(א) יֹשֵׁב בְּסֵתֶר עֶלְיוֹן בְּצֵל שַׁ־דַּי יִתְלוֹנָן:
(1) He who dwells in highest seclusion, resides [among us] as an Al-mighty shadow.
NOTE: For a PDF of this mizmor, please click here. This will enable you to print out the entire text of the article. [Rev. 0]
Key Concepts of Mizmor 091 – Sheltering Wings
This is the second in the series of 11 mizmorim that were originally composed by Moshe Rabbeinu and subsequently incorporated into Tehilim by David. In this mizmor Moshe addresses the Jewish people with an inspirational message of trust in G-d’s protection. In order to truly trust in G-d, a person must think about who He is and how He reveals Himself to mankind. Since He reveals Himself in different ways, depending on the circumstance, G-d identifies Himself by various aspects or “Names”.
There is an aspect of G-d which is totally concealed from mankind because His existence is in no way dependent upon our physical universe. Thus, Moshe refers to that aspect of Hashem as being בְּסֵתֶר עֶלְיוֹן , in highest seclusion.
G-d’s relationship with the Creation of the physical universe is expressed by His Name Shad-dai, suggesting the concept of “enough.” This is because Creation depends on the limits that G-d established in the laws of nature.
As stated in the Torah, G-d revealed Himself to Avraham, Yitzchak, and Yaakov as Shad-dai (Shemos 6:3). Through that Name He made them aware that He controls the natural order of things in the physical universe. Although He is invisible to human eyes, His presence pervades all of existence and is revealed by the events that He guides and controls.
In the current mizmor Moshe refers to the Name Shad-dai as the Al-mighty shadow. G-d’s presence in the universe is all powerful, but is like a shadow that reflects reality.
When the time had come to liberate Yisrael from slavery in Mitzrayim, G-d told Moshe that He would now reveal Himself with the Name Hashem. In that capacity He would display breath-taking miracles vastly exceeding the previous limits of nature.
In this mizmor Moshe emphasizes the Name “Hashem” because it evokes a sense of having a personal relationship with Him. Moshe feels he can always turn to Him and rely on His protection. He encourages the people to trust in Him as well and he assures them that their trust will be rewarded.
Exploring the Mizmor
PART 1. DECLARATION OF TRUST. Moshe explains why people should trust in Hashem’s protection even though He is invisible to us. Moshe does so by succinctly taking us through three stages of mankind’s recognition of G-d. The first is His existence which is concealed in highest seclusion, even prior to Creation. The second is that of an Al-mighty shadow that pervades the physical universe and controls the natural order. The third is the Name Of Hashem, which was brought to Moshe’s attention in the context of the liberation from slavery in Mitzrayim.
(א) יֹשֵׁב בְּסֵתֶר עֶלְיוֹן בְּצֵל שַׁ־דַּי יִתְלוֹנָן: (ב) אֹמַר לַה’ מַחְסִי וּמְצוּדָתִי אֱלֹקַי אֶבְטַח בּוֹ:
(1) He who dwells in highest seclusion, resides [among us] as an Al-mighty shadow. (2) I say of Hashem, my refuge and my stronghold, He is my G-d, I trust in Him.
PART 2. ASSURANCE OF PROTECTION. Moshe assures the people that if they follow his example and trust in Hashem, they will be protected under His sheltering wings from all manner of danger.
(ג) כִּי הוּא יַצִּילְךָ מִפַּח יָקוּשׁ מִדֶּבֶר הַוּוֹת: (ד) בְּאֶבְרָתוֹ יָסֶךְ לָךְ וְתַחַת כְּנָפָיו תֶּחְסֶה צִנָּה וְסֹחֵרָה אֲמִתּוֹ: (ה) לֹא תִירָא מִפַּחַד לָיְלָה מֵחֵץ יָעוּף יוֹמָם: (ו) מִדֶּבֶר בָּאֹפֶל יַהֲלֹךְ מִקֶּטֶב יָשׁוּד צָהֳרָיִם: (ז) יִפֹּל מִצִּדְּךָ אֶלֶף וּרְבָבָה מִימִינֶךָ אֵלֶיךָ לֹא יִגָּשׁ: (ח) רַק בְּעֵינֶיךָ תַבִּיט וְשִׁלֻּמַת רְשָׁעִים תִּרְאֶה:
(3) [You should trust in Him as well,] for He will save you from the ensnaring trap [and] from the devastating pestilence. (4) He will protect you with His wings and you will take shelter [in the holiness of His Torah] beneath His spread-out wings. His truth is a barbed shield and enveloping armor. (5) You will not fear the terror of night, [nor] the arrow that flies by day, (6) the pestilence that stalks in the darkness, [nor] the scourge that ravages at noon. (7) A thousand may fall [in battle] at your [left] side and ten thousand at your right side, but it will not reach you. (8) Only with your eyes will you behold. You will witness the retribution of the wicked
PART 3. A PERSONAL DECLARATION. Moshe declares once more his abiding trust in Hashem. This time he demonstrates the closeness of his relationship by turning directly to Hashem.
