The prevalent Jewish custom is to recite chapter twenty-seven from Tehillim, starting on the second day of Rosh Chodesh Elul and to continue saying it twice daily until the last day of Succos. Why do we have this custom? There are several explanations. The basic answer is that there are hints to the holidays celebrated in this season, in this perek.
- ה’ אורי – Hashem is my light = ראש השנה
- וישעי – and my salvation = יום כיפור
- כי יצפנני בסכה– He will hide me in his shelter = סוכות
On Rosh Hashanah, G-d helps us to see the light and repent. On Yom Kippur, He provides us with salvation, by forgiving our sins. Once we are forgiven, He shelters us on Succos from all our enemies (Artscroll Siddur).
Rav Shabsi assures us that one who recites Le’Dovid at this time, is assured of a full life with goodness and joy. The real question to be addressed is where can a Jew actually live a full life of true joy? The answer is: “in the land of the living”, i.e. in Eretz Yisrael. This is spelled out clearly in this chapter of Tehillim, when analyzed properly. Hashem is always giving us His helping “Hand “יד) ), here in Israel, as can be elucidated in the following fourteen pesukim.
תהילים פרק כ”ז
?א) לְדָוִד: ה’, אוֹרִי וְיִשְׁעִי, מִמִּי אִירָא? ה’ מָעוֹז חַיַּי, מִמִּי אֶפְחָד
A praise said by King Dovid, Hashem is my light and my salvation, whom shall I fear? Hashem is the strength of my life, whom shall I dread?
Dovid Hamelech wrote this perek before going out to fight his military battles. This was a means to give morale and to strengthen himself and his soldiers. In this manner they were successful in all of their battles. Dovid HaMelech teaches us that Divine providence, השגחה, is dependent on adherence to G-d. דביקות – Real deveikus can only be achieved in Eretz Yisrael.
The natural reaction is to be afraid to live in Eretz Yisrael. This fear only exists during temporary periods of tolerance of Jews in the Diaspora. In Israel, some have fear of our enemies who vastly outnumber us in the Moslem countries. However, מעוז חיי ממי אפחד ה’, G-d gives us the strength despite the actual inferiority of the IDF (troop preparedness, modern weapons etc.) and our limited resources.
We have seen that despite overwhelming odds, not in our favor, and with our inferior weapons, we have won all of our wars. The Moslem Arabs plan to destroy us and “push us into the Mediterranean Sea” has failed, and will continue to fail. We have seen this in our wars:
- 1948 – War of Independence
- 1967 – Six Day War
- 1973 – Yom Kippur War
- 1982 Lebanon – Peace For Galilee
- 2006 – Second Lebanon War against Hezbollah
- 2006 – Operation Summer Rains (Gilad Shalit captured)
- 2008-2009 Gaza War– Hot Winter (Qassam rockets)
- 2012 Gaza – Operation Pillar of Defense (Qassam rockets)
- 2014 Gaza – Operation Protective Edge (Iron Dome vs. Qassam rockets)
This is in addition to the Arab terrorist war of attrition that continues to this day. Please G-d take your anger out on our enemies in our land and in Syria, Lebanon, Jordan, Egypt, Turkey, and Iran – שפוך חמתך אל הגוים אשר לא ידעוך (תהילים עט:ו) . Wipe them out because they are evil.
ב) בִּקְרֹב עָלַי מְרֵעִים לֶאֱכֹל אֶת בְּשָׂרִי, צָרַי וְאֹיְבַי לִי; הֵמָּה כָשְׁלוּ וְנָפָלוּ
When there would approach against me evildoers to devour my flesh, my tormentors and my foes against me; it is they who stumble and fall.
The Roman Empire fell. The Spanish Inquisition, the systematic murder of Jews by the Catholic Church, failed. The Nazi’s of Germany from the 1940’s no longer exist, and their mission failed.
After the wars of 1948, which the Arabs initiated, we gained more territory than was allocated by the United Nations partition plan (but far less than the Balfour Declaration). It was a war for our very survival. Similarly, we returned to the Jewish land of Yehuda/Shomron and Yerushalayim, despite an organized war against us on three fronts in 1967. We held our ground, survived and destroyed the Syrian and Egyptian armies, despite the cowardly attack on us on Yom Kippur in 1973, etc.
