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Mizmor 027 - Reconciling Bitachon to Tefillah

(א) לְדָוִד ה' אוֹרִי וְיִשְׁעִי, מִמִּי אִירָא, ה' מָעוֹז חַיַּי, מִמִּי אֶפְחָד:
(1) By David. Hashem is my light and my yeshuah. Whom should I fear? Hashem is the stronghold of my life. Whom should I dread?
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 027 - Reconciling Bitachon to Tefillah
In Mizmor 027 David shares with us a very personal narrative of man’s relationship with Hashem. He begins by declaring his own absolute bitachon, but then concludes that bitachon alone is not enough. Even if a person has complete trust in Hashem to always do what is right, there is a need for tefillah. It is by humbly asking for help that man is brought closer to his Creator.
So David turns from bitachon to tefillah, and pleads for closeness to Hashem. But he sees that effective tefillah involves vividly picturing his urgent and desperate need. David then realizes that in calling attention to his difficult situation, there is a grave danger of becoming discouraged and losing hope. And so he concludes the mizmor by strengthening his bitachon in a yeshuah that will surely come. Thus, he has found an effective balance between two key elements in man’s avodahbitachon and tefillah.
Exploring the Mizmor
PART 1. GRATITUDE AND BITACHON. David declares his gratitude to Hashem for his very existence and expresses his absolute trust that even though his enemies are now threatening him, they will surely be defeated.
(א) לְדָוִד ה' אוֹרִי וְיִשְׁעִי, מִמִּי אִירָא, ה' מָעוֹז חַיַּי, מִמִּי אֶפְחָד: (ב) בִּקְרֹב עָלַי מְרֵעִים לֶאֱכֹל אֶת בְּשָׂרִי, צָרַי וְאֹיְבַי לִי, הֵמָּה כָשְׁלוּ וְנָפָלוּ: (ג) אִם תַּחֲנֶה עָלַי מַחֲנֶה, לֹא יִירָא לִבִּי, אִם תָּקוּם עָלַי מִלְחָמָה, בְּזֹאת אֲנִי בוֹטֵחַ:
(1) By David. Hashem is my light and my yeshuah. Whom should I fear? Hashem is the stronghold of my life. Whom should I dread? (2) When evil perpetrators come together against me to consume my flesh, my tormentors and my enemies, they will stumble and fall. (3) Even if an army were to encamp against me, I would feel no fear in my heart. Even if a battle would be initiated against me, I would trust in this.
PART 2. ONE REQUEST. However, David quickly realizes that there is something missing. He is at risk of taking Hashem’s goodness for granted. What is missing is his urgent tefillah to Hashem to be closer to Him. And so he reminds himself that he has one urgent request.
(ד) אַחַת שָׁאַלְתִּי מֵאֵת ה', אוֹתָהּ אֲבַקֵּשׁ, שִׁבְתִּי בְּבֵית ה' כָּל יְמֵי חַיַּי לַחֲזוֹת בְּנֹעַם ה' וּלְבַקֵּר בְּהֵיכָלוֹ: (ה) כִּי יִצְפְּנֵנִי בְּסֻכֹּה בְּיוֹם רָעָה יַסְתִּרֵנִי בְּסֵתֶר אָהֳלוֹ בְּצוּר יְרוֹמְמֵנִי:
(ו) וְעַתָּה יָרוּם רֹאשִׁי עַל אֹיְבַי סְבִיבוֹתַי וְאֶזְבְּחָה בְאָהֳלוֹ זִבְחֵי תְרוּעָה אָשִׁירָה וַאֲזַמְּרָה לַה':
(4) There is one thing I have asked of Hashem, it is this that I will seek: that I dwell in the House of Hashem all the days of my life, to behold the sweetness of Hashem and to contemplate in His place of holiness. (5) For He will hide me in His Shelter on the day of evil; He will conceal me in the recess of His Tent; He will raise me high upon a rock. (6) And now My head is raised above my enemies around me. I will offer sacrifices in His Tent accompanied by joyous shouts. There will I sing and chant praise to Hashem.
PART 3. THE WONDER OF TEFILLAH. David now proceeds to make a desperate plea for help in every aspect of his life. He feels this tefillah is bringing him closer to Hashem as he had hoped and so he humbly asks that he be allowed to serve Hashem. David concludes the tefillah by pleading not to be placed at the mercy of bitter enemies who have robbed him of his good name.
