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Mizmor 008 - The Splendor of the Universe

(א) לַמְנַצֵּחַ עַל הַגִּתִּית מִזְמוֹר לְדָוִד: (ב) ה' אֲדֹנֵינוּ מָה אַדִּיר שִׁמְךָ בְּכָל הָאָרֶץ אֲשֶׁר תְּנָה הוֹדְךָ עַל הַשָּׁמָיִם:
(1) For the musician on the gittis instrument, a mizmor by David. (2) Hashem, our L-rd, How majestic is Your Name throughout the earth, that You placed Your majesty in the heavens.
NOTE: For a PDF of this mizmor, please click here. This will enable you to print out the entire text of the article. [Rev. 10]
Key Concepts of Mizmor 008 - The Splendor of the Universe
In this mizmor David sings to Hashem in praise and gratitude for the universe that He has created. Despite the vastness and the grandeur of His universe, Hashem has chosen this lowly earth as a focus of His presence (the Shechinah) and He has chosen to entrust mankind with His special attention.
Exploring the Mizmor
PART 1. THE NAME OF HASHEM. The grandeur of Hashem in heaven and earth is beyond human understanding. And so He is known to us only by His Name and the workings of the world that He created.
(א) לַמְנַצֵּחַ עַל הַגִּתִּית מִזְמוֹר לְדָוִד: (ב) ה' אֲדֹנֵינוּ מָה אַדִּיר שִׁמְךָ בְּכָל הָאָרֶץ אֲשֶׁר תְּנָה הוֹדְךָ עַל הַשָּׁמָיִם: (ג) מִפִּי עוֹלְלִים וְיֹנְקִים יִסַּדְתָּ עֹז לְמַעַן צוֹרְרֶיךָ לְהַשְׁבִּית אוֹיֵב וּמִתְנַקֵּם:
(1) For the musician on the gittis instrument, a mizmor by David. (2) Hashem, our L-rd, How majestic is Your Name throughout the earth, that You placed Your majesty in the heavens. (3) Out of the mouth of young children and infants You have established strength because of those who torment You, to silence enemy and avenge.
Despite the immensity of the universe, Hashem has presented Himself to us in a humble form to teach us the value of humility. Thus, He has established His Name out of the mouths of little children learning His Torah in purity. He has grounded the purpose of Creation on the continuity of the generations of Jews learning Torah and performing mitzvos. That continuity depends on our ability to resist and overcome the atheists and heretics who deny Hashem’s existence, i.e. “those who torment You.”
PART 2. THE ROLE OF MAN. Despite the apparent insignificance of man in the vastness of Creation, Hashem has crowned man with honor and given him dominion over other creatures. Man’s mark of honor is the soul which enables him to perceive right and wrong. His visible distinction over other creatures lies in the power of speech, which allows him to communicate the teachings of the Torah.
(ד) כִּי אֶרְאֶה שָׁמֶיךָ מַעֲשֵׂי אֶצְבְּעֹתֶיךָ יָרֵחַ וְכוֹכָבִים אֲשֶׁר כּוֹנָנְתָּה: (ה) מָה אֱנוֹשׁ כִּי תִזְכְּרֶנּוּ וּבֶן אָדָם כִּי תִפְקְדֶנּוּ: (ו) וַתְּחַסְּרֵהוּ מְּעַט מֵאֱלֹהִים וְכָבוֹד וְהָדָר תְּעַטְּרֵהוּ: (ז) תַּמְשִׁילֵהוּ בְּמַעֲשֵׂי יָדֶיךָ כֹּל שַׁתָּה תַחַת רַגְלָיו: (ח) צֹנֶה וַאֲלָפִים כֻּלָּם וְגַם בַּהֲמוֹת שָׂדָי: (ט) צִפּוֹר שָׁמַיִם וּדְגֵי הַיָּם עֹבֵר אָרְחוֹת יַמִּים: (י) ה' אֲדֹנֵינוּ מָה אַדִּיר שִׁמְךָ בְּכָל הָאָרֶץ:
(4) When I look at Your heavens, the work of Your fingers; the moon and the stars, which You have set in place. (5) What is man, that You are mindful of him. And the son of mortal man that You have designated him. (6) Yet You have made him only a little less than the angels. You have crowned him with honor and splendor. (7) You have given him dominion over the works of Your hands. You have placed everything under his feet. (8) Sheep and cattle, as well as the beasts of the field. (9) Birds of the sky and the fish of the sea. He travels across the oceans [too]. (10) Hashem, our L-rd, how majestic is Your Name throughout the earth.
