counted, place my tears into Your flask; are they not in Your account?” But we know, we truly know, that Hashem counts every one of the slings and arrows thrown at us. He feels our pain and knows what we suffer. Chassidim tell of a sea of tears in the highest realm of heaven. It is comprised of every tear ever shed by Hashem’s beloved nation. They are all there, sacred and guarded by the souls of our greatest tzaddikim.  The flask David speaks of is the turbulent sea of Jewish tears that awaits to be calmed.

Az yashuvu oivai achor beyom ekra…, “Then my enemies will turn back on the day that I call out; for this I know, that Hashem is for me.” Yidden! Remain focused, don’t let the smoke and debris get the better of you. David says it all so clearly: “This I know, that Hashem is for me.”

BElokim batachti lo ira…, “In Hashem I have put my trust; I will not fear, for what can man do to me?” These are powerful words spoken by someone facing a terrible threat of death. David tells his enemies, “I have placed my trust in Hashem. You may try to do your worst, but it makes no difference, for the outcome is all in Hashem’s hands. If I am to die, I will die trusting that this too is His will.” Once you have given over your life to Hashem, what can man do?

Yes, we live in times that have become cloudy with the hate that others harbor for us. This is how it has always been. It’s all part of our own growth, for with this challenge we become more aware of our true role in this life. Hashem will be with us, and this too has always been the case. Ours is a new yet ancient test. We must allow ourselves to be guided by Hashem’s will, and never, not ever, lose heart.

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