(א) לַמְנַצֵּחַ מִזְמוֹר לְדָוִד: (ב) בְּבוֹא אֵלָיו נָתָן הַנָּבִיא כַּאֲשֶׁר בָּא אֶל בַּת שָׁבַע:
(1) For the musician. A mizmor by David. (2) When Nosson the prophet came to him after he came to Bas Sheva.
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 051 – Beyond Teshuvah
Mizmor 051 of Tehillim was composed by King David after being put in a joyful frame of mind as he prepared to do teshuvah for his sin in the matter of Bas Sheva and her husband Uriah. He rejoiced when he realized that Hashem wanted him to live. However, David also understood that simple teshuvah would not be enough. Even after being forgiven, he would need to remove the stain on his soul that sin had caused. So he had to go beyond teshuvah in order to regain his closeness to Hashem. (See Shmuel II 11-12.)
David originally thought his actions with regard to Bas Sheva and her husband Uriah could be justified. However, once he realized that he had been making excuses for himself and that he was minimizing the severity of what he had done, he felt bitter remorse and feared that he would never be forgiven. Hashem then showed David the way forward by sending the prophet Nosson to goad him into doing teshuvah.
Exploring the Mizmor
PART 1. DOING TESHUVAH. The knowledge that he was being given the opportunity to do teshuvah gave David the positive attitude that ultimately resulted in this mizmor. And so he immediately responded to Nosson, saying, “I have sinned against Hashem.” (Shmuel II, 12:13). Nosson then told him, “Hashem has removed your sin; you will not die.” David then prayed to Hashem, acknowledging his guilt and asking forgiveness:
(א) לַמְנַצֵּחַ מִזְמוֹר לְדָוִד: (ב) בְּבוֹא אֵלָיו נָתָן הַנָּבִיא כַּאֲשֶׁר בָּא אֶל בַּת שָׁבַע: (ג) חָנֵּנִי אֱלֹקִים כְּחַסְדֶּךָ כְּרֹב רַחֲמֶיךָ מְחֵה פְשָׁעָי: (ד) [הרבה] הֶרֶב כַּבְּסֵנִי מֵעֲוֹנִי וּמֵחַטָּאתִי טַהֲרֵנִי: (ה) כִּי פְשָׁעַי אֲנִי אֵדָע וְחַטָּאתִי נֶגְדִּי תָמִיד: (ו) לְךָ לְבַדְּךָ חָטָאתִי וְהָרַע בְּעֵינֶיךָ עָשִׂיתִי לְמַעַן תִּצְדַּק בְּדָבְרֶךָ תִּזְכֶּה בְשָׁפְטֶךָ:
(1) For the musician. A mizmor by David. (2) When Nosson the prophet came to him after he came to Bas Sheva. (3) O G-d, grant me favor as befitting Your kindness. And as befits the abundance of Your compassion, erase my transgressions. (4) Cleanse me thoroughly from my iniquity and purify me from my sin. (5) For I have come to recognize my transgressions. And my sin is always before me. (6) I have sinned against You alone. I did what was evil in Your eyes. Therefore, You are just in holding me guilty. You are right in Your judgment.
(ז) הֵן בְּעָווֹן חוֹלָלְתִּי וּבְחֵטְא יֶחֱמַתְנִי אִמִּי: (ח) הֵן אֱמֶת חָפַצְתָּ בַטֻּחוֹת וּבְסָתֻם חָכְמָה תוֹדִיעֵנִי:
(7) Indeed, I was fashioned in iniquity and in sin did my mother conceive me. (8) Nevertheless, You have wanted truth in my covered parts and in my concealed heart You teach me wisdom.
David confesses his guilt and humbly asks forgiveness. He acknowledges the physical urges that influenced his behavior, but does not evade responsibility. He knows that Hashem has given him a conscience that is buried deep within himself and that he can develop to control his desires. If he failed, he can blame no one but himself.
