NAFSHI

A Unique Online Torah Learning Resource

Mizmor 032 - Teshuvah is the Answer

(א) לְדָוִד מַשְׂכִּיל אַשְׁרֵי נְשׂוּי פֶּשַׁע כְּסוּי חֲטָאָה:
(1) A song of enlightentment by David. Fortunate is [the man] whose transgression has been forgiven, his sin covered over.
NOTE: For a PDF of this mizmor, please click here. This will enable you to print out the entire text of the article. [Rev 5]
Key Concepts of Mizmor 032 - Teshuvah is the Answer
In Mizmor 032 David instructs his listeners on how to deal with the pain and suffering that everyone experiences at some point in their lives. He suggests that a major purpose of pain is to encourage us to face up to our moral and spiritual failings. The message here is that we will make great strides in our personal development if we do teshuvah (confess our sins and repent). If we respond positively to this lesson, we will experience great joy in being free of sin. We will come to appreciate all the more how we are surrounded by Hashem’s love.
David refers to this mizmor as a maskil, which is the name given to one of the distinctive musical styles that David used in composing his songs. This particular style is associated with the purpose of the song, which is to offer enlightenment and instruction.
Navigating Tehillim. This mizmor is a natural follow-up to Mizmor 031 which emphasized the importance of bitachon (trust) in Hashem throughout the ups and downs of life. This concept is carried a step further in Mizmor 032 where David advises his listeners that it is not enough to maintain bitachon. One needs to draw a lesson from one’s experiences, especially the pain and suffering. That lesson is to admit one’s failings and do teshuvah. In that sense even the pain is revealed as a sign of Hashem’s chesed (kindness) because it leads the person to the lofty state of being free of sin.
Exploring the Mizmor
PART 1. TO BE FREE OF SIN. David begins by telling his listeners how good it is to be free of sin as a result of doing teshuvah.
(א) לְדָוִד מַשְׂכִּיל אַשְׁרֵי נְשׂוּי פֶּשַׁע כְּסוּי חֲטָאָה: (ב) אַשְׁרֵי אָדָם לֹא יַחְשֹׁב ה' לוֹ עָוֹן וְאֵין בְּרוּחוֹ רְמִיָּה:
(1) A song of enlightentment by David. Fortunate is [the man] whose transgression has been forgiven, his sin covered over. (2) Fortunate is the man against whom Hashem counts no guilt. His spirit has no deceit.
PART 2. EXPERIENCE OF TESHUVAH. David turns directly to Hashem and reminisces about his personal experience in doing teshuvah. He acknowledges that at first he refused to accept responsibility for the troubles he was experiencing. But finally he came to the conclusion that he would have no true relief until he did teshuvah.
(ג) כִּי הֶחֱרַשְׁתִּי בָּלוּ עֲצָמָי בְּשַׁאֲגָתִי כָּל הַיּוֹם: (ד) כִּי יוֹמָם וָלַיְלָה תִּכְבַּד עָלַי יָדֶךָ נֶהְפַּךְ לְשַׁדִּי בְּחַרְבֹנֵי קַיִץ סֶלָה: (ה) חַטָּאתִי אוֹדִיעֲךָ וַעֲוֹנִי לֹא כִסִּיתִי אָמַרְתִּי אוֹדֶה עֲלֵי פְשָׁעַי לַה' וְאַתָּה נָשָׂאתָ עֲוֹן חַטָּאתִי סֶלָה:
(3) [Hashem,] as long as I stayed silent my limbs were wasting away from my sighing all day long. (4) For day and night Your hand weighed heavily upon me. My vitality was reversed by summer droughts, Selah. (5) I acknowledged my sin to You and did not cover up my guilt. I resolved that I would confess my full transgression to You, Hashem. You would surely forgive the guilt of my sin for all time, Selah.
PART 3. LESSON LEARNED. David elaborates on the lesson that he learned about doing teshuvah, a lesson which is applicable to everyone. David advises his listeners to learn from his own experience and act with intelligence rather than mindless stubborness.
(ו) עַל זֹאת יִתְפַּלֵּל כָּל חָסִיד אֵלֶיךָ לְעֵת מְצֹא רַק לְשֵׁטֶף מַיִם רַבִּים אֵלָיו לֹא יַגִּיעוּ: (ז) אַתָּה סֵתֶר לִי מִצַּר תִּצְּרֵנִי רָנֵּי פַלֵּט תְּסוֹבְבֵנִי סֶלָה:
(6) Therefore, [Hashem,] let every devout man pray to You at the opportune time. But a flood of mighty waters should not reach him. (7) You are my shelter. You protect from trouble. You surround me [with ministering angels] crying out, ‘Rescue!’ Selah.”