ג) אִם תַּחֲנֶה עָלַי מַחֲנֶה, לֹא יִירָא לִבִּי. אִם תָּקוּם עָלַי מִלְחָמָה ,בְּזֹאת אֲנִי בוֹטֵחַ
Even if there would encamp against me an army, my heart would not fear; even if there would arise against me, a war, in this I trust:
Hezbollah currently has over 100,000 rockets ready to be fired at our Northern Israeli border. We are not afraid, because G-d will help us in war against them. Despite the fact that they lie and call themselves G-d’s army; we are not afraid.
אֵ֣לֶּה בָ֖רֶכֶב וְאֵ֣לֶּה בַסּוּסִ֑ים וַֽאֲנַ֓חְנוּ בְּשֵׁם יקוק אֱלֹקינוּ נַזְכִּֽיר: הֵמָּה כָּֽרְע֣וּ וְנָפָ֑לוּ וַֽאֲנַ֥חְנוּ קַּ֜֗מְנוּ וַנִּתְעוֹדָֽד
These trust in chariots and these in horses, but we mention the name YHVH of our G-d. They kneel and fall, but we rise and gain strength. (Tehillim 20)
They come with weapons to war against us and we also come with weapons to war. However, we come with the real Name of G-d and prayer, בשם ה’; but they come with lies.
ד) אַחַת שָׁאַלְתִּי מֵאֵת ה’: אוֹתָהּ אֲבַקֵּשׁ, שִׁבְתִּי בְּבֵית ה’, כָּל-יְמֵי חַיַּי; לַחֲזוֹת בְּנֹעַם ה’, וּלְבַקֵּר בְּהֵיכָלוֹ
One thing I ask of Hashem: that I shall seek, that I dwell, in the house of Hashem, all the days of my life; to behold the delight of Hashem and to contemplate in His Sanctuary.
We ask for one thing, but then request four things:
- To be an אבקש – always recognize that we need to beseech G-d for all of our needs. Nothing is gained by the power of our own accomplishments כוחי ועוצם ידי.
- To dwell in the House of G-d my entire life. Eretz Yisrael is where Hashem has chosen to dwell. I ask to never leave Israel even for a moment.
- To witness the delight of Hashem, when his nation is serving Him properly in His Land.
- To be able to serve Him in the Beis Hamikdash on Har Habayis (The Temple Mount). Our goal is to rebuild the Temple and we are not satisfied by praying at the Kotel by the Dung gate.
We plead with G-d that we do not have to fight any more wars. He will find a way for the Syrians and Hezbollah to fight among themselves, for example. In this manner, we can be fruitful and spend our time building Eretz Yisrael and studying in the Beis Hamidrash.
ה) כִּי יִצְפְּנֵנִי, בְּסֻכֹּה בְּיוֹם רָעָה ; יַסְתִּרֵנִי בְּסֵתֶר אָהֳלוֹ , בְּצוּר, יְרוֹמְמֵנִי
Indeed, He will hide me in His shelter on the day of evil; He will conceal me in the concealment of His tent; upon a rock He will lift me.
G-d protects us from all external forces. Rav Nachman of Breslev clarifies this point. He states that at times we can find G-d only when we search for him when we are suffering the most. Such a concept can be seen in our generation as the survivors of the Holocaust of Europe. We have witnessed the rebirth of Yeshivos and the re-settlement of the Jewish Nation in Eretz Yisrael. This has occurred not long after a severe destruction of our people in the Shoah (Holocaust). But we are now here, in Eretz Yisrael, praying, standing!
ליקוטי מוהר”ן נ”ו
כתוב בתורה הקדושה: “ואנכי הסתר אסתיר פני ביום ההוא” (דברים ל”א).
אבל רבי נחמן מסביר: ואפילו בהסתרה, שבתוך ההסתרה, בוודאי גם שם נמצא ה’ יתברך. גם מאחורי הדברים הקשים, העוברים עליך – אני עומד!