PART 2. BEYOND TESHUVAH. David explores the effect that sin has on a person. When man does sincere teshuvah for a sin in which he gives in to his taavah (desire), he may be forgiven through the mercy of Hashem. But such a sin (“cheit”) has a secondary, insidious effect. By seeing himself as one who is able to sin against his Creator, a man has inadvertently depreciated his sense of the value of mitzvos and he has diminished his appreciation of the One who commanded him to perform the mitzvos. In effect, this type of iniquity (“avon”) leaves a stain on the soul which needs to be removed for the man to be able to fully restore his relationship with G-d. Also, as long as that stain is present, it makes him vulnerable to negative influences and temptation.
So David asks Hashem for help in removing that stain. He asks to be purified and he asks for a new, pure heart. Even though he has been forgiven his sin, his heart has been sullied and he does not feel able to return to the innocent closeness with Hashem that he had before.
(ט) תְּחַטְּאֵנִי בְאֵזוֹב וְאֶטְהָר תְּכַבְּסֵנִי וּמִשֶּׁלֶג אַלְבִּין: (י) תַּשְׁמִיעֵנִי שָׂשׂוֹן וְשִׂמְחָה תָּגֵלְנָה עֲצָמוֹת דִּכִּיתָ: (יא) הַסְתֵּר פָּנֶיךָ מֵחֲטָאָי וְכָל עֲוֹנֹתַי מְחֵה: (יב) לֵב טָהוֹר בְּרָא לִי אֱלֹקִים וְרוּחַ נָכוֹן חַדֵּשׁ בְּקִרְבִּי: (יג) אַל תַּשְׁלִיכֵנִי מִלְּפָנֶיךָ וְרוּחַ קָדְשְׁךָ אַל תִּקַּח מִמֶּנִּי: (יד) הָשִׁיבָה לִּי שְׂשׂוֹן יִשְׁעֶךָ וְרוּחַ נְדִיבָה תִסְמְכֵנִי:
(9) Purge me of sin with hyssop. Then I shall be pure. Wash me and I shall be whiter than snow. (10) Make me hear joy and happiness. May gladness return to the bones that You crushed. (11) Hide Your face from my sins and erase all my inquities. (12) Create a pure heart for me, O G-d, and renew a firm spirit within me. (13) Don’t discard me from Your presence. Don’t take Your holy spirit from me. (14) Restore to me the joy of Your salvation. And sustain me with the spirit of generous giving.
PART 3. LOOKING TO THE FUTURE. David senses that through his humble tefillos his closeness to Hashem is returning. As the “ruach hakodesh” (holy spirit) descends upon him, he affirms his intention of using the insight he has gained in teaching others to do teshuvah as well.
(טו) אֲלַמְּדָה פֹשְׁעִים דְּרָכֶיךָ וְחַטָּאִים אֵלֶיךָ יָשׁוּבוּ: (טז) הַצִּילֵנִי מִדָּמִים אֱלֹקִים אֱלֹקֵי תְּשׁוּעָתִי תְּרַנֵּן לְשׁוֹנִי צִדְקָתֶךָ: (יז) אֲדֹ־נָי שְׂפָתַי תִּפְתָּח וּפִי יַגִּיד תְּהִלָּתֶךָ: (יח) כִּי לֹא תַחְפֹּץ זֶבַח וְאֶתֵּנָה עוֹלָה לֹא תִרְצֶה: (יט) זִבְחֵי אֱלֹקִים רוּחַ נִשְׁבָּרָה לֵב נִשְׁבָּר וְנִדְכֶּה אֱלֹקִים לֹא תִבְזֶה:
(15) I will teach Your ways to transgressors and sinners will return to You. (16) Rescue me from blood-guilt, O G-d. O G-d of my slavation, my tongue will sing joyously of Your kind justice. (17) O my L-rd, open my lips so that my mouth may declare Your praise. (18) For You don’t want a sacrifice; You don’t want a burnt-offering. (19) The sacrifices for G-d are a broken spirit. O G-d, You don’t spurn a heart that is broken and contrite.
David asks Hashem’s continued help in serving Him sincerely and conscientiously. He resolves to teach people that Hashem is not pleased by unthinking forms of avodah. That is what can happen with sacrificial offerings when those making the offerings neglect their true purpose.
