1:1 Happy is the man who walked not in the counsel of the wicked, nor stood in the way of sinners, nor sat in the seat of the scornful. 2 But his desire is to strive in the teaching (Torah) of Hashem; and he meditates in His (his) teaching day and night. 3 And he will be like a tree planted by streams of water, that brings forth its fruit in its season, and whose leaf does not wither; and in all he does he will prosper. 4 Not so the wicked; but they are like the chaff which the wind drives away. 5 Therefore the wicked will not stand in the judgment, nor sinners the congregation of the righteous. 6 For Hashem knows well the way of the righteous; but the way of the wicked will perish.
King David opens Sefer Tehillim with a psalm that fittingly introduces the entire book, as it teaches that the man who departs from evil and does good (34:15) is truly happy and firmly rooted.
King David mentions three kinds of wicked assemblies - the reshaim (wicked), the chataim (sinners), and the letzim (scornful). The reshaim are the worst, and one must keep away from them as far as possible.
Sefer Tehillim was composed with ten expressions of song: 1) with conducting, 2) with melody, 3) with musical accompaniment, 4) with song, 5) with praise, 6) with prayer, 7) with blessing, 8) with thanksgiving, 9) with praises, and 10) with “Praise G-d.”
These correspond to the ten men who composed them: 1) Adam, 2) Malchizedek, 3) Avraham, 4) Moshe', 5) David, 6) Solomon, 7) Asaf, and 8-10) the three sons of Korach.
"councel of the wicked"...because the wicked are constantly in a state of dread about the future, they "counsel" everyone to live as they do; to amass riches and find pleasure in the present. However, men are for the most part mistaken when attracted to the good things at hand. They fail to look more deeply and to ponder the consequences.
The Singer speaks in the past tense, "who has not walked in the counsel of the wicked, nor stood in the the way of sinners, nor sat in the seat of the scornful." That is to say, the principal happiness of the truly happy man is that he leaves this world without having been blemished. At the end of his days, he can look back and declare that he has not walked in the counsel of the wicked, nor stood in the way of sinners, nor sat in the seat of the scornful. He is then acclaimed on high by the tzaddikim of all generations, who come forward to greet him.
"But his desire is to strive in the teaching (Torah) of Hashem"...hence, we learn that the company of scorners brings one to neglect the study of Torah. The wicked person promotes lawlessness and disregard for Torah, while the sinful one errs unintentionally. Nevertheless, he too is condemned, because his frivolous attitude towards G-d is the cause of his sinfulness.
King David inspires the hearts of men, urging that their desire for G-d's Torah be more deeply felt than any other desire. Compare it to a man with a pocketful of gems and pearls; all his thought and desire are focused on nothing else except this treasure. Similarly, King Shlomo said, "It is more precious than pearls, and all your desires cannot compare to it" (Mishlei 3:15) The Torah is more precious than treasures of gems and pearls, as it says, "The Torah of Your mouth is better for me than thousands in gold and silver" (Tehillim 119:72) Ownership of gold and silver eventually passes to another, but one's striving and achievement in Torah always remain one's very own possession.
In another emphasis, the desire for "The Torah of Hashem" means that one's own wishes and understanding are gladly set aside when they are in conflict with the divinely given laws of the Torah.
"he meditates in His (his) teaching day and night"...All day and all night his thought is taken up with Torah study and performance fo the mitzvot. This man is not involved with and has no desire for the empty pursuits of this world. His sole desire is for the teaching of Hashem in order to fulfill the mitzvot. Appropriately, the teaching of Hashem is called Torah, for it guides (moreh) the person along the path of upright living.
Just as the Five Books of the Torah begin by teaching about the Torah - thus it says, "In the beginning (bereishit) G-d created the heaven and the earth" (Bereishit 1:1), which alludes to the Torah that is called reishit - so has David begun his Book of Tehillim with praise of the Torah.
Our Sages teach that when a man is occupied with the Torah, G-d takes care of his needs and fulfills his wishes. The Talmud teaches teaches: Let a man keep studying even if he keeps forgetting and does not understand what he says. Even then, says the Scripture, it will be said of him that "my soul is consumed with the longing that it has for Your ordinances at all times" (119:20). This pertains to one who cannot understand. If however he can understand, he must endeavor to understand.
