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Mizmor 020 - May Hashem Answer You

(א) לַמְנַצֵּחַ מִזְמוֹר לְדָוִד: (ב) יַעַנְךָ ה' בְּיוֹם צָרָה יְשַׂגֶּבְךָ שֵׁם אֱלֹקֵי יַעֲקֹב:
(1) For the musician, a mizmor by David. (2) May Hashem answer you on the day of distress. May the Name of Yaakov’s G-d protect you.
NOTE: For a PDF of this mizmor, please click here. This will enable you to print out the entire text of the article. [Rev 7]
Key Concepts of Mizmor 020 - May Hashem Answer You
Mizmor 020 was originally composed when David sent Yoav with the army to confront the massive forces that Avshalom had assembled against David’s kingdom (Shmuel II 18). On this occasion David chose not to accompany his army. He knew he would be more effective if he stayed in Yerushalayim and prayed for their success.
This mizmor is an expression of his tefillah, although he presented it in the form of a blessing to the men who were about to face the danger of bitter fighting and who would be desperately calling for Hashem’s help. In the mizmor David emphasizes their dependence upon Hashem’s response to their tefillos.
Navigating Tehillim (1). It is noteworthy that when David appeals for Hashem’s help in meeting the challenge of overcoming Avshalom’s army, he invokes the Name of Hashem as “the G-d of Yaakov” (20:2). Hashem had promised to protect Yaakov, saying “Behold, I am with you; I will guard you wherever you go” (Bereishis 28:15) and He kept His promise, as Yaakov later said, “He answered me in my time of distress” (ibid. 35:3). Similarly, in Mizmor 132 when David asks Hashem to remember his struggles, David refers to Him as “the Mighty Power of Yaakov”. This is the Name Yaakov himself had invoked (Bereishis 49:24) because Hashem gave him the strength to overcome all the challenges that he faced in life.
Navigating Tehillim (2). Mizmor 020 was placed in the Book of Tehillim to serve as a universal means for Jews to appeal to Hashem for help in times of crisis. Even when Jews have become distant from Him, Hashem is eager to hear their tefillos and wants to respond to them. Thus, the mizmor is a fitting introduction to Mizmor 021 (A King's Gratitude) in which David celebrates the founding of the kingdom after many difficult struggles and tefillos.
Exploring the Mizmor
PART 1. PLEA FOR YESHUAH. David gives his blessing to Yoav and the troops as they go forth to confront Avshalom. He prays that Hashem’s response to his tefillah will be a complete yeshuah for his people, as they themselves would wish it.
(א) לַמְנַצֵּחַ מִזְמוֹר לְדָוִד: (ב) יַעַנְךָ ה' בְּיוֹם צָרָה יְשַׂגֶּבְךָ שֵׁם אֱלֹקֵי יַעֲקֹב: (ג) יִשְׁלַח עֶזְרְךָ מִקֹּדֶשׁ וּמִצִּיּוֹן יִסְעָדֶךָּ: (ד) יִזְכֹּר כָּל מִנְחֹתֶךָ וְעוֹלָתְךָ יְדַשְּׁנֶה סֶלָה: (ה) יִתֶּן לְךָ כִלְבָבֶךָ וְכָל עֲצָתְךָ יְמַלֵּא: (ו) נְרַנְּנָה בִּישׁוּעָתֶךָ וּבְשֵׁם אֱלֹקֵינוּ נִדְגֹּל, יְמַלֵּא ה' כָּל מִשְׁאֲלוֹתֶיךָ:
(1) For the musician, a mizmor by David. (2) May Hashem answer you on the day of distress. May the Name of Yaakov’s G-d protect you. (3) May He send your help from the Mikdash; may He support you from Tzion. (4) May He give consideration to all your minchah-offerings. May He accept your olah-offerings, Selah. (5) May He grant you according to your heart. May He fulfill your every plan. (6) We will sing joyously because of your deliverance, and we will gather around banners in the Name of our G-d. May Hashem fulfill all your requests.
PART 2. SONG OF VICTORY. David now describes what he will sing in honor of the victory in battle that he is confident will come. Here David’s involvement becomes more personal as he presents the anticipated song of victory, realizing that it is a sign of Hashem’s favor towards him personally. But even in victory he celebrates the Jewish people’s dependence upon Hashem’s response to heartfelt tefillos.
(ז) עַתָּה יָדַעְתִּי כִּי הוֹשִׁיעַ ה' מְשִׁיחוֹ יַעֲנֵהוּ מִשְּׁמֵי קָדְשׁוֹ בִּגְבֻרוֹת יֵשַׁע יְמִינוֹ: (ח) אֵלֶּה בָרֶכֶב וְאֵלֶּה בַסּוּסִים וַאֲנַחְנוּ בְּשֵׁם ה' אֱלֹהֵינוּ נַזְכִּיר: (ט) הֵמָּה כָּרְעוּ וְנָפָלוּ וַאֲנַחְנוּ קַּמְנוּ וַנִּתְעוֹדָד:
(7) Now I know that Hashem continues to save His anointed one. He will continue to answer from His holy heaven, with the mighty victories of His right hand. (8) Some [depend] on chariots, and some on horses. We call out the Name of Hashem, our G-d. (9) They slumped and fell, but we stood up and were empowered.