(ח) אַשְׂכִּילְךָ וְאוֹרְךָ בְּדֶרֶךְ זוּ תֵלֵךְ אִיעֲצָה עָלֶיךָ עֵינִי: (ט) אַל תִּהְיוּ כְּסוּס כְּפֶרֶד אֵין הָבִין בְּמֶתֶג וָרֶסֶן עֶדְיוֹ לִבְלוֹם בַּל קְרֹב אֵלֶיךָ:
(8) [David addresses the people:] I will instruct you and enlighten you in which path to go. I will advise you with my eye. [9] Don’t be like a horse or mule, which is uncomprehending. [The rider must use force] with bit and bridle to restrain it from veering off.
PART 4. A JOYFUL CONCLUSION. David assures his listeners that if they follow his advice they can be assured of rejoicing in Hashem’s loving kindness.
(י) רַבִּים מַכְאוֹבִים לָרָשָׁע וְהַבּוֹטֵחַ בַּה' חֶסֶד יְסוֹבְבֶנּוּ: (יא) שִׂמְחוּ בַה' וְגִילוּ צַדִּיקִים וְהַרְנִינוּ כָּל יִשְׁרֵי לֵב:
(10) [David continues in his address to the people:] Many things are painful to the wicked person. But he who trusts in Hashem is surrounded by lovingkindness. (11) You righteous people, rejoice in Hashem and be delighted. Inspire joyful song in everyone who is upright of heart.
Learning the Mizmor
PART 1. TO BE FREE OF SIN.
(א) לְדָוִד מַשְׂכִּיל
אַשְׁרֵי נְשׂוּי פֶּשַׁע 
כְּסוּי חֲטָאָה:
A song of enlightenment by David — לְדָוִד מַשְׂכִּיל . I sing the praises of  אַשְׁרֵי  the repentant sinner whose serious transgression has been forgiven — נְשׂוּי פֶּשַׁע  after teshuvah. His sin has been covered over — כְּסוּי חֲטָאָה  and treated as though it was committed by accident.
(ב) אַשְׁרֵי אָדָם לֹא יַחְשֹׁב ה‘ לוֹ עָוֹן 
וְאֵין בְּרוּחוֹ רְמִיָּה:
I especially sing the praises of  אַשְׁרֵי  the worthy man — אָדָם  who has sincerely repented without reservation. In his case Hashem does not count  לֹא יַחְשֹׁב ה‘  any guilt — עָוֹן  at all against him — לוֹ . This is because his spirit has no deceit  וְאֵין בְּרוּחוֹ רְמִיָּה . He will surely not return to his sinful behavior because he has thoroughly cleansed his soul.
PART 2. EXPERIENCE OF TESHUVAH.
(ג) כִּי הֶחֱרַשְׁתִּי 
בָּלוּ עֲצָמָי בְּשַׁאֲגָתִי כָּל הַיּוֹם:
Hashem, as long as I stayed silent — כִּי הֶחֱרַשְׁתִּי  and did not confess my sins to You, I was at great risk. I failed to appreciate that the bad things that happened to me were a sign of Your anger. My limbs were wasting away  בָּלוּ עֲצָמָי  from my anguished sighing all day long — בְּשַׁאֲגָתִי כָּל הַיּוֹם .
(ד) כִּי יוֹמָם וָלַיְלָה תִּכְבַּד עָלַי יָדֶךָ 
נֶהְפַּךְ לְשַׁדִּי בְּחַרְבֹנֵי קַיִץ סֶלָה:
For day and night  כִּי יוֹמָם וָלַיְלָה , the blows of Your hand weighed heavily upon me — תִּכְבַּד עָלַי יָדֶךָ My vitality was reversed  נֶהְפַּךְ לְשַׁדִּי  and became dried up as though by summer droughts — בְּחַרְבֹנֵי קַיִץ , all because of emotional distress at my unexplained misfortune, Selah — סֶלָה .
(ה) חַטָּאתִי אוֹדִיעֲךָ 
וַעֲוֹנִי לֹא כִסִּיתִי
Finally, I decided to acknowledge and confess my sin to You — חַטָּאתִי אוֹדִיעֲךָ – and I determined that I would not cover up my guilt — וַעֲוֹנִי לֹא כִסִּיתִי  by making excuses for myself.
אָמַרְתִּי אוֹדֶה 
עֲלֵי פְשָׁעַי לַה‘
I resolved that I would confess — אָמַרְתִּי אוֹדֶה  my full transgression to You, Hashem — עֲלֵי פְשָׁעַי לַה‘ , not limiting my confession to my lesser sins.