It is written in the Holy Torah: “And I will completely hide my face from you on that dreadful day” (Devarim 31). However, Rav Nachman explains: And even in the times of concealment, for sure also there, one can find The Blessed G-d. Even after those dreadful harsh things that have befallen you – you can proclaim – I am standing!
ו) וְעַתָּה יָרוּם רֹאשִׁי עַל אֹיְבַי סְבִיבוֹתַי, וְאֶזְבְּחָה בְאָהֳלוֹ, זִבְחֵי תְרוּעָה; אָשִׁירָה וַאֲזַמְּרָה ,לַה
Now, elevated is my head above my enemies around me, and I will slaughter in His Tent, offerings accompanied by joyous song; I will sing and chant praise to Hashem.
When I am in war, give me victory with honor over my enemies. Afterwards, we will sing praises to G-d, for all the good He has given us.
We have survived thousands of years in the galus this far. We have made the decision to leave the perceived temporary comforts of Chutz La’aretz and make Aliyah. The majority of the Jewish people are now established and living in Eretz Yisrael. The next step is to build the Beis Hamikdash, so that we can reestablish karbanos, as a means to demonstrate to G-d our praises and thanks.
ז ) שְׁמַע ה’ קוֹלִי אֶקְרָא; וְחָנֵּנִי וַעֲנֵנִי
Hear Hashem my voice when I call; show me favor and answer me.
Please accept this prayer, so that we can always serve You in Eretz Yisrael.
ח) לְךָ, אָמַר לִבִּי: בַּקְּשׁוּ פָנָי; אֶת פָּנֶיךָ ה’, אֲבַקֵּשׁ
On Your behalf, My heart has said: seek My Presence; Your Presence Hashem, do I seek
Personal conversations with G-d go up to heaven. My heart wants to see Your Face. We pray for d’veykus with G-d. For thousands of years we have been wandering; searching for our purpose in life. Now we have been inspired and have come back to serve you properly,, לכתחילה in Eretz Yisrael.
ט) אַל תַּסְתֵּר פָּנֶיךָ מִמֶּנִּי, אַל תַּט בְּאַף עַבְדֶּךָ. עֶזְרָתִי הָיִיתָ, אַל תִּטְּשֵׁנִי וְאַל תַּעַזְבֵנִי, אֱלֹקי יִשְׁעִי
Do not conceal Your Presence from me, do not repel in anger Your servant. My helper, You have been, do not abandon me, and do not forsake me, G-d of my salvation.
Do not turn away from me at the time of my request, do not have hester panim )as we had at the time of the Holocaust(. However, if You choose to do so, please do not do not push me away in anger. Anger, כעס is worst attribute to experience.
שׁוּב מֵחֲרוֹן אַפֶּךָ, וְהִנָּחֵם עַל הָרָעָה לְעַמֶּךָ.
Turn from the flaring of Your anger, and reconsider regarding the evil against Your people (Shemos 32:12).
י ) כִּי אָבִי וְאִמִּי עֲזָבוּנִי; ה’ יַאַסְפֵנִי
Though my father and my mother have forsaken me; Hashem will gather me in.
Our parents represent those forces that we rely upon for sustenance and protection. We thought our fatherland and protector was Spain, Poland, Hungary, Rumania, or the USA. We have thought that our mother tongue was Spanish, English etc. But You have given us the privilege to come home to You in Eretz Yisrael upright, קומומיות, by choice. We did not run away from persecution. Rather, we have returned home to a parent as a child who was once kicked out of their own house. You have gathered us in after our wanderings on all the four continents of the earth.
I daven, that I can only rely on Hashem for parnassa here in Eretz Yisrael. I do not want to rely on others in Chutz La’aretz. I pray not to rely on the good will and protection of our ally, the USA. G-d is our father and protector.
כרחם אב על בנים, כן תרחם ה’ עלינו…אבינו מלכינו…עשה עמנו צדקה וחסד והושיענו.