(ט) כִּי אַתָּה ה’ מַחְסִי עֶלְיוֹן שַׂמְתָּ מְעוֹנֶךָ:
(9) [I know this] because You, Hashem, have been my refuge. You have set your abode on high.
PART 4. ASSURANCE OF PROTECTION. Moshe again assures the people that if they follow his example and trust in Hashem, they will be protected from all manner of danger.
(י) לֹא תְאֻנֶּה אֵלֶיךָ רָעָה וְנֶגַע לֹא יִקְרַב בְּאָהֳלֶךָ: (יא) כִּי מַלְאָכָיו יְצַוֶּה לָּךְ לִשְׁמָרְךָ בְּכָל דְּרָכֶיךָ: (יב) עַל כַּפַּיִם יִשָּׂאוּנְךָ פֶּן תִּגֹּף בָּאֶבֶן רַגְלֶךָ: (יג) עַל שַׁחַל וָפֶתֶן תִּדְרֹךְ תִּרְמֹס כְּפִיר וְתַנִּין:
(10) No misfortune will happen to you, nor will any disease come near your tent. (11) For on your behalf He will instruct His angels to guard you in all your ways. (12) They will be carrying you on the palms [of their hands] lest you hurt your foot on a stone. (13) You will tread on the lion and the viper. you will trample the young lion and the serpent.
PART 5. HASHEM’S PROMISE. We now hear the voice of Hashem responding to Moshe’s declarations of trust. Hashem assures the people that Moshe’s devotion will be rewarded. This promise is spoken in such a way that it could also apply to the entire nation of Yisrael. Because of Yisrael’s devotion, Hashem will be with them when they are in Galus (Exile) and will surely bring the Geulah (Redemption).
(יד) כִּי בִי חָשַׁק וַאֲפַלְּטֵהוּ אֲשַׂגְּבֵהוּ כִּי יָדַע שְׁמִי: (טו) יִקְרָאֵנִי וְאֶעֱנֵהוּ עִמּוֹ אָנֹכִי בְצָרָה אֲחַלְּצֵהוּ וַאֲכַבְּדֵהוּ: (טז) אֹרֶךְ יָמִים אַשְׂבִּיעֵהוּ וְאַרְאֵהוּ בִּישׁוּעָתִי:
(14) Because he is devoted to Me, I will save him. I will raise him high because he [has learned] to know my Name. (15) When he calls upon Me, I will answer him. I will be with him in his adversity. I will free him [from suffering] and I will bring him honor. (16) I will gratify him with a long life And I will let him witness My yeshuah [in the World to Come].
Learning the Mizmor
PART 1. DECLARATION OF TRUST
(א) יֹשֵׁב בְּסֵתֶר עֶלְיוֹן
בְּצֵל שַׁ־דַּי יִתְלוֹנָן:
The one and only G-d Who dwells — יֹשֵׁב in highest seclusion — בְּסֵתֶר עֶלְיוֹן , resides among us in the physical universe as an invisible Al-mighty shadow — בְּצֵל שַׁ־דַּי יִתְלוֹנָן – that controls the natural order of things. But beyond this, G-d is near each individual person and nation, as reflected in His Name of Hashem. The special significance of this Name was revealed to Moshe in Mitzrayim (Shemos 6:3).
