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Mizmor 119-049 - Zayin (Time)

Key Concepts of the Zayin Segment (Mizmor 119-049) - Time
In the Zayin series of pesukim David builds on the linkages which he explored in the Vav series. There he showed how linkages demonstrate the unity inherent in the Torah and Creation. Now he speaks of the linkages inherent in the dimension of time. Time itself is a creation, symbolized by the word זְמַן . Therefore, from the perspective of the Creator the past, present, and future are elements within His unity.
From the perspective of mankind, the linkages in the passage of time appear as the fulfillment of a promise. The promise was made by Hashem in the past, but when it was made its fulfillment was seen by man as something meant to occur in the distant future. And when it actually does occur, it is experienced by man as the present.
David shows us how man makes contact with the Eternal through the power of Tefilah. By calling upon Hashem to fulfill His past promises, man acknowledges the unity and the truth of the world that He has created. He also demonstrates that the act of fulfillment by Hashem is in itself an acknowledgement of Hashem’s kindness and goodness. For it was His goodness that explains the granting of the promise in the first place.
Zayin 1: The Promise
(מט) זְכֹר דָּבָר לְעַבְדֶּךָ עַל אֲשֶׁר יִחַלְתָּנִי:
Remember the promise made to Your servant, by which You gave me hope.
In this first pasuk of the Zayin series David asks Hashem to fulfill the promise that was made in the distant past. Hashem made His promise of life for all of mankind conditional upon man’s behavior. In the previous pesukim, David showed how he has tried to live his life as a devoted servant (eved) to his Creator.
In his tefilah David refers to himself is that servant ( עַבְדֶּךָ ). He calls upon the power of Divine memory ( זְכֹר ) which connects the ancient promise to its fulfillment in the present. He also links the human emotion of hope ( יִחַלְתָּנִי ) by which a man can continue to look with confidence upon the future day of fulfillment, knowing that day will ultimately come, no matter how long he has to wait. The ability to hope is a gift that Hashem granted to him at the time the promise was first made.
Zayin 2: The Word
(נ) זֹאת נֶחָמָתִי בְעָנְיִי כִּי אִמְרָתְךָ חִיָּתְנִי:
This is my comfort in my suffering, for Your word gives me life.
Having called upon Hashem to fulfill His ancient promise and having related that promise to his hope for the future, David now emphasizes again how important that promise has been to him. Essentially it has become the focal point of his life, for even though David has experienced much suffering ( בְעָנְיִי ), the promise provides assurance that his travails will be coming to an end. David describes how he draws comfort ( נֶחָמָתִי ) and strength from the knowledge that fulfillment of Hashem’s promise is just a matter of time. His trust in Hashem’s word ( אִמְרָתְךָ ) is his guarantee of life ( חִיָּתְנִי ).
Zayin 3: Endurance
(נא) זֵדִים הֱלִיצֻנִי עַד מְאֹד מִתּוֹרָתְךָ לֹא נָטִיתִי:
Deliberate sinners ridiculed me without letup, but I did not veer away from Your Torah.
Here David explores the quality that enables a person to survive long periods of persecution. In this case it is psychological torment, which has been applied by cruel people. These deliberate sinners ( זֵדִים ) tried to undercut David’s faith in himself and his loyalty to Hashem. They “ridiculed me” ( הֱלִיצֻנִי ) and thereby forced David to see himself through their eyes. By consistently berating him without letup ( עַד מְאֹד ) they worked to destroy his self-image of as a servant of Hashem. However, David was able to endure and survive by hanging on to the holiness of the Torah. And so he held fast to his Torah life-line. Despite everything that they were throwing at him, David survived because, “I did not veer away from Your Torah” ( מִתּוֹרָתְךָ לֹא נָטִיתִי ).
 
Zayin 4: Experience
(נב) זָכַרְתִּי מִשְׁפָּטֶיךָ מֵעוֹלָם ה‘ וָאֶתְנֶחָם:
I remembered Your judgments of old, O Hashem, and I was comforted.
Previously (Zayin 2) David spoke of finding comfort in times of suffering. He drew strength from the knowledge that the fulfillment of Hashem’s promise is just a matter of time. Now he turns to the morale uplift to be found in the experience of past history. The story of mankind may be viewed as a sequence of periods in which human behavior has angered or pleased Hashem. In each case man was brought before the Divine Court of Judgment. At such a time there is encouragement in the knowledge that Hashem has always shown that He tempers justice with mercy. Periods of harsh judgment were tempered by mercy and were ultimately followed by periods of blessing and good fortune.