(ז) שְׁמַע ה' קוֹלִי אֶקְרָא וְחָנֵּנִי וַעֲנֵנִי: (ח) לְךָ אָמַר לִבִּי בַּקְּשׁוּ פָנָי אֶת פָּנֶיךָ ה' אֲבַקֵּשׁ:
(ט) אַל תַּסְתֵּר פָּנֶיךָ מִמֶּנִּי אַל תַּט בְּאַף עַבְדֶּךָ עֶזְרָתִי הָיִיתָ אַל תִּטְּשֵׁנִי וְאַל תַּעַזְבֵנִי אֱלֹהֵי יִשְׁעִי: (י) כִּי אָבִי וְאִמִּי עֲזָבוּנִי וַה' יַאַסְפֵנִי: (יא) הוֹרֵנִי ה' דַּרְכֶּךָ וּנְחֵנִי בְּאֹרַח מִישׁוֹר לְמַעַן שׁוֹרְרָי: (יב) אַל תִּתְּנֵנִי בְּנֶפֶשׁ צָרָי כִּי קָמוּ בִי עֵדֵי שֶׁקֶר וִיפֵחַ חָמָס:
(7) Hashem, hear my voice as I call. Favor me with Your kindness and answer me. (8) Of You has my heart said, [citing Your wish,] “Seek My face.” Your face, Hashem, will I seek. (9) Don’t hide Your face from me, don’t turn away Your servant in anger. You have been my Help, don’t abandon me, nor forsake me O G-d, my yeshuah. (10) When my father and mother have abandoned me, Hashem will gather me in. (11) Teach me Your way, Hashem, and lead me on a level path because of my watchful foes. (12) Don’t give me over to the desires of my tormentors. For false witnesses rose against me with whispers of crimininality.
PART 4. THE ESSENTIAL BITACHON. David interrupts the tefillah, reminding himself that bitachon in Hashem’s ultimate yeshuah is essential for his continued existence and for his tefillah to be answered. And so he urges upon himself a strengthening of his hope and trust.
(יג) לוּלֵא הֶאֱמַנְתִּי לִרְאוֹת בְּטוּב ה' בְּאֶרֶץ חַיִּים: (יד) קַוֵּה אֶל ה' חֲזַק וְיַאֲמֵץ לִבֶּךָ וְקַוֵּה אֶל ה':
(13) Had I not firmly believed I would see the goodness of Hashem in the land of life .... (14) Hope to Hashem; strengthen yourself and He will give your heart courage. Hope to Hashem.
Navigating Tehillim. Mizmor 027 is an exercise in the reconciliation between bitachon and tefillah. This compares to Mizmor 026 which was an exercise in personal growth. A common feature of the two mizmorim is the importance of developing a closeness with Hashem, which is described as dwelling in His house. In Mizmor 026 the desire to dwell in Hashem’s house became part of David’s spiritual development as he said, “I love the shelter of Your House” (27:8). David now incorporates that desire into his tefillah, “that I dwell in the House of Hashem all the days of my life” (27:4) and demonstrates how it is the key to being close to Hashem.
The concept of dwelling in Hashem’s house appears in Tehillim for the first time in Mizmor 005, where it is used in David’s tefillah to differentiate him from his enemies. There he says, “As for me, through Your great kindness, I enter Your house. I prostrate myself toward Your Holy Sanctuary in awe of You.” (5:8)
Learning the Mizmor
PART 1. GRATITUDE AND BITACHON.
(א) לְדָוִד, 
ה' אוֹרִי וְיִשְׁעִי 
מִמִּי אִירָא:
This mizmor was composed by David — לְדָוִד .
Hashem is the Source of my light  ה' אוֹרִי , the light of human consciousness and awareness, which He granted when the first man was created on Rosh HashanahAnd He is the Source my yeshuah  וְיִשְׁעִי , for He saves me from every oppressor. He even saves me from the consequences of my own sins through the gift of teshuvah on Yom Kippur. There is no other power before which I need to stand in awe. Whom should I fear — מִמִּי אִירָא ?
ה' מָעוֹז חַיַּי 
מִמִּי אֶפְחָד:
Hashem is the stronghold of my life — ה' מָעוֹז חַיַּי . He is like an impregnable fortress to which I flee when I feel threatened by unknown dangers. So whom should I dread — מִמִּי אֶפְחָד ?