Learning the Mizmor
PART 1. THE NAME OF HASHEM.
(א) לַמְנַצֵּחַ עַל הַגִּתִּית מִזְמוֹר לְדָוִד:
A song for the musician — לַמְנַצֵּחַ , who will perform it on the musical instrument called “gittis” — עַל הַגִּתִּית . It is a mizmor composed by David — מִזְמוֹר לְדָוִד The gittis was fabricated in the city of Gass in the land of the Plishtim.
(ב) ה' אֲדֹנֵינוּ
Hashem, our L-rd  ה' אֲדֹנֵינוּ , Your Name of Hashem (spelled with four Hebrew letters) signifies that You are the eternal source of all existence. You reveal Yourself to Your creatures by Your Name, so that to us Your Name is You and You are Your Name.
מָה אַדִּיר שִׁמְךָ בְּכָל הָאָרֶץ
אֲשֶׁר תְּנָה הוֹדְךָ עַל הַשָּׁמָיִם:
I stand in awe! How majestic is Your Name throughout the earth — מָה אַדִּיר שִׁמְךָ בְּכָל הָאָרֶץ ! The creatures of this world cannot possibly appreciate the Shechinah that dwells in their midst. It would be more fitting that You placed  אֲשֶׁר תְּנָה  the focus of Your splendor  הוֹדְךָ  in the vast heavens  עַל הַשָּׁמָיִם , in comparison to which the entire earth is like a speck of dust.
(ג) מִפִּי עוֹלְלִים וְיֹנְקִים 
יִסַּדְתָּ עֹז
But You taught the world humility by choosing mankind for Your special attention. Out of the mouths of young children and infants — מִפִּי עוֹלְלִים וְיֹנְקִים  You have established Your strength — יִסַּדְתָּ עֹז . Despite the immensity of the universe, You have grounded the purpose of Creation on the continuity of the generations of Jews learning Torah and performing mitzvos.
לְמַעַן צוֹרְרֶיךָ
לְהַשְׁבִּית אוֹיֵב וּמִתְנַקֵּם:
You have chosen the innocence and purity of young children because of those who torment You — לְמַעַן צוֹרְרֶיךָ  by denying You and by disregarding Your wishes. And You have acted to silence that enemy which seeks to avenge — לְהַשְׁבִּית אוֹיֵב וּמִתְנַקֵּם  the intrusion upon their selfish ambitions in life.
(ד) כִּי אֶרְאֶה שָׁמֶיךָ
מַעֲשֵׂה אֶצְבְּעֹתֶיךָ 
יָרֵחַ וְכוֹכָבִים אֲשֶׁר כּוֹנָנְתָּה:
When I look at Your vast heavens — כִּי אֶרְאֶה שָׁמֶיךָ , I am amazed at their immensity and their intricate precision, the work of Your fingers — מַעֲשֵׂי אֶצְבְּעֹתֶיךָ . I think how all this has been created by You. It didn’t just happen by itself. Thus, I am overwhelmed by the splendor of the moon and the stars, which You have set in place — יָרֵחַ וְכוֹכָבִים אֲשֶׁר כּוֹנָנְתָּה  in their cosmic orbits.
PART 2: THE ROLE OF MAN.
(ה) מָה אֱנוֹשׁ כִּי תִזְכְּרֶנּוּ
וּבֶן אָדָם כִּי תִפְקְדֶנּוּ:
When I look out at the night sky and see all this, I ask: What is a puny man — מָה אֱנוֹשׁ , that You are mindful of him — כִּי תִזְכְּרֶנּוּ ? Why do You care so much about an insignificant creature that You have given Him the gift of the Torah? And what is the son of mortal man — בֶן אָדָם , that You have designated him — כִּי תִפְקְדֶנּוּ  to represent You in the cosmos?
(ו) וַתְּחַסְּרֵהוּ מְּעַט מֵאֱלֹהִים
Yet You have made him only a little less than the angels — וַתְּחַסְּרֵהוּ מְּעַט מֵאֱלֹהִים , giving him the power of speech, which no other creature has, and giving him the power to stop the sun, as Yehoshua did.