PART 4. CONCLUSION. Having “ruach hakodesh” again, David is able to sense Hashem’s plan for the future. The Bais Hamikdash (Temple) will be built in Yerushalayim by David’s son Shlomo. Hashem will then dwell among His people within the rebuilt walls of Yerushalayim, and will be pleased by the “sacrificial offerings of righteousness”, as long the people continue to bring them with humility and sincerity.
(כ) הֵיטִיבָה בִרְצוֹנְךָ אֶת צִיּוֹן תִּבְנֶה חוֹמוֹת יְרוּשָׁלָ ִם: (כא) אָז תַּחְפֹּץ זִבְחֵי צֶדֶק עוֹלָה וְכָלִיל אָז יַעֲלוּ עַל מִזְבַּחֲךָ פָרִים:
(20) Establish Tzion at the right time when it pleases You. Build the walls of Yerushalayim. (21) Then You will want the offerings of righteousness, burnt-offering and whole-offering. Then bulls will go up on Your altar.
Learning the Mizmor
PART 1: DOING TESHUVAH.
(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 , who was put in a joyful frame of mind as he prepared to do teshuvah for his serious sin in the matter of Bas Sheva and her husband Uriah. He rejoiced when he realized that despite his transgression Hashem wanted him to live and showed this by sending a prophet to goad him into doing teshuvah.
(ב) בְּבוֹא אֵלָיו נָתָן הַנָּבִיא
The moral crisis that led David to compose this mizmor occurred when Nosson the prophet came to him — בְּבוֹא אֵלָיו נָתָן הַנָּבִיא – and rebuked him for his behavior.
כַּאֲשֶׁר בָּא אֶל בַּת שָׁבַע
All of this happened after the incident in which he inappropriately came to Bas-sheva — כַּאֲשֶׁר בָּא אֶל בַּת שָׁבַע – and took her as his wife, as described in Shmuel II, chapters 11 and 12.
(ג) חָנֵּנִי אֱלֹקִים כְּחַסְדֶּךָ
O G-d of justice — אֱלֹקִים , because of the severity of My sin I don’t deserve Your mercy. And so I beg You to grant me Your special favor — חָנֵּנִי – so that I may be permitted to appeal to You in accord with Your eternal kindness — כְּחַסְדֶּךָ . In Your attribute of kindness I ask You to recognize that I meant do the right thing; my judgment was distorted by the weakness of the flesh.
כְּרֹב רַחֲמֶיךָ מְחֵה פְשָׁעָי:
As befits the abundance of Your compassion — כְּרֹב רַחֲמֶיךָ – by which You forgive the sins of mankind in general, erase my transgressions — מְחֵה פְשָׁעָי –so that I shall not have to pay for them in the Next World. It is not only the specific sin with Bas Sheva and the related sin with the death of Uriah for which I need forgiveness, but the entire self-tolerant frame of mind which made those sins possible.
(ד) [הרבה] הֶרֶב כַּבְּסֵנִי מֵעֲוֹנִי
Cleanse me thoroughly from my iniquity — הֶרֶב כַּבְּסֵנִי מֵעֲוֹנִי – for I know that sin leaves a mark on the soul that is like the stain on a garment. Once a person has sinned, his sensitivity to sin becomes dulled and he finds it easier to sin again. So I ask that You let my anguish cleanse me as soap washes away a stain.
And purify me from my sin — וּמֵחַטָּאתִי טַהֲרֵנִי – so that I may regain the ability to recognize my own sin in the future. By regaining my inner purity I will have the enhanced ability to be receptive and to respond to all that is good.
(ה) כִּי פְשָׁעַי אֲנִי אֵדָע
For — כִּי – through the guidance of Your prophet Nosson I have come to recognize my transgressions — פְשָׁעַי אֲנִי אֵדָע . I do not pretend innocence as Kayin did when Hashem asked him about his murdered brother Hevel (Bereishis 4:9).