(ב) בִּקְרֹב עָלַי מְרֵעִים לֶאֱכֹל אֶת בְּשָׂרִי 
צָרַי וְאֹיְבַי לִי 
הֵמָּה כָשְׁלוּ וְנָפָלוּ:
When evil perpetrators come together against me — בִּקְרֹב עָלַי מְרֵעִים , I trust in Hashem to rescue me. Some of my enemies are seeking plunder and are effectively planning to consume my flesh — לֶאֱכֹל אֶת בְּשָׂרִי . Others are my tormentors and my enemies — צָרַי וְאֹיְבַי לִי , motivated by vicious hatred. In either case, I know that their very greed and hatred will trip them up and so they will stumble and fall — הֵמָּה כָשְׁלוּ וְנָפָלוּ .
(ג) אִם תַּחֲנֶה עָלַי מַחֲנֶה 
לֹא יִירָא לִבִּי
Even if a great army were to encamp against me — אִם תַּחֲנֶה עָלַי מַחֲנֶה  in an extended siege, I would feel no fear in my heart  לֹא יִירָא לִבִּי .
אִם תָּקוּם עָלַי מִלְחָמָה 
בְּזֹאת אֲנִי בוֹטֵחַ:
Even if a violent battle would be initiated against me — אִם תָּקוּם עָלַי מִלְחָמָה , I would confidently trust in this — בְּזֹאת אֲנִי בוֹטֵחַ  declaration with which I began the mizmor: “Hashem is my light and my yeshuah — ה' אוֹרִי וְיִשְׁעִי ”.
PART 2. ONE REQUEST.
(ד) אַחַת שָׁאַלְתִּי מֵאֵת ה' 
אוֹתָהּ אֲבַקֵּשׁ
Although I have absolute confidence that He will do what is right, I must not take His kindness for granted. It is my duty to appeal to Him to grant whatever I will need to serve Him. But since I cannot be the judge of what I really need, there is only one thing I have asked of Hashem — אַחַת שָׁאַלְתִּי מֵאֵת ה' , and it is this alone that I will continue to seek — אוֹתָהּ אֲבַקֵּשׁ , even though it implies many other specific benefits.
שִׁבְתִּי בְּבֵית ה' כָּל יְמֵי חַיַּי 
לַחֲזוֹת בְּנֹעַם ה' וּלְבַקֵּר בְּהֵיכָלוֹ:
All possible needs for survival are implied in one request, which is that I dwell in the House of Hashem — שִׁבְתִּי בְּבֵית ה'  all the days of my life — כָּל יְמֵי חַיַּי , to gaze upon the spiritual sweetness of Hashem  לַחֲזוֹת בְּנֹעַם ה'  in the form of His Torah and to contemplate Hashem’s infinite wisdom in His Sanctuary — וּלְבַקֵּר בְּהֵיכָלוֹ . It is my fervent hope to be spared the demands of war so that I can concentrate all my attention on spiritual endeavors.
(ה) כִּי יִצְפְּנֵנִי בְּסֻכֹּה בְּיוֹם רָעָה 
יַסְתִּרֵנִי בְּסֵתֶר אָהֳלוֹ 
בְּצוּר יְרוֹמְמֵנִי:
I make this request for I am confident that He will hide me in His Shelter — כִּי יִצְפְּנֵנִי בְּסֻכֹּה on the day of evil — בְּיוֹם רָעָה , to spare me from the need to confront my enemy; He will conceal me in the recess of His Tent — יַסְתִּרֵנִי בְּסֵתֶר אָהֳלוֹ  so that I can focus on spiritual matters; He will raise me high upon a rock — בְּצוּר יְרוֹמְמֵנִי  so that the enemy cannot reach me.
(ו) וְעַתָּה יָרוּם רֹאשִׁי 
עַל אֹיְבַי סְבִיבוֹתַי
And now — וְעַתָּה  even in the presence of my adversaries, I am no longer afraid. My head is already raised — יָרוּם רֹאשִׁי  above my enemies around me — עַל אֹיְבַי סְבִיבוֹתַי . They will surely fall before me.
וְאֶזְבְּחָה בְאָהֳלוֹ זִבְחֵי תְרוּעָה 
אָשִׁירָה וַאֲזַמְּרָה לַה':
To show my gratitude I will offer in His holy Tent (the Tabernacle) — וְאֶזְבְּחָה בְאָהֳלוֹ  sacrifices accompanied by joyous shouts — זִבְחֵי תְרוּעָה . There I will sing and chant praise to Hashem — אָשִׁירָה וַאֲזַמְּרָה לַה' .
PART 3. THE WONDER OF TEFILLAH.