יא) הוֹרֵנִי ה’ דַּרְכֶּךָ, וּנְחֵנִי בְּאֹרַח מִישׁוֹר, לְמַעַן שׁוֹרְרָי
Teach me Hashem Your way, and lead me on the path of integrity, because of my watchful enemies.
If I must fight in war, G-d lead me. When I put on my military uniform and dress for battle, let me make a sanctification of G-d’s name. May I be worthy to save the lives of our wounded and effectively destroy our enemy with my weapon. May I not be harmed.
Do not let my enemies be happy when they see you put hardships on me. We may lose some battles or even suffer casualties from terror attacks. However, for our own sanity we try to fight ethical wars and minimize our enemy’s civilian causalities, but the non-Jewish world does not care.
We have given medical care of our injured Syrian enemies. They have been mortality wounded by their own Moslem brothers. The Syrian people have approached our borders begging for our help with their injured, bleeding, unconscious children who have been shot by the Syrian Army. We intubate them and put in a chest tube to make them breathe. We place an IV to relieve their pain and to give them our life saving blood and medical care. Then we transport them in the middle of the night to receive the best of care in our hospitals, without charge. Our enemies do not notice, nor do they appreciate our years of efforts and mercy.
יב) אַל תִּתְּנֵנִי, בְּנֶפֶשׁ צָרָי; כִּי קָמוּ בִי עֵדֵי שֶׁקֶר, וִיפֵחַ חָמָס
Do not deliver me to the wishes of my tormentors; there have arisen against me false witnesses and those who breathe violence [Hamas].
Do not let me fall captive to my enemies! If I do, G-d forbid, they will not have mercy on me. We have cruel and merciless enemies such as Hamas in Gaza and Hezbollah in Lebanon. They have no problem killing their own children as human shields. Imagine what they want to do to us?
Do not turn me over to the desire of my enemies. If I am always preoccupied with war I will not have time to serve G-d. They are liars and claim we stole their land and are aggressors. When the opposite it true. They are occupiers of historically documented Jewish land and are an evil people, פרא אדם.
וְה֤וּא יִֽהְיֶה֙ פֶּ֣רֶא אָדָ֔ם יָד֣וֹ בַכֹּ֔ל וְיַ֥ד כֹּ֖ל בּ֑וֹ וְעַל פְּנֵ֥י כָל אֶחָ֖יו יִשְׁכֹּֽן:
And he will be a wild donkey of a man; his hand will be upon all, and everyone’s hand upon him, and before all his brothers he will dwell. (Bereishis 16:12).
יג) לוּלֵא הֶאֱמַנְתִּי לִרְאוֹת בְּטוּב ה’; בְּאֶרֶץ חַיִּים
Had I not trusted that I would see the goodness of Hashem; in the Land of Eretz Yisrael…[ The Land of The Living]
The Land of the Living is Eretz Yisrael !
Always see the good things in the Land of Israel. We focus on the positive aspects of living here and remind ourselves of why we were inspired to make aliyah.
יְבָרֶכְךָ ה’ מִצִּיּוֹן, וּרְאֵה בְּטוּב יְרוּשָׁלִָם, כֹּל יְמֵי חַיֶּיךָ.
You shall be blessed by G-d from Eretz Yisrael [Zion – The Place], and you should see the good of Yerushalayim, all the days of your life. (Tehilim 128:5)
The Zohar refers to Israel as the Land of the living.
זהר: וירא תכז
מהו נחלת ה’? ואומר שזו היא ארץ החיים, דהיינו הנוקבא. וכן קרא דוד המלך לארץ ישראל, שהיא ארץ החיים, נחלת ה’…רבי פתח במקרא הזה…הנשמה הנתונה מתחת כסא הכבוד, ובאה ממקום הקודש מארצות החיים, כמו שאמר אתהלך לפני ה’ בארצות החיים.
Why is Israel called the Land of the living? Because it is the most exalted of all lands, meaning that it is the most desired. The Tzadikim who are called “living” all wanted to live in Israel. From this holy land comes the neshama, our soul, which reawakens the Jew to serve G-d on the proper path and to do His Will.