וְחַטָּאתִי נֶגְדִּי תָמִיד:
And because I am immersed in continued anguish and regret, my sin is always before me — וְחַטָּאתִי נֶגְדִּי תָמִיד . Therefore, I will surely take every precaution not to sin again, even by mistake. And so, having fulfilled the three essential components of teshuvah (confession, regret, and commitment for the future) I now feel that I can ask for Your forgiveness.
(ו) לְךָ לְבַדְּךָ חָטָאתִי
וְהָרַע בְּעֵינֶיךָ עָשִׂיתִי
I acknowledge that what I did with Bas Sheva was a sin directed at You. As Your anointed king I had an obligation to behave in a dignified, upright way above suspicion, but I failed You. And so, I have sinned against You alone — לְךָ לְבַדְּךָ חָטָאתִי . I was destined to marry her but I should have waited for the right time and place. I was influenced by my desire and came to her in an inappropriate way. And so I did what is evil in Your eyes — וְהָרַע בְּעֵינֶיךָ עָשִׂיתִי . Similarly, although my action with regard to Uriah was halachically justified by his having rebelled against me, the way I did it was repugnant to You.
לְמַעַן תִּצְדַּק בְּדָבְרֶךָ
Accordingly, I admit that You are just in Your pronouncement — לְמַעַן תִּצְדַּק בְּדָבְרֶךָ – of my guilt. There is no need to chastise me further to make me realize this. You are right in Your judgement — תִּזְכֶּה בְשָׁפְטֶךָ .
(ז) הֵן בְּעָווֹן חוֹלָלְתִּי
I have asked for Your compassion, considering the human weaknesses which You gave me when You created me and which makes it possible for me to distance myself from You. Indeed, I was fashioned in an act that is vulnerable to the iniquity — הֵן בְּעָווֹן חוֹלָלְתִּי – of diminished commitment to You. Even though my father surely approached this act of intimacy with the noble intention of doing Your will, that act involves instinctive drives that are so powerful it is not humanly possible to avoid some degree of self-gratification, which interferes with a person’s devotion.
וּבְחֵטְא יֶחֱמַתְנִי אִמִּי:
And so in an act of intense emotion that has a potential for sin did my mother conceive me — וּבְחֵטְא יֶחֱמַתְנִי אִמִּי . Without the heat of passion inherent in that act I could not have been born. The possibility of feeling that emotion exists within every human being and presents him with a challenge throughout his life.
(ח) הֵן אֱמֶת חָפַצְתָּ בַטֻּחוֹת
Nevertheless — הֵן , I realize that truth — אֱמֶת – is what You have always wanted — חָפַצְתָּ – for me. You have placed the consciousness of right and wrong deep within me in the covered parts — בַטֻּחוֹת – of my being, where they are accessible if I only make the effort.
וּבְסָתֻם חָכְמָה תוֹדִיעֵנִי:
You know that my sinful actions were influenced by my lower instincts and that it was never my intent to diminish my devotion to You or my respect for Your mitzvos. And in my heart, which is concealed — וּבְסָתֻם – within me, is the urgent desire for You to teach me the wisdom of the Torah — חָכְמָה תוֹדִיעֵנִי – so that I can maintain control over my physical inclinations.
PART 2: BEYOND TESHUVAH.
(ט) תְּחַטְּאֵנִי בְאֵזוֹב וְאֶטְהָר
In deep humility I admit my guilt and ask You to purge me of sin — תְּחַטְּאֵנִי , like a spiritually contaminated person undergoes the final stage of his purification by being sprinkled with a sprig of hyssop — בְאֵזוֹב (Vayikra 14:6). The hyssop plant symbolizes humility because it grows close to the ground. Then by ridding myself of the character defect of pride I shall be pure — וְאֶטְהָר .
תְּכַבְּסֵנִי וּמִשֶּׁלֶג אַלְבִּין:
Although I have polluted my soul with my sin, I again humbly ask that You wash me — תְּכַבְּסֵנִי – and remove the stain that I brought upon myself. Since I never intended to rebel against You, I beg You to let me be totally pure again, even whiter than snow — וּמִשֶּׁלֶג אַלְבִּין , because only then will I be able to hope for a restoration of my close relationship with You.