(ז) שְׁמַע ה' קוֹלִי אֶקְרָא 
וְחָנֵּנִי וַעֲנֵנִי:
Hashem, hear my voice as I call — שְׁמַע ה' קוֹלִי אֶקְרָא  upon You with my request because my voice reflects what I have in my heart. Even though I am unworthy, favor me with Your kindness  וְחָנֵּנִי  and answer me — וַעֲנֵנִי  by giving me insight into Your Torah. For I ask only to do Your will and the request that I have made is for You to remove the obstacles which prevent me from fulfilling my duty to You.
(ח) לְךָ אָמַר לִבִּי בַּקְּשׁוּ פָנָי
אֶת פָּנֶיךָ ה' אֲבַקֵּשׁ:
Hashem, I have been asking to be rescued from my enemies, but my ultimate concern is to connect with Your Presence. My heart knows that You want me to seek You. Of You has my heart spoken  לְךָ אָמַר לִבִּי , expressing Your wish, Seek My face  בַּקְּשׁוּ פָנָי . So, to obey Your wish I will seek Your face, Hashem,  אֶת פָּנֶיךָ ה' אֲבַקֵּשׁ .
(ט) אַל תַּסְתֵּר פָּנֶיךָ מִמֶּנִּי
I have been trying so hard to seek Your face! Don’t hide Your face from me — אַל תַּסְתֵּר פָּנֶיךָ מִמֶּנִּי  and don’t refuse my tefillah. And even when You accept my tefillah, please don’t do it grudgingly, but show me the light of Your face in love, for as I have declared, You are my light (posuk (א .
אַל תַּט בְּאַף עַבְדֶּךָ
In any case, don’t turn Your servant away in anger — אַל תַּט בְּאַף עַבְדֶּךָ  even though I have sinned against You.
עֶזְרָתִי הָיִיתָ 
אַל תִּטְּשֵׁנִי וְאַל תַּעַזְבֵנִי 
אֱלֹקֵי יִשְׁעִי:
In the past You have been my Help — עֶזְרָתִי הָיִיתָ  for You have defended me against my enemies, even when I was undeserving. So now I again ask that You don’t abandon me nor forsake me — אַל תִּטְּשֵׁנִי וְאַל תַּעַזְבֵנִי . You are the G-d of my salvation  אֱלֹקֵי יִשְׁעִי  and I count on You alone (posuk (א .
(י) כִּי אָבִי וְאִמִּי עֲזָבוּנִי 
וַה' יַאַסְפֵנִי:
When I was young, my parents nurtured me and I relied on them completely. But they are only flesh and blood. There will come a time when even my father and mother are no longer here and will effectively have abandoned me — כִּי אָבִי וְאִמִּי עֲזָבוּנִי . But I know that Hashem will always be with me and I trust that He will gather me in — וַה' יַאַסְפֵנִי  to be under His protection. There can never be a time when He is not there.
(יא) הוֹרֵנִי ה' דַּרְכֶּךָ 
וּנְחֵנִי בְּאֹרַח מִישׁוֹר 
לְמַעַן שׁוֹרְרָי
I turn to You for guidance as a child looks to his father. Teach me Your way of morality and self-control, Hashem — הוֹרֵנִי ה' דַּרְכֶּךָ ; and lead me on a level path of serenity and honest dealings — וּנְחֵנִי בְּאֹרַח מִישׁוֹר  so that I will not be disturbed in my devotion to Your service. I ask this because of my watchful foes — לְמַעַן שׁוֹרְרָי , who have tried to drive me into exile and undermine my participation in the destiny of Yisrael.
(יב) אַל תִּתְּנֵנִי בְּנֶפֶשׁ צָרָי 
כִּי קָמוּ בִי עֵדֵי שֶׁקֶר וִיפֵחַ חָמָס:
Don’t turn me over to the insidious desires of my tormentors — אַל תִּתְּנֵנִי בְּנֶפֶשׁ צָרָי . They want to keep me preoccupied with unwarranted accusations so that I will not have the time and concentration I need to immerse myself in spiritual matters. For false witnesses rose against me — כִּי קָמוּ בִי עֵדֵי שֶׁקֶר , with fabricated whispers of crimininality — וִיפֵחַ חָמָס  that robbed me of my reputation.
PART 4. THE ESSENTIAL BITACHON.
(יג) לוּלֵא הֶאֱמַנְתִּי 
לִרְאוֹת בְּטוּב ה' בְּאֶרֶץ חַיִּים:
Had I not firmly believed  לוּלֵא הֶאֱמַנְתִּי  that in the World to Come I would see the goodness of Hashem — לִרְאוֹת בְּטוּב ה'  in the land of life — בְּאֶרֶץ חַיִּים , .... I would long ago have succumbed to my enemies. It was the zechus (merit) of my abiding trust in Hashem’s protection that kept me going.