So in times of suffering David remembers the lessons of the judgments of old ( מִשְׁפָּטֶיךָ מֵעוֹלָם ). David refers to Hashem by His attribute of Mercy ( ה‘ ) because even in the most difficult periods, the love of Hashem has always been present and the promise of future Redemption has always been there.
Zayin 5: Danger
(נג) זַלְעָפָה אֲחָזַתְנִי מֵרְשָׁעִים עֹזְבֵי תּוֹרָתֶךָ:
Shuddering seized me because of the wicked who forsake Your Torah.
In reviewing his life and the life of the Jewish people David found himself torn between hope and fear. In the previous pasuk he expressed his relief and comfort found in the optimistic lessons of past history. But then he was shaken by the realization that he must avoid complacency. He looked around him and saw the many wicked people who started out in the purity of commitment to Torah but who had fallen along the way. They had succumbed to the challenges and temptations of life. In doing so, their example offered a warning that David himself needed to be always vigilant. As long as a person lives, he must be alert for the dangers and tragedies that can appear at any time.
Zayin 6: Song
(נד) זְמִרוֹת הָיוּ לִי חֻקֶּיךָ בְּבֵית מְגוּרָי:
Your Chukim were music to me, in the place of my sojourn.
The gift of time is the gift of life. We experience this gift with every passing moment and when we run out of time we run out of life. Besides being such a blessing, time also presents a great challenge. Are we using this treasure effectively? Or are we letting it slip through our fingers, wasted?
The power of song is also a great gift, which is directly related to the gift of time. Like the beating of the human heart, the rhythmic beats of song enable us to enjoy and appreciate the very essence of time.
The gift of song is also related to the gift of Torah because learning Torah is most effective when the holy words are reflected in the sweetness of a chanted accompaniment. We appeal to Hashem to make us appreciate the sweetness of Torah because that sweetness encourages us to devote our every free moment to learning.
The value of song in Torah learning is especially significant when one is learning the Chukim, as these mitzvos do not provide the kind of satisfaction that comes from a thorough, rational explanation. And so David made a point of learning the Chukim with a level of spiritual intensity that he compared to the the qualities that make music pleasurable (Your Chukim were music to me).
David also addressed the fact life is not lived as one one continuous moment, but as a series of high points and low points, like a journey through the wilderness. In the course of the journey one makes periodic stops where one can find the undisturbed peace of a House of Torah. Therefore David calls attention to these welcome opportunities as being “in the place of my sojourn.”
Zayin 7: Meditation
(נה) זָכַרְתִּי בַלַּיְלָה שִׁמְךָ ה‘ וָאֶשְׁמְרָה תּוֹרָתֶךָ:
In the night I remembered Your Name, O Hashem, and I kept Your Torah.
The calm of night ( לַיְלָה ) is a time of meditation and memories. David thanks Hashem for granting him this opportunity to escape the momentary distractions of daily life when his mind was free to dwell on the mysteries of existence in the wondrous world that Hashem created.
As mortal beings we cannot know the ultimate truth of Hashem’s being. What we know of Hashem is a reflection of His interaction with His world. The complexity of Hashem’s essence is perceived by us in the various ways in which He relates to the world. These ways are expressed through the Name ( שִׁמְךָ ) by which His Oneness is identified to us at different times. When David thought of a particular Name of Hashem he was able to visualize the corresponding way that Hashem’s relationship is perceived with an aspect of the world.
The composite and perfect expression of the One God is displayed to us in the One Torah and it was in the quiet of the night that David felt himself most capable of grasping Hashem’s presence from moment to moment. And so David was thankful to Hashem for being able to keep “Your Torah” ( תּוֹרָתֶךָ ).
Zayin 8: Pikudim
(נו) זֹאת הָיְתָה לִּי כִּי פִקֻּדֶיךָ נָצָרְתִּי:
All this came to me because I guarded Your Pikudim.
Here David concludes his appreciation of the role of time in the service of Hashem. He is grateful for having been granted an understanding of all this ( זֹאת ). He has come to realize that his renewed understanding is a recognition of his devotion to mitzvos, especially his attention to the Pikudim, which are the mitzvos we are called upon to perform with our minds. And so he ends with the words,”because I guarded Your Pikudim” ( כִּי פִקֻּדֶיךָ נָצָרְתִּי ).
Learning the Zayin Segment
Zayin 1: The Promise
(מט) זְכֹר דָּבָר לְעַבְדֶּךָ 
עַל אֲשֶׁר יִחַלְתָּנִי:
Remember — זְכֹר the promise — דָּבָר that You made to Your servant — לְעַבְדֶּךָ the promise by which — עַל אֲשֶׁר You gave me hope — יִחַלְתָּנִי .