וְאַתָּה נָשָׂאתָ עֲוֹן חַטָּאתִי סֶלָה:
I was confident that when You saw my sincerity, You would surely forgive the guilt of my sin — וְאַתָּה נָשָׂאתָ עֲוֹן חַטָּאתִי , and wipe it out completely for all time, Selah — סֶלָה , never again to be mentioned.
PART 3. LESSON LEARNED.
(ו) עַל זֹאת 
יִתְפַּלֵּל כָּל חָסִיד אֵלֶיךָ לְעֵת מְצֹא
Therefore — עַל זֹאת , Hashem, because You are known to forgive sin, let every devout man learn from my experience and pray to You — יִתְפַּלֵּל כָּל חָסִיד אֵלֶיךָ – for forgiveness at the opportune time  לְעֵת מְצֹא , whenever he encounters trouble in his life and suspects that he is being punished for his sins.
רַק לְשֵׁטֶף מַיִם רַבִּים 
אֵלָיו לֹא יַגִּיעוּ:
But  רַק  let him not delay until he is struck by a major rebuke that comes like a flood of mighty waters — לְשֵׁטֶף מַיִם רַבִּים . He should rather do teshuvah in a timely fashion so that overwhelming disasters should not reach him — אֵלָיו לֹא יַגִּיעוּ .
(ז) אַתָּה סֵתֶר לִי 
מִצַּר תִּצְּרֵנִי
I am grateful to You Hashem for You are my shelter — אַתָּה סֵתֶר לִי . You protect me from the troubles — מִצַּר תִּצְּרֵנִי  that my sins have brought upon me. Despite my sins You have not abandoned me to my enemies.
רָנֵּי פַלֵּט תְּסוֹבְבֵנִי סֶלָה:
Even when I am not aware of the danger, You protect me from my enemies. You continuously surround me — תְּסוֹבְבֵנִי  with malachim (angels), who cry out — רָנֵּי – to You with a plea to “Rescue!”  פַלֵּט Selah — סֶלָה .
(ח) אַשְׂכִּילְךָ וְאוֹרְךָ 
בְּדֶרֶךְ זוּ תֵלֵךְ
[David addresses the people:] I will instruct you and enlighten you — אַשְׂכִּילְךָ וְאוֹרְךָ in which path to go — בְּדֶרֶךְ זוּ תֵלֵךְ . Don’t postpone doing teshuvah until after you feel the wrath of Hashem. Why endure needless suffering?
אִיעֲצָה עָלֶיךָ עֵינִי:
It should be enough if I advise you with a wink of my eye — אִיעֲצָה עָלֶיךָ עֵינִי  to get back on the straight path.
(ט) אַל תִּהְיוּ כְּסוּס כְּפֶרֶד אֵין הָבִין 
בְּמֶתֶג וָרֶסֶן עֶדְיוֹ לִבְלוֹם
Don’t be like a stubborn horse or a mule — אַל תִּהְיוּ כְּסוּס כְּפֶרֶד which is uncomprehending — אֵין הָבִין  and does not readily respond to prodding. To such an animal the rider must apply force with bit and bridle — בְּמֶתֶג וָרֶסֶן  to restrain it from veering off — עֶדְיוֹ לִבְלוֹם  the right path.
בַּל קְרֹב אֵלֶיךָ:
Let not such an attitude be applicable to you — בַּל קְרֹב אֵלֶיךָ !
PART 4. A JOYFUL CONCLUSION.
(י) רַבִּים מַכְאוֹבִים לָרָשָׁע
[David continues in his address to the people:] Many things are painful to the wicked person — רַבִּים מַכְאוֹבִים לָרָשָׁע  who trusts his own abilities and doesn’t look to Hashem for help. Whether he suffers illness, hunger, or cold, he doesn’t think that he is the cause of his own suffering. And so he continues to sin and his afflictions correspondingly increase. Thus, he is surrounded by pain.
וְהַבּוֹטֵחַ בַּה' חֶסֶד יְסוֹבְבֶנּוּ:
In contrast, he who trusts in Hashem  וְהַבּוֹטֵחַ בַּה' , realizes that any pain he experiences is for his benefit and is there to encourage him to do teshuvah and wipe away his sin. It may take a while, but in time he comes to realize that he is surrounded by Hashem’s lovingkindness  חֶסֶד יְסוֹבְבֶנּוּ . The suffering will soon come to an end and he will be free of sin.
