Lesson from the Talmud
Saying Psalm 145 Three
Times a Day
By Avi Lazerson
There are just so many
good ideas to be picked up from the Talmud that it is a shame that
it is not accessible to everyone. Deep ideas that are presented in
the Talmud can help people through difficult times. These are ideas
that guide a person in the correct direction in order to live a life
of fulfillment and happiness; these are ideas that can even
change a person's essence. Such is the small innocent looking
statement in the Talmud Tractate Brachot (4b) that is quoted below:
Rabbi Elazar said,
“who ever says the Psalm which we call 'ashrei' (psalm
145) three times a day is a person who can rest assured that he will
inherit the next world.” The Talmud then asks what is the
reason for this and then it proposes an answer: perhaps it is since
Psalm 145 is written in alphabetical order?
The Talmud reasons that
reason stating that if it is because of the alphabetical order, say
Psalm 119, since it is written in alphabetical order eight times.
(Each letter begins a sentence eight times, and then continues with
the next letter in the alphabetical order for eight sentences and
then the next eight times and so on.) So being in alphabetical order
can not be the reason.
Next suggests the Talmud perhaps it is
because the Psalm 145 has the phrase, 'Open Your hand and satisfy
all living beings,' but rejects that as being the sole reason
for bringing a person into the next world since Psalm 136 has a
similar phrase, 'He gives food to all living flesh.' Finally
the Talmud concludes that the reason is because Psalm 145 has both
the alphabetical order and the reference to G-d's giving satiation
to all living beings.
The rabbis that
comment on this part of the Talmud struggle to understand the
statement of Rabbi Elazar. Can it be possible that merely reciting
Psalm 145 three times a day is enough to assure a person a place in
the next world?
There is much more to life than just a simple
recitation that could cause people to either lose their place in the
next world or gain it, such as honesty, doing good deeds, being a
faithful and humble servant to G-d; how is it possible for Rabbi
Elazar to suggest that saying Psalm 145 three times a day has such
importance! Even more astounding is the fact that Psalm 145 is
included in the daily prayers no less than three times!
answer that is given by our rabbis is simple. There are two aspects
mentioned here: there is the alphabetical order aspect and the point that G-d
can open His hand and give sustenance to all living beings. These are
two different aspects. The alphabetical order relates us to the
Torah which is written with the twenty-two letters of the Hebrew
alphabet; this alphabetical order alludes us to realizing that it is
through the Torah that the world was created and through the study
of the Torah we are able to bring down G-d's prescence.
The second aspect is that
of G-d opening His hand and giving sustenance to all living beings.
When we realize that it is only because G-d is willing to help us,
and not just us but all living beings, to get the food that they
need, we can then realize that we need not work so hard. Food and
the necessities of life do not depend upon us alone; G-d is our
partner in providing what we need. This realization can bring us
back into focus and bring us closer to realizing our dependence on
G-d and further into the study of His holy Torah.
There are two aspects
mentioned here that bring fulfillment to the two needs of man: the
physical and the spiritual. The Torah brings spiritual fulfillment
and food brings physical fulfillment. Man needs both. Having one
without the other makes man a person of lacking.
But it is not a mere
recitation of this Psalm that brings us these benefits, but rather
it is when we meditate and contemplate G-d's goodness while
utilizing the words of this Psalm then we are able to achieve a
place in the next world. Indeed a superficial recitation is not
sufficient enough, we must utilize the words for deep contemplation
which brings us so much closer to G-d than a mere superficial
Closeness to G-d will aid us in avoiding sinning
and make us have a greater desire to be one with G-d. We will
realize that the physical is really bound together to the spiritual
and exists to bring us closer to G-d, which is the ultimate goal of
man in this world. By drawing closer to G-d in this world, we assure
ourselves of a place in the next world too.
This is what Rabbi Elazar
alluded to by telling us that by saying Psalm 145 three times a day
will assure us of a place in the next world. But that is only when
we do this with the proper intentions and contemplation.
from the Febuary 2012 Edition of the Jewish Magazine
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