(ב) אֹמַר לַה‘ מַחְסִי וּמְצוּדָתִי
אֱלֹקַי אֶבְטַח בּוֹ:
Furthermore, I say to you regarding His Name of Hashem, He is my personal refuge and my stronghold — אֹמַר לַה’ מַחְסִי וּמְצוּדָתִי . Even though I cannot see Him, He is my G-d — אֱלֹקַי ; I trust completely in Him — אֶבְטַח בּוֹ .
PART 2. ASSURANCE OF PROTECTION
(ג) כִּי הוּא יַצִּילְךָ מִפַּח יָקוּשׁ
You should trust in Him as well, for He will save you — כִּי הוּא יַצִּילְךָ from the ensnaring trap — מִפַּח יָקוּשׁ that is set by your enemies, and from the devastating pestilence — מִדֶּבֶר הַוּוֹת that is delivered by natural forces.
(ד) בְּאֶבְרָתוֹ יָסֶךְ לָךְ וְתַחַת כְּנָפָיו תֶּחְסֶה
צִנָּה וְסֹחֵרָה אֲמִתּוֹ:
He will protect you from the sun and the rain with His wings — בְּאֶבְרָתוֹ יָסֶךְ לָךְ , and you will take shelter in the holiness of His Torah beneath His spread-out wings — וְתַחַת כְּנָפָיו תֶּחְסֶה . His truth, which guarantees his promise of protection, is a barbed shield and enveloping armor — צִנָּה וְסֹחֵרָה אֲמִתּוֹ , symbolizing His protection from assault by enemies. Through the variety of protective devices Hashem will add to your sense of security, so that you will not be in fear.
(ה) לֹא תִירָא מִפַּחַד לָיְלָה
מֵחֵץ יָעוּף יוֹמָם:
You will not have reason to fear the terror of events that might unexpectedly occur near you in the darkness of night — לֹא תִירָא מִפַּחַד לָיְלָה when you are alone and cannot see the threat. Nor will you fear the arrow that may fly suddenly by day — מֵחֵץ יָעוּף יוֹמָם from such a long distance that you had not seen it coming.
(ו) מִדֶּבֶר בָּאֹפֶל יַהֲלֹךְ
מִקֶּטֶב יָשׁוּד צָהֳרָיִם:
You will not fear the pestilence that stalks in the darkness — מִדֶּבֶר בָּאֹפֶל יַהֲלֹךְ , killing without the cause being known. Nor will you fear the scourge that ravages at noon — מִקֶּטֶב יָשׁוּד צָהֳרָיִם , in response to a Divine decree.
(ז) יִפֹּל מִצִּדְּךָ אֶלֶף וּרְבָבָה מִימִינֶךָ
אֵלֶיךָ לֹא יִגָּשׁ:
A thousand may fall victim in battle at your left side — יִפֹּל מִצִּדְּךָ אֶלֶף and ten thousand at your right side — וּרְבָבָה מִימִינֶךָ . But even without your having to defend yourself, it will not reach you — אֵלֶיךָ לֹא יִגָּשׁ .
(ח) רַק בְּעֵינֶיךָ תַבִּיט
וְשִׁלֻּמַת רְשָׁעִים תִּרְאֶה:
You will not suffer from having to endure the battle. Only with your eyes will you behold death — רַק בְּעֵינֶיךָ תַבִּיט , but merely as an observer. In reward for Your trust in Hashem, you will be allowed to witness the retribution of the wicked — וְשִׁלֻּמַת רְשָׁעִים תִּרְאֶה . You will thank Hashem for being saved from these calamities and you will learn that all evil actually prepares its own ruin.
PART 3. A PERSONAL DECLARATION
(ט) כִּי אַתָּה ה’ מַחְסִי
עֶלְיוֹן שַׂמְתָּ מְעוֹנֶךָ:
I know You will protect the one who trusts in You because — כִּי You, Hashem, have been my refuge — אַתָּה ה ‘מַחְסִי . You have set your abode on high — עֶלְיוֹן שַׂמְתָּ מְעוֹנֶךָ and You have it in Your power to help those who look to You.
PART 4. ASSURANCE OF PROTECTION
(י) לֹא תְאֻנֶּה אֵלֶיךָ רָעָה
וְנֶגַע לֹא יִקְרַב בְּאָהֳלֶךָ:
Therefore No misfortune will happen to you — לֹא תְאֻנֶּה אֵלֶיךָ רָעָה , even in a dream, nor will any disease come near your tent — וְנֶגַע לֹא יִקְרַב בְּאָהֳלֶךָ , affecting you your wife, or your children.