(יא) שִׂמְחוּ בַה‘ וְגִילוּ צַדִּיקִים
You righteous people  צַדִּיקִים  who trust in Hashem, rejoice in Hashem  שִׂמְחוּ בַה‘  because of His continuing kindness and be delighted  וְגִילוּ  with the knowledge that everything is for your benefit.
וְהַרְנִינוּ כָּל יִשְׁרֵי לֵב:
Share your joy and inspire joyful song — וְהַרְנִינוּ  in everyone who is upright of heart — כָּל יִשְׁרֵי לֵב , and is open to following your example!
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, expressing your devotion to Hashem.
Lessons for Life - Your Attitude.
[32:1] TESHUVAH. – אַשְׁרֵי נְשׂוּי פֶּשַׁע כְּסוּי חֲטָאָה – “Fortunate is [the man] whose transgression has been forgiven, his sin covered over.” Set a personal goal of becoming free of sin through teshuvah. If you do teshuvah sincerely and without reservation, your sins will be forgiven.
[32:5] – חַטָּאתִי אוֹדִיעֲךָ וַעֲוֹנִי לֹא כִסִּיתִי אָמַרְתִּי אוֹדֶה עֲלֵי פְשָׁעַי לַה' – “I acknowledged my sin to You and did not cover up my guilt. I resolved that I would confess my full transgression to You, Hashem.
[32:8] – אַשְׂכִּילְךָ וְאוֹרְךָ בְּדֶרֶךְ זוּ תֵלֵךְ – “I will instruct you and enlighten you in which path to go.” Be receptive to guidance from people with wisdom and experience.
[32:6] OPPORTUNE TIME. – עַל זֹאת יִתְפַּלֵּל כָּל חָסִיד אֵלֶיךָ לְעֵת מְצֹא – “Therefore, [Hashem,] let every devout man pray to You at the opportune time.” If you are encountering problems in life, don’t wait until they get serious, but immediately turn to Hashem and sincerely ask Him to forgive your sins.
[32:6] – רַק לְשֵׁטֶף מַיִם רַבִּים אֵלָיו לֹא יַגִּיעוּ – “But a flood of mighty waters should not reach him.
[32:8] GUIDANCE. – אַשְׂכִּילְךָ וְאוֹרְךָ בְּדֶרֶךְ זוּ תֵלֵךְ אִיעֲצָה עָלֶיךָ עֵינִי – “I will instruct you and enlighten you in which path to go. I will advise you with my eye.” Be receptive to the guidance of people with wisdom and experience.
[32:9] RESISTANCE. – אַל תִּהְיוּ כְּסוּס כְּפֶרֶד אֵין הָבִין – “Don’t be like a horse or mule, which is uncomprehending.” Don’t act foolishly by resisting good advice and by resisting what you know to be the proper course of action.
[32:10] BITACHON. – רַבִּים מַכְאוֹבִים לָרָשָׁע וְהַבּוֹטֵחַ בַּה' חֶסֶד יְסוֹבְבֶנּוּ – “Many things are painful to the wicked person. But he who trusts in Hashem is surrounded by lovingkindness.” Have bitachon in Hashem and you will be rewarded by gaining Hashem’s protection.
Tefillos for Life - Your Relationship with Hashem.
[32:7] ANGELS. – אַתָּה סֵתֶר לִי מִצַּר תִּצְּרֵנִי רָנֵּי פַלֵּט תְּסוֹבְבֵנִי – “You are my shelter. You protect from trouble. You surround me [with ministering angels] crying out, ‘Rescue!’.” Hashem will send His angels to protect you from your troubles if you turn to Him.
Tehillos for Life - Public Acclaim.
[32:11] JOYFUL SONG. – שִׂמְחוּ בַה' וְגִילוּ צַדִּיקִים וְהַרְנִינוּ כָּל יִשְׁרֵי לֵב – “You righteous people, rejoice in Hashem and be delighted. Inspire joyful song in everyone who is upright of heart.” By publicly praising Hashem through song you will inspire others to recognize Him.
Sources
The primary sources used in the interpretation of the verses of this mizmor are listed below.
א - רש"י, מצודות, אלשיך, רשר"ה
ב - אבן עזרא, נר לרגלי
ג - רש"י, אבן עזרא, מלבי"ם, רשר"ה
ד - רש"י, מצודות
ה -רד"ק, מצודות, באר אברהם
ו - אבן עזרא, רד"ק, המאירי
ז - אבן עזרא, הדר עזר, רד"ק, נר לרגלי
ח - רש"י, מלבי"ם
ט - רש"י, אבן עזרא, המאירי, מלבי"ם, רשר"ה
י - רד"ק, המאירי, ספורנו, מצודות, מלבי"ם
יא - רד"ק, מלבי"ם