David does not actually complete the above sentence because he did not want to contemplate the thought of his possible destruction.
(יד) קַוֵּה אֶל ה' 
חֲזַק וְיַאֲמֵץ לִבֶּךָ
David reminds himself: Hope to Hashem — קַוֵּה אֶל ה' ; even if your tefillos have not yet been answered; strengthen yourself in your hope and He will give your heart the courage — חֲזַק וְיַאֲמֵץ לִבֶּךָ  you need to keep going.
וְקַוֵּה אֶל ה'
And continue to hope to Hashem — וְקַוֵּה אֶל ה' . Never let hope leave your heart and never give in to despair.
Living the Mizmor
Listed below are some of the lessons that you can draw from this mizmor, as well as some of the thoughts you might have in mind when you say the words of the mizmor as a tefillah asking for your needs, or expressing your devotion to Hashem.
Lessons for Life - Your Attitude.
[27:1] LIGHT. – ה' אוֹרִי וְיִשְׁעִי – “Hashem is my light and my yeshuah.” Even when you are experiencing the darkness of anxiety and depression, look to Your bitachon in Hashem to find a source of light. Remember that your future is in His loving and capable hands. The yeshuah is sure to come.
[27:3] – אִם תָּקוּם עָלַי מִלְחָמָה, בְּזֹאת אֲנִי בוֹטֵחַ – “Even if a battle would be initiated against me, I would trust in this.”
[27:14] COURAGE. – קַוֵּה אֶל ה' חֲזַק וְיַאֲמֵץ לִבֶּךָ וְקַוֵּה אֶל ה' – “Hope to Hashem; strengthen yourself and He will give your heart courage.” Even if you are facing difficult challenges, remember that Hashem is there with you and will help you do what is right.
Tefillos for Life - Your Relationship with Hashem.
[27:4] HASHEM’S HOUSE. – שִׁבְתִּי בְּבֵית ה' כָּל יְמֵי חַיַּי – “[One thing I have askedthat I dwell in the House of Hashem all the days of my life.” Ask Hashem to enable you to live in an environment where you can see Him and be close to Him.
[27:7] TEFILLAH. – שְׁמַע ה' קוֹלִי אֶקְרָא וְחָנֵּנִי וַעֲנֵנִי – “Hashem, hear my voice as I call. Favor me with Your kindness and answer me.” Speak to Hashem and ask Him to favor you with His kindness even though you are unworthy.
[27:9] – אַל תַּסְתֵּר פָּנֶיךָ מִמֶּנִּי אַל תַּט בְּאַף עַבְדֶּךָ – “Don’t hide Your face from me, don’t turn away Your servant in anger.”
[27:11] GUIDANCE. – הוֹרֵנִי ה' דַּרְכֶּךָ וּנְחֵנִי בְּאֹרַח מִישׁוֹר – “Teach me Your way, Hashem, and lead me on a level path.” Ask Hashem to guide you in making the right choices in life and put you in a situation where the choices are clear.
Tehillos for Life - Public Acclaim.
[27:6] SONGS OF PRAISE. – אָשִׁירָה וַאֲזַמְּרָה לַה' – “[There] will I sing and chant praise to Hashem.” Sing out your expressions of praise and gratitude to Hashem so that others will be inspired to follow suit.
Sources
The primary sources used in the interpretation of the pesukim of this mizmor are listed below.
א - רד"ק, אבן יחייא, מלבי"ם, רשר"ה, מדרש ש"ט
ב - מצודות, מלבי"ם
ג - אבן עזרא, רד"ק, נר לרגלי
ד - רד"ק, מצודות, מלבי"ם, נר לרגלי
ה - רש"י, רד"ק, מצודות
ו - רש"י, אבן עזרא, נר לרגלי
ז - אבן עזרא, באר אברהם, מלבי"ם, נר לרגלי
ח - אבן עזרא, מלבי"ם, רשר"ה
ט - רד"ק, המאירי, ספורנו, מלבי"ם, נר לרגלי
י - אבן עזרא, רד"ק, המאירי, באר אברהם
יא - המאירי, ספורנו, מלבי"ם
יב - רש"י, אבן עזרא, רד"ק, נר לרגלי
יג - רש"י, רד"ק, באר אברהם
יד - רש"י, רד"ק, המאירי