Monday, May 17, 2010

Shavuos and Dovid HaMelech

Dovid Friedman

Shavuos, the day of Receiving the Torah, is also the birthday and yartzeit of Dovid HaMelech. This is no coincidence. And as we’ll see, Dovid HaMelech is very much connected to the days of sefiras ha-omer and Shavuos.

Fifty Gates of Teshuvah

In Likkutei Mohoran, Reb Nachman of Breslov says that that there are many obstacles to keep one from doing teshuvah. First, one has to realize that he needs to do teshuvah. Then, there are “Fifty Gates of Teshuvah,” and if one wants to do teshuvah, he still may not know which gate to use. And even if one finds the right gate of teshuvah, it might be locked. The way to overcome all these obstacles is through reciting Tehillim. This will awaken one’s inner desire to do teshuvah, since the Gemara (Avodah Zara 4b) states that Dovid HaMelech only succumbed to “that incident” (with Bas Sheva) in order to teach us how to do teshuvah— and he was the author of Sefer Tehillim. Since the psalms were composed with Ruach Hakodesh, every person’s situation may be found in the words of Tehillim.

Reb Nachman points out that this can be derived from the first verse of Parshas Shemos: ואלה שמות בני ישראל הבאים מצרימה את יעקב איש וביתו באו. The last letters spell תהלים תשובה, because through Tehillim one can come to teshuvah.

שמות בני ישראל refers to the names of the Shevatim, the Twelve Tribes, which have a total of 49 letters. These represent the “Forty-Nine Gates of Teshuvah” that are available to us. The 49 days of sefirah, which we start counting after Pesach, represent these Forty-Nine Gates of Teshuvah. Shavuos is the Fiftieth Gate, which is the teshuvah of Hashem, כביכול, as it states in Malachi: שובו אלי ואשובה אליכם – “Return to Me, and I shall return to you.” That is what the Torah means when it says: וירד ד׳ על הר סיני - “Hashem descended on Mount Sinai.” Hashem “returned” to us. Therefore, it is fitting that Shavuos, the day that completes all the gates of teshuvah, is the yartzeit of the composer of Tehillim, Dovid HaMelech.

Reuniting Husband and Wife

Dovid HaMelech said: רבונו של עולם לא חסיד אני שכל מלכי מזרח ומערב יושבים אגודות אגודות בכבודם ואני ידי מלוכלכות בדם ובשפיר ובשליא כדי לטהר אשה לבעלה – “Ribbono Shel Olam: Am I not a chasid? All the kings of east and west sit in groups in their glory, but as for me, my hands are soiled with blood, embryos and after-births, in order to permit a wife to her husband” (Berochos 4a). Aside from the literal meaning, this could hint to the fact that Dovid HaMelech composed Tehillim in order to enable Klal Yisroel to take themselves out of the tumah, the realm of impurity represented by Mitzrayim, especially during these days of sefirah (as mentioned above).

The Zohar HaKodosh compares the seven weeks of sefiras ha-omer to the seven “clean days (yemei taharah)” of a niddah. The purpose of our avodah during these seven weeks is in order to “permit a woman to her husband”—meaning that on Shavuos, Klal Yisroel, who are compared to the wife of Hashem, become cleansed from impurity, and thus we are reunited with Hashem.

Tehillim and Talmud Torah

Igra D’Kala (Shemos) says that through Torah and teshuvah we can be redeemed from exile. While everyone is capable of doing teshuvah, it is hard for someone who is not a talmid chochom to learn Torah. Therefore, even the simplest, unlettered Jew who can’t learn Torah can still recite Tehillim. For the Midrash says that Dovid HaMelech asked Hashem that reciting Tehillim be considered like learning the masechtas of Negaim and Oholos (which are very difficult). The Tenker Rov (Chemed Shlomo, Shovavim) points out that Nega’im (plagues) come from loshon horah, while Oholos alludes to **** (one*s house) * and one*s *house* is a euphemism for one*s wife. Therefore, Tehillim is especially helpful for teshuvah in these areas.

Based on this, we can see why Tehillim is especially relevant to the days of sefirah, when we work on negative traits and actions such as loshon hora, connected to נגעים. Rav Chaim Vital says that it is a special time for teshuvah in areas of kedushah, which is connected to אהלות. Parshas Bamidbar is always read prior to Shavuos (and almost always immediately before the Yom Tov). Bamidbar has 159 pesukim, equal to the gematria of “ נגע אהל.” And there are 70 letters in the first posuk, alluding to the years that Dovid HaMelech lived.

Teshuvah Every Day

In Pirkei Avos, Rebbe Eliezer says: שוב יום אחד לפני מיתתך – “Repent one day before your death.” In Avos d’Rebbe Nosson (15) they asked Rebbe Eliezer, how can one know on which day he will die? Rebbe Eliezer answered that we should do teshuvah every day, since we don’t know the day of our death.

Dovid HaMelech is alluded to in this saying, which teaches us to do teshuvah every day. דוד בן ישי equals 386. This is equal to the first letters of שוב יום אחד לפני מיתתך (with the mispar osiyos, adding one for each letter), and also equal to שוב יום אחד (with the letters). The gematria of the word “יום” spelled out יוד וו מם, equals 112, the same as בקי. This may be connected to Likkutei Mohoran 6, where it says that one must be בקי (expert) at two forms of teshuvah – ascending and descending. This is seen from Tehillim 139:8, which starts off: אם אסק שמים שם אתה – “If I rise to Heaven, there You are.” If one has a spiritual ascent, he should not be satisfied and remain there. Rather, he must strive for even greater spiritual heights. The posuk continues: ואציעה שאול הנך – “If I reach to the depths, You are here.” If one experiences a spiritual descent, he should realize that Hashem may be found even in the lowest depths. He should diligently seek Hashem, strengthen himself in every possible way, and attach himself to Hashem.