זהר חדש נח, כא
ולמה קראו דוד ארצות החיים?, וכי למעלה יש ארצות, א”ר יצחק לא ארצות ממש, ולא על הבנה של ארצות אמרו דוד, אלא לשון ריצוי הוא, כמו שאמר ארצה אתכם, כלומר, אמר דוד, אתהלך לפני ה’ במקום שירצו בו תמיד הצדיקים הנקראים חיים, דהיינו שרצונם וחפצם הוא ללכת שמה, (ובארצות החיים, פירושו, במקום שהחיים, שהם הצדיקים רוצים בו), וממקום הקודש באה הנשמה להאיר על הגוף האפל כדי להוליכו בדרך ישרה ולעבוד עבודתו ולעשות רצון בוראו, כדי לבא למחר ולקבל שכר.
The Yalkut Shimoni states that Israel is called the land of the living, since this is where the resurrection of the dead will occur, at the time of Moshiach.
אתהלך לפני ה’ בארצות החיים, אמר רב יהודה … דבר אחר זו ארץ ישראל, עשרה דברים נקראו חיים… וכי ארץ ישראל ארצות החיים היא, והלא בני אדם מתים בתוכה, אמר ר”ל בש”ר אלעזר הקפר מפני שמתיה חיים לימות המשיח… (תהלים קטז:ט).
Rashi commenting on Tehillim, clearly states that the land of the living is Israel.
אֶֽתְהַלֵּךְ לִפְנֵ֣י ה’ בְּ֜אַרְצ֗וֹת הַֽחַיִּֽים:
בארצות החיים – ארץ ישראל.
The RaDaK (Rav Dovid Kimchi), summarizes all of these points that Israel is the Land of the living. This is because the Shechina IS here. Those who live here are alive and healthy. This is because the air here is the best of all the lands. Resurrection of the dead will only occur in Eretz Yisrael.
בארצות החיים – ארץ ישראל ששכינתו שם, והיושבים בה חיים ובריאים. החיים הוא ענין בריאות, כמו “עד חיותם”, כי אוירה טוב מכל הארצות, ולחז”ל: שחייה חיים בתחיית המתים. (תהילים קטז:ט)
יד) קַוֵּה אֶל ה’, חֲזַק וְיַאֲמֵץ לִבֶּךָ; וְקַוֵּה אֶל ה
Place your hope in Hashem, strengthen yourself, and He will instill courage in your heart; and place your hope in Hashem [HaTikva].
Prior to enter Eretz Yisrael G-d tells Yehoshua to be strong, in order to conquer Eretz Yisrael, חזק ואמץ.
חֲזַ֖ק וֶֽאֱמָ֑ץ כִּ֣י אַתָּ֗ה תַּנְחִיל֙ אֶת הָעָ֣ם הַזֶּ֔ה אֶת הָאָ֕רֶץ אֲשֶׁר נִשְׁבַּ֥עְתִּי לַֽאֲבוֹתָ֖ם לָתֵ֥ת לָהֶֽם:
Be strong and have courage; for you will cause this nation to inherit the land that I have sworn to their ancestors to give to them (Yehoshua 1:6).
We state to have hope in G-d because we are never to give up. We not have fear and we not despair; we only are to be strong and trust in G-d. Believe that he is the one who will deliver us from our enemies. It’s not only the perceived strength of the IDF ( כחי ועוצם ידי) that will protect us.
We thank G-d over and over again. This goes along with the popular Israeli saying that live is like a strawberry, תות. How so? We need to always see the good in life and thank G-d again and again – תודה ועוד תודה.
In this manner we are happy and we have hope. We pray not be bothered with anymore sorrow. In contrast to the secular song, this Psalm is the real HaTikva, or the song of Hope in the G-d of Yisrael.
(The inspiration to write this essay is from the influence of the videos of a real Jewish leader, Ari Fuld z”l, who was murdered (7th of Tishrei 5779 / September 16, 2018) while fighting for us, to settle the Land of Israel. His memory is alive in the “Land of the Living).
!אבינו מלכינו – עשה למען הרוגים על שם קדשך
!אבינו מלכינו – עשה למען טבוחים על יחודך