(י) תַּשְׁמִיעֵנִי שָׂשׂוֹן וְשִׂמְחָה
תָּגֵלְנָה עֲצָמוֹת דִּכִּיתָ:
As long as my soul continues to bear the residual stain of my sin, I will be unable to experience true joy. So I beg You to remove that residue and make me hear Your word with unalloyed joy and happiness — תַּשְׁמִיעֵנִי שָׂשׂוֹן וְשִׂמְחָה – once again. May gladness return to the very bones — תָּגֵלְנָה עֲצָמוֹת – that You crushed — דִּכִּיתָ – by shaking up my self-confidence when the navi Nosson rebuked me.
(יא) הַסְתֵּר פָּנֶיךָ מֵחֲטָאָי
וְכָל עֲוֹנֹתַי מְחֵה:
Gladness will return to my bones when You hide Your face from my sins of human weakness — הַסְתֵּר פָּנֶיךָ מֵחֲטָאָי . I sincerely regret them and resolve not to repeat them, so I ask that You not hold them against me. As for the iniquitous stains in my soul that these sins have brought about, I will again be able to experience joy when You erase all my iniquities — וְכָל עֲוֹנֹתַי מְחֵה .
(יב) לֵב טָהוֹר בְּרָא לִי אֱלֹקִים
וְרוּחַ נָכוֹן חַדֵּשׁ בְּקִרְבִּי:
I cannot overcome sin without Your help, so I call upon You to create a pure heart for me, O G-d — לֵב טָהוֹר בְּרָא לִי אֱלֹקִים – so that I am better able to resist the human weakness of hot bloodedness which is in my nature and which led me to sin. And renew a firm and upright spirit within me — וְרוּחַ נָכוֹן חַדֵּשׁ בְּקִרְבִּי – so that I will once more be able to perceive what is good and true, and so that I will be able to come close to You again with ruach hakodesh (the holy spirit).
[The heart, being earthly in origin, is relatively impure by nature and therefore David describes its renewal using the language of Creation, asking that it be as new as that of child that has been born. The spirit is of heavenly origin and is therefore inherently pure, so David merely asks that it be renewed because it has been stained by the lingering effects of his sin.]
(יג) אַל תַּשְׁלִיכֵנִי מִלְּפָנֶיךָ
וְרוּחַ קָדְשְׁךָ אַל תִּקַּח מִמֶּנִּי:
Don’t treat me as repugnant to You and discard me from Your Presence — אַל תַּשְׁלִיכֵנִי מִלְּפָנֶיךָ – like a useless tool that is no longer capable of performing its function. Don’t cut me off from the spiritual closeness that I previously enjoyed. Don’t take Your ruach hakodesh from me — וְרוּחַ קָדְשְׁךָ אַל תִּקַּח מִמֶּנִּי , the spirit with which I have been able to sing my mizmorim to You in the past. Without ruach hakodesh I will no longer have the clear knowledge of Your will and I will no longer have the power of nevuah (prophecy).
(יד) הָשִׁיבָה לִּי שְׂשׂוֹן יִשְׁעֶךָ
וְרוּחַ נְדִיבָה תִסְמְכֵנִי:
Restore to me the innocent joy — הָשִׁיבָה לִּי שְׂשׂוֹן – that I used to have in experiencing Your yeshuah — יִשְׁעֶךָ , without being adulterated by the euphoric, self-satisfied feelings that accompany military victories. It was that feeling of pride and sense of entitlement that weakened my ability to withstand temptation. And sustain me with the spirit of generous giving — וְרוּחַ נְדִיבָה תִסְמְכֵנִי – that empowers me to freely distribute the spoils of war among the needy and the deserving.
PART 3: LOOKING TO THE FUTURE.
(טו) אֲלַמְּדָה פֹשְׁעִים דְּרָכֶיךָ
וְחַטָּאִים אֵלֶיךָ יָשׁוּבוּ:
If You do this kindness for me, I will have the ability to teach — אֲלַמְּדָה – even the worst transgressors who acted out of resentment towards You. I will teach them Your ways — פֹשְׁעִים דְּרָכֶיךָ – of being slow to anger and so I will encourage them not to give up, but to do teshuvah. And as for sinners — וְחַטָּאִים , even though they are confirmed in their ways, since they acted in responses to physical urges rather than ill will, they will surely return to You — אֵלֶיךָ יָשׁוּבוּ – once they see how You accept the sincere teshuvah of much worse offenders.