PART 3. CONCLUSION. David concludes with the simple tefillah that summarizes what he has been saying. This powerful tefillah is a plea for Hashem to answer us immediately whenever we call upon Him.
(י) ה' הוֹשִׁיעָה הַמֶּלֶךְ יַעֲנֵנוּ בְיוֹם קָרְאֵנוּ:
(10) Hashem save! May the King answer us on the day we call.
Learning the Mizmor
PART 1. PLEA FOR YESHUAH.
(א) לַמְנַצֵּחַ מִזְמוֹר לְדָוִד:
This song has been prepared for the musician — לַמְנַצֵּחַ , who will perform it. It is a mizmor composed by David — מִזְמוֹר לְדָוִד .
(ב) יַעַנְךָ ה' בְּיוֹם צָרָה
May Hashem answer you  יַעַנְךָ ה'  when you call upon Him on the day of distress  בְּיוֹם צָרָה . No matter how difficult your situation becomes, you should call upon Hashem to help you. I am confident that He will respond to your tefillos.
יְשַׂגֶּבְךָ שֵׁם אֱלֹקֵי יַעֲקֹב:
May the Name of Yaakov’s G-d be like a fortress to protect you  יְשַׂגֶּבְךָ שֵׁם אֱלֹקֵי יַעֲקֹב  from danger, just as He protected Yaakov from Lavan and Esav.
Hashem had promised to protect Yaakov, saying Behold, I am with you; I will guard you wherever you go (Bereishis 28:15) and He kept His promise, as Yaakov later said, “He answered me in my time of distress.” (ibid. 35:3)
(ג) יִשְׁלַח עֶזְרְךָ מִקֹּדֶשׁ
May He send your help from the Mikdash  יִשְׁלַח עֶזְרְךָ מִקֹּדֶשׁ  where the Shechinah dwells. The true yeshuah will come only from Him. Don’t rely on help from the kings of other nations.
וּמִצִּיּוֹן יִסְעָדֶךָּ:
May He support you from Tzion  וּמִצִּיּוֹן יִסְעָדֶךָּ . Tzion symbolizes the Torah, which is what brings a person closer to His Creator and which supports him so that he can come before Him in tefillah.
Yeshayah summarized the relationship between Tzion and the Torah in the following memorable words, כִּי מִצִּיּוֹן תֵּצֵא תוֹרָה וּדְבַר ה' מִירוּשָׁלָ ִם , “For from Tzion will the Torah come forth, and the word of Hashem from Yerushalayim” (Yeshayah 2:3).
(ד) יִזְכֹּר כָּל מִנְחֹתֶךָ 
וְעוֹלָתְךָ יְדַשְּׁנֶה סֶלָה:
Since you will be physically far from the Mikdash, you will not be able to offer sacrifices to Hashem, but the tefillos you say in battle will serve as your offerings. May He give consideration to all your minchah-offerings  יִזְכֹּר כָּל מִנְחֹתֶךָ , which express your plea for material well-being. May He also accept your olah-offerings  וְעוֹלָתְךָ יְדַשְּׁנֶה , which express your plea for His help in achieving spiritual growth so that you will be worthy of a yeshuah; Selah  סֶלָה .
(ה) יִתֶּן לְךָ כִלְבָבֶךָ 
וְכָל עֲצָתְךָ יְמַלֵּא:
I have total trust in your loyalty to me and to the Torah. May Hashem guide you and grant you success according to the wishes of your heart  יִתֶּן לְךָ כִלְבָבֶךָ . Furthermore, may He fulfill your every plan  וְכָל עֲצָתְךָ יְמַלֵּא  so that it does not result in unintended, harmful consequences.
(ו) נְרַנְּנָה בִּישׁוּעָתֶךָ 
וּבְשֵׁם אֱלֹקֵינוּ נִדְגֹּל
When you return successfully from battle we will sing joyously because of your deliverance  נְרַנְּנָה בִּישׁוּעָתֶךָ , and we will proudly gather around banners in the Name of our G-d  וּבְשֵׁם אֱלֹקֵינוּ נִדְגֹּל .
יְמַלֵּא ה' כָּל מִשְׁאֲלוֹתֶיךָ:
May Hashem fulfill all your future requests  יְמַלֵּא ה' כָּל מִשְׁאֲלוֹתֶיךָ , even for those needs that you are not yet aware of.
PART 2. SONG OF VICTORY.