"his desire"... A man does not study except what his heart desires. If that and that alone is his desire, it is sign that he came into this world to complete his perfection in that part of the Torah. The Talmud says: If you have desired the Torah, in the end it will be called in your name. That is to say, if at first one is occupied with the Torah solely as the fulfillment of a mitzvah, in time there comes the realization that this leads to the attainment of personal perfection. However, this is true only as regards the Torah that one studies through exhaustive effort and intense application. As our Sages have said, concerning the verse of Kohelet 2:9...King Shlomo declares that only that wisdom stayed with him which he acquired through exhausting effort.
If you desire to learn good character traits, do not go to the wise men of the nations who also at times teach ethics and morals. For the happiness of the Jew is not to be found anywhere except through the Torah of Hashem as the revealed teaching from Sinai.
"he will be like a tree planted by streams of water, that brings forth its fruit in its season, and whose leaf does not wither; and in all he does he will prosper"... palgei denotes many brooks (as in Yechezkel 32:6) streaming from one common source. Soo too does Torah saturate life in all its aspects and makes it bear fruit. The man of excellence is likened to a tree planted by streams of water, also in the following sense - just as a tree lives forever, so the man who keeps away from evil and does good will rejoice in his portion forever. Sweet is then the sleep of this laborer, whether he eats little or much (Kohelet 5:11). Others emulate his deeds, hence "that brings forth fruit in its season"; and they find refuge in the protective shadow of his good deeds just as a leaf protects the fruit; hence "whose leaf does not wither."
Just as a fruit-bearing tree yields fruit only in season, yet it is called a fruit-bearing tree all year round, similarly for the man who meditates in the Torah day and night. Although at times he cannot but neglect his study, he is at all times regarded as one who meditates in the Torah day and night.
A tzaddik is likened to a tree planted by streams of water, for when he begins a good deed, he does not leave it uncompleted. He is like that tree which goes on to bear fruit. It is otherwise for the wicked. Even when they choose the path of excellence, they are like chaff (1:4). Every little wind drives away the chaff, and every little difficulty discourages the wicked. The wicked are not the source of fruitful results, as it says, "For they sow the wind,... it has no stalk, the bud that yields no flour" (Hoshea 8:7).
Thus our Sages declare: The righteous, their hearts are in their hands (i.e. they control their desires), but the wicked are in the hands of their hearts.
"Not so the wicked; but they are like the chaff which the wind drives away"... Just as the chaff has no rest, but is driven about by the wind, so the wicked have no rest in this world. Their pursuit of success does not bring them tranquility, not in this world and not in the World to Come.
The deeds of the tzaddikim, who act in the spirit of saintliness, differ from the deeds of the wicked who act out of impure motives. Compare it to the difference between the flight of a bird that is full of the zest of life, and wind-driven chaff that is dead matter. The success of the tzaddik lies in the fact that G-d is with him, as the Scripture relates about the rightoeus Yosef, but the way of the wicked, though it appear marked by success, is devoid of the spirit of life.
"Therefore the wicked will not stand in the judgment, nor sinners the congregation of the righteous"... There is a difference between "the wicked" (reshaim) and "the sinners" (chataim): The wicked will "not stand" even when they are judged individually, but the sinners - those who committed transgression out of passion - will have an excuse. For man's passionate nature is hnard to resist, as it says, "Behold, I was brought forth in (to) iniquity, and in (to) sin did my mother conceive me" (1:7). However, if they stand in judgment together with the righteous, who did not succumb to their natures, they will have no defensible excuse.
"For Hashem knows well the way of the righteous; but the way of the wicked will perish"... For Hashem attends tothe way of the righteous, protecting and rewarding it, while the way of hte wicked, lacking G-d's loving care,w ill be doomed on its own. As Avigayil said to David, "Yet the soul of my master will be bound in the bundle of life with Hashem your G-d; and the souls of your enemies, them He will sling out, as from the hollow of a sling" (1Shmuel 25:29). The Holy One, Baruch Hu, maintains His supervision over the tzaddik, but He removes His supervision from the wicked. "For Hashem knows well the way of hte righteous" - a true knowledge, as it says, "For I have known him" (Bereishit 18:15); "but the way of the wicked will perish" - as it says, "And I will hide My face from the, and they will be devoured" (Devarim 31:17)
King David began Sefer Tehillim with the word ashrei, which is the continuation of where Moshe left off. Thus Moshe said, "Happy are you - ashreicha - O Yisrael; who is like you, a people saved by Hashem." (Devarim 33:29). But while Moshe spoke of the happiness of the nation as a whole, David speaks of the happiness of each and every individual.
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