(טז) הַצִּילֵנִי מִדָּמִים אֱלֹקִים
אֱלֹקֵי תְּשׁוּעָתִי תְּרַנֵּן לְשׁוֹנִי צִדְקָתֶךָ:
Rescue me from the blood-guilt — הַצִּילֵנִי מִדָּמִים – that I brought upon myself by contributing to the death of Uriah, O G-d — אֱלֹקִים . You are the G-d of my yeshuah — אֱלֹקֵי תְּשׁוּעָתִי , for You have saved me so often in the past and so I call upon You to save me from the consequences of this guilt. Then my tongue will sing joyously of Your kind justice — תְּרַנֵּן לְשׁוֹנִי צִדְקָתֶךָ .
(יז) אֲדֹ־נָי שְׂפָתַי תִּפְתָּח
וּפִי יַגִּיד תְּהִלָּתֶךָ:
My L-rd — ה‘ , restore my closeness to You and allow me to speak with ruach hakodesh in Your presence once more as Your devoted servant. By welcoming me back, You will open my lips — שְׂפָתַי תִּפְתָּח , so that my mouth may declare Your praise — וּפִי יַגִּיד תְּהִלָּתֶךָ – to the world.
(יח) כִּי לֹא תַחְפֹּץ זֶבַח
וְאֶתֵּנָה עוֹלָה לֹא תִרְצֶה:
Why do I humbly ask You to allow me speak before You? For — כִּי I realize that willful sins such as I have committed cannot be atoned by means of sacrificial offerings. Such offerings were meant to promote humility and to beg forgiveness in the case of unintentional sins. For You do not want a sacrifice — לֹא תַחְפֹּץ זֶבַח – when the sin is intentional. Otherwise I would surely give it — וְאֶתֵּנָה . You do not want a burnt-offering — עוֹלָה לֹא תִרְצֶה – from me, or even a peace-offering because it is inadequate in my situation.
(יט) זִבְחֵי אֱלֹקִים רוּחַ נִשְׁבָּרָה
The sacrifices that G-d wants — זִבְחֵי אֱלֹקִים – are accompanied by a broken spirit — רוּחַ נִשְׁבָּרָה , expressing humility and deep regret for having sinned. G-d disdains sacrifices brought by a person who cannot bring himself to admit his failings.
לֵב נִשְׁבָּר וְנִדְכֶּה אֱלֹקִים לֹא תִבְזֶה:
On the other hand, O G-d, You don’t spurn a heart that is broken and contrite — לֵב נִשְׁבָּר וְנִדְכֶּה אֱלֹקִים לֹא תִבְזֶה , even when no sacrificial offerings are brought, and even when the sinner is deserving of punishment.
PART 4: CONCLUSION.
(כ) הֵיטִיבָה בִרְצוֹנְךָ אֶת צִיּוֹן
תִּבְנֶה חוֹמוֹת יְרוּשָׁלָ ִם:
Through the power of ruach hakodesh that You have now restored to me, I see that the time will come during the reign of my son Shlomo, that You will allow the Jewish people to serve You in the Bais Hamikdash. I have worked hard to prepare for that glorious day and so I ask that You establish Tzion at the right time, when it pleases You — הֵיטִיבָה בִרְצוֹנְךָ אֶת צִיּוֹן . Then You will build the walls of Yerushalayim — תִּבְנֶה חוֹמוֹת יְרוּשָׁלָ ִם – to protect Your people and enable them to safely perform the service as You have instructed in the Torah.