Additional Insights:
(1) The promise made by Hashem ( דָּבָר ) appeared in different forms at various points in time. When Yaakov Avinu expressed Hashem’s blessing of royalty for David’s tribe, he said, לֹא יָסוּר שֵׁבֶט מִיהוּדָה , “the sceptre will not depart from Yehudah” (Bereishis 49:10). (ספורנו)
(2) The prophet Nathan conveyed the promise of Hashem for the future of the royal House of David and Klsal Yisrael in a series of pesukim in Shmuel II (7:8 - 7:16). ( רש"י, מלבים ).
(3) The promise that Hashem gave to David implied that David and his people could draw hope and encouragement from Hashem’s words throughout future generations ( עַל אֲשֶׁר יִחַלְתָּנִי ). ( מצודות )
Zayin 2: The Word
(נ) זֹאת נֶחָמָתִי בְעָנְיִי 
כִּי אִמְרָתְךָ חִיָּתְנִי:
This has been my comfort — זֹאת נֶחָמָתִי in my suffering — בְעָנְיִי , for Your word — כִּי אִמְרָתְךָ gives me life — חִיָּתְנִי .
Additional Insights:
(1) David recalls times past when he was at death’s door, such as when his life was threatened by his son Avshalom. The memory of how he was saved gives him the strength to face similar challenges in the present. (מלבי"ם)
(2) David said that Hashem’s promise was his comfort in times of suffering because he trusted in Hashem to fulfill it. Thus, he is cheered and comforted by the memory of his very act of trusting and by its result. His awareness that Hashem would see him through his challenge comforted him and gave him life in times past. Because of his trust, it was as though he had already been forgiven. ( רד"ק ,המאירי, נר לרגלי ).
(3) David uses the term אִמְרָתְךָ , which can also refer to Hashem’s Torah. So in addition, to the knowledge of Hashems promise, it was his learning the Torah itself, that gave him the gratification that comforted him. (בן רמוך)
(4) The word אִמְרָתְךָ could also be a reference to Hashem’s declaration via the prophet Nathan that He had accepted David’s earnest prayers and had forgiven his action in the incident of Bas Sheva (2 Shmuel 12:13). The knowledge that David had been forgiven was a great comfort to him. (ספורנו)
(5) The word בְעָנְיִי may also be translated as “my poverty” and can be understood as a reference to a poverty of understanding. There are times in a person’s life when he finds it difficult to learn Torah. In such times his mind has a problem in grasping concepts. David said that even in such times a person should learn Torah, even superficially, because Torah has wondrous value under every circumstance. Thus, David said, “Even when I experience a poverty of understanding, I find comfort in Your word. (טיב התהילות) him.
Zayin 3: Endurance
(נא) זֵדִים הֱלִיצֻנִי עַד מְאֹד 
מִתּוֹרָתְךָ לֹא נָטִיתִי:
Deliberate sinners — זֵדִים ridiculed me — הֱלִיצֻנִי without letup — עַד מְאֹד , but I did not veer away from Your Torah — מִתּוֹרָתְךָ לֹא נָטִיתִי .
Additional Insights:
(1) The Torah was David’s life-line and the enemy instinctively understood this. And so they ridiculed him for spending all the time and effort he put into Torah learning. (רדק)
(2) The sinners that ridiculed David argued that he owed it to himself to enjoy the pleasures of the world and he was wasting his precious time learning. His devotion to the Torah was taking him away from their concept of self-fulfillment. (בן רמוך)
(3) In a conflict situation, especially, if the other party is using unfair tactics, a person is tempted to take matters into his own hands. He is not inclined to check if what he wants to do is consistent with the laws of the Torah. Rather he wants to act now while his emotions are still hot. David is teaching us here that even when he was enduring scurilous attacks he remained true to the requirements and halachos of the Torah ( מִתּוֹרָתְךָ לֹא נָטִיתִי ). (טיב התהילות)
Zayin 4: Experience
(נב) זָכַרְתִּי מִשְׁפָּטֶיךָ מֵעוֹלָם ה‘ 
וָאֶתְנֶחָם:
I remembered Your judgments of old and how You consistently tempered strict justice with mercy, O Hashem — זָכַרְתִּי מִשְׁפָּטֶיךָ מֵעוֹלָם ה‘ , and I was comforted — וָאֶתְנֶחָם .