I heard from Rav Ahron Berlin, shlita, of the Breslov Flatbush Minyan, that the Zohar Hakodosh observes that the name דוד starts and ends with the letter דלת because from the beginning to the end, he was always concerned with the דל, those who are poor materially and spiritually. We see this in the extreme in his relationship to his son, Avsholom. When Dovid HaMelech was told that Avsholom had been killed, he cried for him from the depths of his heart, and in his crying said “בני ” eight times. Seven of these repetitions took Avsholom out of the seven levels of Gehinnom, while the eighth (according to one view in the Gemara) brought him into Gan Eden (Sotah 10b).

The word בני equals 62, and multiplied by 7, equals 434. This is the gematria of דלת. בני multiplied by 8 equals 496, the gematria of מלכות, the middah personified by Dovid HaMelech. The last day of sefiras ha-omer, the day before Dovid HaMelech’s yartzeit, is מלכות שבמלכות.דוד המלך equals 109, 1 more than the word גיהנם. He was able to lift Avsholom out of Gehinnom and, according to some, into Gan Eden. So too, through Tehillim we are all able to avoid גיהנם, since the psalms bring us to teshuvah.

Dovid HaMelech’s Teshuvah

Chazal state: כל האומר דוד חטא אינו אלא טועה –“All who say that Dovid sinned are mistaken” (Shabbos 55b). The Baal Shem Tov (a descendant of Dovid HaMelech, who was also niftar on Shavuos, on a Wednesday, 1760/5520) explains that the true purpose of the entire incident was so that he would be able to lift up those who would truly fall into transgression.

In a similar vein, Reb Yisroel Dov of Vilednik points out a diyuk in the words of Chazal: Dovid did not “sin”—rather he was “mistaken”– because at the hand of Heaven he was caused to err, in order to raise up the “fallen souls of Israel” (i.e., in generations to come). This what it means when Chazal say that Dovid HaMelech only succumbed to “that incident” (with Bas Sheva) in order to teach us how to do teshuvah (see above). All those who have succumbed to “p’gam ha-bris” can receive their tikkun through Dovid HaMelech (She’aris Yisrael-Vilednik, Shovavim Likkutim). Through Tehillim, in particular, one will be brought to repentance, which will bring about the tikkun.

Dovid HaMelekh’s Night Life

We can now see the relevance of Dovid HaMelech to Shavuos. The Gemara (Berachos 3b) relates how Dovid HaMelech would learn Torah from the beginning of the night until midnight. From then on, in one place it says that he would sing praises to Hashem, but a little later it says that at midnight he would delve into Torah. This contradiction is resolved by saying that his saying Tehillim was like learning Torah. (Perhaps this, too, is why he was able to ask that reciting Tehillim be considered like learning Negaim and Oholos.) Because of him, anyone who can read Tehillim has Torah available to himself, as the Igra D’kala says, Tehillim is part of Torah Shebiksav, as it is part of Tanach, and it is also like Torah She-ba’al Peh, since Dovid HaMelech requested that it be considered like learning Oholos and Negaim. Rabbeinu Yehuda bar Yakar (rebbe of the Ramban) says that his request was fulfilled.

Dovid HaMelech and Tefillah

The Imrei Emes (Shavuos 5676) connects Shavuos with tefillah, as the verse states: יום אשר עמדת לפני ד׳ אלהיך בחרב, on which the Gemara (Berochos 26b) remarks that עמידה alludes to tefillah. Tehillim is both formal and informal tefillah. Most of our mandatory davening is taken from Sefer Tehillim. And the core tefillah of Shemoneh Esrei starts off with: ד׳ שפתי תפתח ופי יגיד תהלתך. This posuk is from chapter 51 of Tehillim, in which Noson HaNovi admonishes Dovid HaMelech for the incident of Bas Sheva. The Shem MiShmuel comments that without saying this posuk, we would have no right to speak the lofty words of the Shemoneh Esrei. We end the Shemoneh Esrei with another verse from Tehillim (19:15): יהיו לרצון אמרי פי והגיון לבי לפניך ד׳ צורי וגאלי, the saying of which at this point was decreed by the Anshei Kenesses HaGedolah (Yesod V’shoresh Ha’Avodah 5:5; also see Mishnah Berurah 122:8, which speaks of the great “segulas” and “secrets” in this posuk.) In addition, we commonly say Tehillim when we need to daven outside of the required tefillos. (Reb Noson’s Likutey Tefillos, which are his original tefillos based on the lessons of Likutey Moharan, is full of verses from Tehillim.)

So we see from Dovid HaMelech that Torah and tefillah are equally important, and we can’t have one without the other. (This is in line with Reb Nachman’s words in in Sichos Ha-Ran 287 that all a person needs is “davennen uhn lehrnen uhn davennen”—tefillah and Torah and tefillah.) Dovid HaMelech also created the opportunity for everyone to have a portion in Torah and tefillah through his Sefer Tehillim.

No comments:

Post a Comment