(יא) כִּי מַלְאָכָיו יְצַוֶּה לָּךְ
לִשְׁמָרְךָ בְּכָל דְּרָכֶיךָ:
For on your behalf He will instruct His angels that control the forces of nature — כִּי מַלְאָכָיו יְצַוֶּה לָּךְ to guard you in all your ways — לִשְׁמָרְךָ בְּכָל דְּרָכֶיךָ . They will regard you as a treasure entrusted to them for safekeeping.
(יב) עַל כַּפַּיִם יִשָּׂאוּנְךָ
פֶּן תִּגֹּף בָּאֶבֶן רַגְלֶךָ:
Thus, it is as though they will be carrying you on the palms of their hands — עַל כַּפַּיִם יִשָּׂאוּנְךָ lest you hurt your foot on a stone — פֶּן תִּגֹּף בָּאֶבֶן רַגְלֶךָ .
(יג) עַל שַׁחַל וָפֶתֶן תִּדְרֹךְ
תִּרְמֹס כְּפִיר וְתַנִּין:
You will pass over dangers and overcome them without even being aware of them, including the evil people who act like beasts. You will tread on the lion and the viper — עַל שַׁחַל וָפֶתֶן תִּדְרֹךְ ; you will trample the young lion and the serpent — תִּרְמֹס כְּפִיר וְתַנִּין .
PART 5. HASHEM’S PROMISE.
(יד) כִּי בִי חָשַׁק וַאֲפַלְּטֵהוּ
אֲשַׂגְּבֵהוּ כִּי יָדַע שְׁמִי:
Because of his devotion to Me — כִּי בִי חָשַׁק , I will surely save him — וַאֲפַלְּטֵהוּ . I will raise him high above the depredations of the Exile אֲשַׂגְּבֵהוּ because he has learned to know My Name — כִּי יָדַע שְׁמִי . He has bonded to Me and communed with My thoughts by studying My Torah. Thus, he has validated my act of creating him.
(טו) יִקְרָאֵנִי וְאֶעֱנֵהוּ
עִמּוֹ אָנֹכִי בְצָרָה
When he calls upon Me, I will answer him — יִקְרָאֵנִי וְאֶעֱנֵהוּ . Even before I have rescued him, I will be with him in his adversity — עִמּוֹ אָנֹכִי בְצָרָה . I will free him from suffering and I will bring him honor — אֲחַלְּצֵהוּ וַאֲכַבְּדֵהוּ . Eventually I will cause him to receive from the rest of mankind the respect and appreciation that is his rightful due.
(טז) אֹרֶךְ יָמִים אַשְׂבִּיעֵהוּ
I will gratify him with a long life in this world — אֹרֶךְ יָמִים אַשְׂבִּיעֵהוּ . He will have lived a meaningful life, at the end of which he will feel that he has reached his goals and fulfilled his potential. And I will let him witness My ultimate yeshuah — וְאַרְאֵהוּ בִּישׁוּעָתִי in the World to Come.
The primary sources used in the interpretation of the verses in this mizmor are listed below.
א – אלשי”ך, רשר”ה, הללי נפשי
ב – אבן עזרא, מלבי”ם, אלשי”ך
ג – רד”ק, מלבי”ם, ספורנו
ד – רש”י, רד”ק, מצודות, מלבי”ם, בן רמוך, רשר”ה, נר לרגלי
ה – רש”י, רד”ק, בן־רמוך, ספורנו, נר לרגלי
ו – דעת סופרים
ז – רש”י, רד”ק, המאירי, נר לרגלי
ח – אבן עזרא, מצודות, המאירי, בן־רמוך, אבן יחייא, רשר”ה
ט – רש”י, בן־רמוך
י – רש”י, רד”ק, בן־רמוך, נר לרגלי
יא – אבן עזרא, בן־רמוך
יב – אבן עזרא, רשר”ה
יג -מצודות, בן־רמוך, רשר”ה, דעת סופרים
יד – בן־רמוך, ספורנו, נר לרגלי
טו – רד”ק, בן־רמוך, אלשי”ך, רשר”ה
טז – אבן עזרא, רד”ק, מצודות, ספורנו, דעת סופרים, רשר”ה