(ז) עַתָּה יָדַעְתִּי 
כִּי הוֹשִׁיעַ ה' מְשִׁיחוֹ
Now I know  עַתָּה יָדַעְתִּי  that I have found favor with Hashem and that Hashem continues to save me, His anointed one  כִּי הוֹשִׁיעַ ה' מְשִׁיחוֹ . This victory demonstrates that all the times when I escaped the clutches of Shaul were because of Hashem’s goodwill towards me. The victory of Yoav and his army is my vindication. Since Hashem has chosen to anoint me, He has associated the honor of His Name with my destiny.
יַעֲנֵהוּ מִשְּׁמֵי קָדְשׁוֹ 
בִּגְבֻרוֹת יֵשַׁע יְמִינוֹ:
Even though I am only flesh and blood, surely Hashem will continue to answer His anointed one from His holy heaven  יַעֲנֵהוּ מִשְּׁמֵי קָדְשׁוֹ , with the mighty victories of His right hand  בִּגְבֻרוֹת יֵשַׁע יְמִינוֹ .
(ח) אֵלֶּה בָרֶכֶב וְאֵלֶּה בַסּוּסִים 
וַאֲנַחְנוּ בְּשֵׁם ה' אֱלֹקֵינוּ נַזְכִּיר:
Since I rely upon His help, I will trustingly make my appeal to Him whenever I am in need. Some nations depend on iron chariots  אֵלֶּה בָרֶכֶב , and some put their trust in horses  וְאֵלֶּה בַסּוּסִים ; but we who have few chariots and horses are not discouraged. We call out the Name of Hashem, our G-d  וַאֲנַחְנוּ בְּשֵׁם ה' אֱלֹקֵינוּ נַזְכִּיר  because He is the source of our deliverance.
(ט) הֵמָּה כָּרְעוּ וְנָפָלוּ 
וַאֲנַחְנוּ קַּמְנוּ וַנִּתְעוֹדָד:
They who stood tall in their self-confidence slumped and fell  הֵמָּה כָּרְעוּ וְנָפָלוּ , but we who were submissive to our G-d stood up and were empowered  וַאֲנַחְנוּ קַּמְנוּ וַנִּתְעוֹדָד  to overcome them.
PART 3. CONCLUSION.
(י) ה' הוֹשִׁיעָה הַמֶּלֶךְ יַעֲנֵנוּ בְיוֹם קָרְאֵנוּ:
Hashem save us — ה' הוֹשִׁיעָה May the King answer us  הַמֶּלֶךְ יַעֲנֵנוּ  on the day we call  בְיוֹם קָרְאֵנוּ .
Living the Mizmor
Listed below are some of the thoughts that you might have in mind when you say the words of the mizmor as a tefillah and some of the lessons that you can draw from this mizmor.
Tefillos for Life - Your Yeshuah .
[20:02] DISTRESS. – יַעַנְךָ ה' בְּיוֹם צָרָה – “May Hashem answer you on the day of distress.” No matter how difficult your situation in life becomes, you should call upon Hashem to help you. If those you love are in distress, pray to Hashem to help them and respond to their tefillos.
[20:10] ANSWERING THE CALL. – הַמֶּלֶךְ יַעֲנֵנוּ בְיוֹם קָרְאֵנוּ – “May the King answer us on the day we call.”
Tefillos for Life - Your Relationship with Hashem .
[20:02] KEEPING THE PROMISE. – שֵׁם אֱלֹקֵי יַעֲקֹב – “the Name of Yaakov’s G-d.” Over the course of Yaakov’s life he faced many difficult challenges. But Hashem promised to protect Yaakov and He kept His promise. Therefore, you should humbly turn to Him to do the same for you.
Lessons for Life - Your Behavior.
[20:03] THE SOURCE OF HELP. – יִשְׁלַח עֶזְרְךָ מִקֹּדֶשׁ – “May He send your help from the Mikdash.” The true yeshuah will come only from Hashem. Don’t rely on help from the nations of the world.
[20:08] MILITARY POWER. – וַאֲנַחְנוּ בְּשֵׁם ה' אֱלֹקֵינוּ נַזְכִּיר – “We call out the Name of Hashem, our G-d.” Don’t rely on the force of arms to save you in time of distress. Turn to Hashem.
Tefillos for Life - Your Berachah .
[20:05] YOUR PLANS. – וְכָל עֲצָתְךָ יְמַלֵּא – “May He fulfill your every plan.” If you are planning a worthy project, ask for Hashem’s help in bringing success.
Tefillos for Life - Your Gratitude.
[20:06] JOY IN VICTORY. – נְרַנְּנָה בִּישׁוּעָתֶךָ – “We will sing joyously because of Your deliverance.” Express your gratitude to Hashem in public song.
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, מצודות, מלבי"ם
ג - מלבי"ם, באר אברהם
ד - רש"י, מצודות, רשר"ה
ה - אבן עזרא, מצודות, באר אברהם, נר לרגלי
ו - רש"י, רד"ק
ז - רש"י, מצודות, נר לרגלי
ח - רד"ק
ט - רד"ק
י - רד"ק