וְכָבוֹד וְהָדָר תְּעַטְּרֵהוּ:
You have crowned him with honor and splendor — וְכָבוֹד וְהָדָר תְּעַטְּרֵהוּ . You have given him a sublime and immortal soul which no other creature has.
(ז) תַּמְשִׁילֵהוּ בְּמַעֲשֵׂי יָדֶיךָ
Despite man’s apparent insignificance You have given him dominion over the works of Your hands  תַּמְשִׁילֵהוּ בְּמַעֲשֵׂי יָדֶיךָ . Even though man is himself the work of Your hands You have given him the privilege of acting as Your steward on earth, administering the world that You created.
כֹּל שַׁתָּה תַחַת רַגְלָיו:
You placed everything under his feet — כֹּל שַׁתָּה תַחַת רַגְלָיו . Just as the shoes he walks on are there to serve his needs, so is everything in Creation designed to provide man with what he requires to properly serve You.
(ח) צֹנֶה וַאֲלָפִים כֻּלָּם, 
וְגַם בַּהֲמוֹת שָׂדָי:
You placed under man’s authority sheep and cattle — צֹנֶה וַאֲלָפִים  as well as all other domesticated animals  כֻּלָּם and also the beasts of the open field — וְגַם בַּהֲמוֹת שָׂדָי , which man can trap and use as he sees fit.
(ט) צִפּוֹר שָׁמַיִם וּדְגֵי הַיָּם 
עֹבֵר אָרְחוֹת יַמִּים:
Man can catch the birds of the sky — צִפּוֹר שָׁמַיִם  and the fish of the sea — וּדְגֵי הַיָּם , which live in their own environments. He also travels across the oceans  עֹבֵר אָרְחוֹת יַמִּים , and so even great distances are not an obstacle to him.
מָה אַדִּיר שִׁמְךָ בְּכָל הָאָרֶץ:
All of this leads me to ponder again and again, Hashem, our L-rd — ה' אֲדֹנֵינוּ , how majestic is Your Name — מָה אַדִּיר שִׁמְךָ  throughout the earth — בְּכָל הָאָרֶץ !
Living the Mizmor
Listed below are some of the thoughts you might have in mind when you say the words of the mizmor as tefillos expressing your gratitude to Hashem and as tehillos expressing your recognition of Hashem.
Tehillos for Life - Contemplation of Hashem.
[8:2] SOURCE OF ALL EXISTENCE. – ה' אֲדֹנֵינוּ – “Hashem, our L-rd.” His Name of four letters signifies that He is the source of all existence.
[8:2] BEYOND EARTHLY UNDERSTANDING. – מָה אַדִּיר שִׁמְךָ בְּכָל הָאָרֶץ – “Hashem, our L-rd, How majestic is Your Name throughout the earth.” His majesty is beyond the ability of earthly creatures to appreciate or comprehend.
[8:2] VASTNESS OF THE HEAVENS. – תְּנָה הוֹדְךָ עַל הַשָּׁמָיִם – “You placed Your majesty in the heavens.” His majesty is revealed in the awesome splendor of the moon and the stars.
[8:3] HUMILITY AND WISDOM. – מִפִּי עוֹלְלִים וְיֹנְקִים יִסַּדְתָּ עֹז – “Out of the mouth of young children and infants You have established strength.” He shows His humility by revealing His power and His wisdom in the tiniest beings.
Tefillos for Life - Gratitude .
[8:5] MINDFUL OF MAN. – מָה אֱנוֹשׁ כִּי תִזְכְּרֶנּוּ – “What is man, that You are mindful of him” Despite the vastness of the universe, Hashem has given man a central role, only a little less in status than the angels.
[8:7] DOMINION TO MAN.– תַּמְשִׁילֵהוּ – “You have given him dominion” Man has been given dominion over all Hashem’s creatures, acting as the steward of Hashem on earth.
Sources
The primary sources used in the interpretation of the verses of this mizmor are listed below.
א - רש"י
ב - רש"י, רד"ק
ג - רש"י, מלבי"ם, נר לרגלי
ד - מצודות
ה - רש"י, רד"ק, מצודות, נר לרגלי
ו - רש"י, אבן עזרא, רד"ק, מצודות
ז - מצודות, נר לרגלי
ח - רש"י, מצודות
ט - אבן עזרא, רד"ק, מצודות
י - מצודות, נר לרגלי