(כא) אָז תַּחְפֹּץ זִבְחֵי צֶדֶק עוֹלָה וְכָלִיל
אָז יַעֲלוּ עַל מִזְבַּחֲךָ פָרִים:
Then You will want the offerings of righteousness — אָז תַּחְפֹּץ זִבְחֵי צֶדֶק – that the people bring to You. For they will be accompanied by sincere feelings and humble devotion. The purpose of each type of offering will be fulfilled as it should be, whether burnt-offering or whole offering — עוֹלָה וְכָלִיל . Then — אָז – even expensive offerings such as bulls will go up upon Your altar — יַעֲלוּ עַל מִזְבַּחֲךָ פָרִים – without the ulterior motives of self-aggrandizement.
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.
Tefillos for Life – Your Teshuvah.
[51:3] FORGIVENESS. – חָנֵּנִי אֱלֹקִים כְּחַסְדֶּךָ כְּרֹב רַחֲמֶיךָ מְחֵה פְשָׁעָי – “O G-d, grant me favor [and forgive my sins] as befitting Your kindness. And as befits the abundance of Your compassion, erase my transgressions.” Ask Hashem to forgive your sins out of compassion, even though you feel that you don’t deserve it.
[51:7] – הֵן בְּעָווֹן חוֹלָלְתִּי – “Indeed, I was fashioned in iniquity.” Ask for compassion because the tendency to sin is inherent in the human condition.
[51:4] PURIFICATION. – הֶרֶב כַּבְּסֵנִי מֵעֲוֹנִי וּמֵחַטָּאתִי טַהֲרֵנִי – “Cleanse me thoroughly from my iniquity and purify me from my sin.” Ask Hashem to restore your sensitivity to sin so that you will more readily recognize sinful temptations in the future. Let your cleansing be like soap that washes away a stain.
[51:9] HUMILITY. – תְּחַטְּאֵנִי בְאֵזוֹב וְאֶטְהָר תְּכַבְּסֵנִי וּמִשֶּׁלֶג אַלְבִּין – “Purge me of sin with hyssop. Then I shall be pure. Wash me and I shall be whiter than snow.” On asking to be purified of sin, express deep humility (symbolized by the hyssop), with a broken heart as your offering to Hashem.
[51:19] – זִבְחֵי אֱלֹקִים רוּחַ נִשְׁבָּרָה לֵב נִשְׁבָּר וְנִדְכֶּה אֱלֹקִים לֹא תִבְזֶה – “The sacrifices for G-d are a broken spirit. O G-d, You don’t spurn a heart that is broken and contrite.”
[51:5] CONFESSION. – כִּי פְשָׁעַי אֲנִי אֵדָע וְחַטָּאתִי נֶגְדִּי תָמִיד – “For I have come to recognize my transgressions. And my sin is always before me.” Humbly admit that you have sinned and express your deep regret.
[51:6] ACCEPTANCE. – לְמַעַן תִּצְדַּק בְּדָבְרֶךָ תִּזְכֶּה בְשָׁפְטֶךָ – “Therefore, You are just in holding me guilty. You are right in Your judgment.” If you are experiencing physical distress or danger, accept the justice of your punishment. If the purpose of your suffering has been served, Hashem will give you relief.
[51:8] RESOLVE. – הֵן אֱמֶת חָפַצְתָּ בַטֻּחוֹת וּבְסָתֻם חָכְמָה תוֹדִיעֵנִי – “Nevertheless, You have wanted truth in my covered parts and in my concealed heart You teach me wisdom.” Ask Hashem for help in arousing your conscience and your will to enable you to overcome your human weaknesses in the future.
[51:12] RESOLVE. – לֵב טָהוֹר בְּרָא לִי אֱלֹקִים וְרוּחַ נָכוֹן חַדֵּשׁ בְּקִרְבִּי – “Create a pure heart for me, O G-d, and renew a firm spirit within me.”
[51:10] JOY. – תַּשְׁמִיעֵנִי שָׂשׂוֹן וְשִׂמְחָה – “Make me hear joy and happiness.” Ask Hashem to grant you the joy of being free of sin once more.
Tefillos for Life – Your Relationship with Hashem.
[51:6] ACKNOWLEDGEMENT. – לְךָ לְבַדְּךָ חָטָאתִי וְהָרַע בְּעֵינֶיךָ עָשִׂיתִי – “I have sinned against You alone. I did what was evil in Your eyes.” Examine yourself to acknowledge a hidden sin. Even if the world is not aware of it, you have sinned against Hashem and have undermined your relationship with Him.