Additional Insights:
(1) David describes how he was comforted by observing that after going through a period of difficulties good people were always granted a flow of blessing and goodwill from Hashem. (רדק)
(2) Based on the experience of past history, when times are difficulty, David always had hope that today would be the day when tragedy is changed to blessing. (מלבים)
(3) No matter how dark a situation seemed to be, David knew that it was a reflection of his own behavior. If he did teshuvah, he would surely be forgiven and misfurtune would be changed to blessing.( (המאירי
Zayin 5: Danger
(נג) זַלְעָפָה אֲחָזַתְנִי מֵרְשָׁעִים עֹזְבֵי תּוֹרָתֶךָ:
Shuddering seized me — זַלְעָפָה אֲחָזַתְנִי because of the wicked who forsake Your Torah — מֵרְשָׁעִים עֹזְבֵי תּוֹרָתֶךָ .
Additional Insights:
(1) David was shaken by the knowledge of what lay in wait for people who were once righteous and now had lost their way. (מלבים)
(2) David shuddered in fear that this could happen to him as well. (בן רמוך)
(3) All Jews are responsible for each other. Therefore,David feared that he would be held to account for the sins of his generation.( (נר לרגלי
(4) Even though David himself was fully observant, he was shocked when he came across other Jews who had abandoned the Torah. It was like the effect a person feels upon hearing bad news about someone he loves.( (טיב התהילות
Zayin 6: Song
 
(נד) זְמִרוֹת הָיוּ לִי חֻקֶּיךָ 
בְּבֵית מְגוּרָי:
Your Chukim were like sweet music to me — זְמִרוֹת הָיוּ לִי חֻקֶּיךָ , in the place of my sojourn — בְּבֵית מְגוּרָי where I was able devote time to the sweetness of Torah learning.
 
Additional Insights:
(1) When David spoke of the place of sojourn ( בְּבֵית מְגוּרָי ) he may have been referring to the places of refuge where he found respite from the enemies who were pursuing him. He also foresaw future generations of Jews in Exile who would found temporary peace from time to time in the lands of their oppressors (רד"ק)
(1) When David spoke of being in the place of sojourn ( בְּבֵית מְגוּרָי ) he was speaking for the Jewish people in Exile, traveling in strange places, away from home. Despite suffering the experience of Exile, Jews were consoled by having the Torah. The Torah is like sweet music that cheers the heart. (מצודות)
Zayin 7: Meditation
(נה) זָכַרְתִּי בַלַּיְלָה שִׁמְךָ ה‘
וָאֶשְׁמְרָה תּוֹרָתֶךָ:
I remembered — זָכַרְתִּי in the night — בַלַּיְלָה Your Name O Hashem — שִׁמְךָ ה‘ , and I kept Your Torah — וָאֶשְׁמְרָה תּוֹרָתֶךָ .
Additional Insights:
(1) David experienced his greatest moment of alertness upon awakening in the middle of the night and pondering Hashem’s greatness. (רד"ק)
(2) Besides being a time of meditation, night is also an allusion to the darkness of exile. David reflected on the fact that the suffering of exile has made us realize our total dependence on Hashem. This has enabled us to devote ourselves totally to him as we perform the mitzvos of the Torah. (רש"י) (נר לרגלי)
(3) The Name of Hashem which we call upon in the “night of exile” is the one that reflects His quality of kindness. David recalled that even in difficult circumstances he was always able to call upon that quality. ( (טיב התהילות
 
 
Zayin 8: Pikudim
(נו) זֹאת הָיְתָה לִּי 
כִּי פִקֻּדֶיךָ נָצָרְתִּי:
All this understanding — זֹאת came to me — הָיְתָה לִּי because I guarded Your Pikudim — כִּי פִקֻּדֶיךָ נָצָרְתִּי .
Additional Insights:
(1) David emphasizes that he has always viewed the mitzvos of Hashem, not just as theoretical knowledge, but as mandates to be carried out in practice ( נָצָרְתִּי ). He feels it was that attitude which gave him the merit to understand all “this” ( זֹאת ). (רשר"ה)
(2) Besides being a time of meditation, night is also an allusion to the darkness of exile. David reflected on the fact that the suffering of exile has made us realize our total dependence on Hashem. This has enabled us to devote ourselves totally to him as we perform the mitzvos of the Torah. (רש"י) (נר לרגלי)
(3) The most notable Name of Hashem, that we call upon in the “night of exile” is the one that reflects His quality of kindness. David recalled that even in difficult circumstances he was always able to call upon that quality. ( טיב התהלות )