[51:13] RESTORATION. – אַל תַּשְׁלִיכֵנִי מִלְּפָנֶיךָ – “Don’t discard me from Your presence.” Ask Hashem to restore His relationship with you and not to treat you as repugnant to Him.
[51:14] – הָשִׁיבָה לִּי שְׂשׂוֹן יִשְׁעֶךָ – “Restore to me the joy of Your salvation.”
Lessons for Life – Your Behavior.
[51:15] GUIDANCE. – אֲלַמְּדָה פֹשְׁעִים דְּרָכֶיךָ וְחַטָּאִים אֵלֶיךָ יָשׁוּבוּ – “I will teach Your ways to transgressors and sinners will return to You.” If you have the opportunity, use the insight you have gained to give guidance to others.
Tefillos for Life – Yeshuah.
[51:16] RESCUE AND PRAISE. – הַצִּילֵנִי מִדָּמִים אֱלֹקִים אֱלֹקֵי תְּשׁוּעָתִי תְּרַנֵּן לְשׁוֹנִי צִדְקָתֶךָ – “Rescue me from blood-guilt, O G-d. O G-d of my slavation, my tongue will sing joyously of Your kind justice.” Ask Hashem in His kindness to accept your teshuvah and thereby rescue you from a harsh penalty, for which you might be marked because of your sins.
[51:17]. – אֲדֹ־נָי שְׂפָתַי תִּפְתָּח וּפִי יַגִּיד תְּהִלָּתֶךָ – “O my L-rd, open my lips so that my mouth may declare Your praise.” Offer Hashem your promise of sincere gratitude and praise which His forgiveness will enable.
Tefillos for Life – Geulah.
[51:20] YERUSHALAYIM. – הֵיטִיבָה בִרְצוֹנְךָ אֶת צִיּוֹן תִּבְנֶה חוֹמוֹת יְרוּשָׁלָ ִם – “Establish Tzion at the right time when it pleases You. Build the walls of Yerushalayim.” Ask Hashem to bring the Geulah and restore Yerushalayim so that sacrificial offerings may once more be brought with the proper devotion and sincerity.
[51:21]. – אָז תַּחְפֹּץ זִבְחֵי צֶדֶק עוֹלָה וְכָלִיל – “Then You will want the offerings of righteousness, burnt-offering and whole-offering.”
The primary sources used in the interpretation of the pesukim of this mizmor are listed below.
א – אלשיך
ב – רד”ק, המאירי, אלשיך
ג – אבן עזרא, המאירי, בן־רמוך, אבן יחייא
ד – אבן עזרא, המאירי, בן־רמוך, אבן יחייא, רשר”ה
ה – רש”י, רד”ק , ספורנו
ו – אבן עזרא, רד”ק, המאירי, נר לרגלי
ז – רש”י, בן־רמוך, אבן יחייא, מלבי”ם, ריל”ק
ח – אבן עזרא, רד”ק, בן־רמוך, מצודות, באר אברהם, מלבי”ם, רשר”ה, ריל”ק
ט – רש”י, אבן עזרא, רד”ק, המאירי, ספורנו, אלשיך, ריל”ק
י – רש”י, אבן עזרא, המאירי, ריל”ק
יא – רד”ק, אבן יחייא, מצודות, מלבי”ם
יב – רד”ק, בן־רמוך, אבן יחייא, אלשיך
יג – רש”י, רד”ק, המאירי, ספורנו, רשר”ה
יד – אבן יחייא, אלשיך, נר לרגלי
טו – המאירי, אלשיך, רשר”ה, נר לרגלי
טז – רש”י, רד”ק, בן־רמוך
יז – רד”ק, בן־רמוך, מצודות, רשר”ה
יח – רש”י, אבן עזרא, בן־רמוך, רשר”ה
יט – רד”ק, ספורנו
כ – רש”י, בן־רמוך, ספורנו
כא – רד”ק, המאירי, ספורנו, באר אברהם