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(א) לְדָוִד בָּרֲכִי נַפְשִׁי אֶת ה’ וְכָל קְרָבַי אֶת שֵׁם קָדְשׁוֹ:

(1) By David. Bless Hashem O my soul, and let all that is within me bless His holy Name.

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 103 (My Soul)

This mizmor is a song of gratitude for human existence and survival. David presents the song in the form of a call to “my soul” ( נַפְשִׁי ). He directs his soul to bless Hashem, thanking Hashem for the gift of his life as a human being able to serve his Creator and dream of immortality.
David focuses upon his soul because it is fashioned in the image of Hashem. David’s soul is the part of him most qualified to communicate with the Creator and thank Him.
David recognizes his soul as the essence of his being. It defines who he is and provides him with the intelligence to appreciate the special kindness by which Hashem gave an imperfect creature such as man the ability to choose his own destiny within the framework of Creation.
With the consciousness of his soul David is able to appreciate the gratitude of his nation Yisrael for being allowed to flourish despite its sins and the gratitude of the entire universe for being able to fulfill the will of its Creator.
Exploring the Mizmor
PART 1. THE GRATITUDE OF MY SOUL. David calls upon his soul to bless Hashem, thanking Him for the gift of his life as a human being. To be human is to be subject to errors and failings. But the potential to overcome these weaknesses is man’s glory. David blesses Hashem for His understanding, His compassion and His help to enable man to fulfill his destiny, symbolized by the soaring flight of the eagle.
(א) לְדָוִד בָּרֲכִי נַפְשִׁי אֶת־ה’ וְכָל־קְרָבַי אֶת־שֵׁם קָדְשׁוֹ: (ב) בָּרֲכִי נַפְשִׁי אֶת־ה’ וְאַל־תִּשְׁכְּחִי כָּל־גְּמוּלָיו: (ג) הַסֹּלֵחַ לְכָל־עֲוֹנֵכִי הָרֹפֵא לְכָל־תַּחֲלֻאָיְכִי: (ד) הַגּוֹאֵל מִשַּׁחַת חַיָּיְכִי הַמְעַטְּרֵכִי חֶסֶד וְרַחֲמִים: (ה) הַמַּשְׂבִּיעַ בַּטּוֹב עֶדְיֵךְ תִּתְחַדֵּשׁ כַּנֶּשֶׁר נְעוּרָיְכִי:
(1) By David. Bless Hashem O my soul, and let all that is within me bless His holy Name. (2) Bless Hashem, O my soul and never forget all His kindnesses. (3) He forgives all your sins, He heals all your failings, (4) He redeems your life from the grave, He crowns you with kindness and compassion, (5) He fills your existence with goodness so that your youth is renewed like the eagle.
PART 2. THE GRATITUDE OF MY NATION. David now thanks Hashem on behalf the Jewish nation which has been granted the guidance and wisdom of Hashem’s Torah. Hashem has remained close to the people throughout their history, granting forgiveness to the sins of each generation and holding fast to His covenant with them. The life of an individual is short but Hashem has granted the nation continuity so that it lives forever and its bond with the Torah is for all time.
(ו) עֹשֵׂה צְדָקוֹת ה’ וּמִשְׁפָּטִים לְכָל־עֲשׁוּקִים: (ז) יוֹדִיעַ דְּרָכָיו לְמֹשֶׁה לִבְנֵי יִשְׂרָאֵל עֲלִילוֹתָיו:(ח) רַחוּם וְחַנּוּן ה’ אֶרֶךְ אַפַּיִם וְרַב־חָסֶד: (ט) לֹא־לָנֶצַח יָרִיב וְלֹא לְעוֹלָם יִטּוֹר:(י) לֹא כַחֲטָאֵינוּ עָשָׂה לָנוּ וְלֹא כַעֲוֹנֹתֵינוּ גָּמַל עָלֵינוּ: (יא) כִּי כִגְבֹהַּ שָׁמַיִם עַל־הָאָרֶץ גָּבַר חַסְדּוֹ עַל־יְרֵאָיו: (יב) כִּרְחֹק מִזְרָח מִמַּעֲרָב הִרְחִיק מִמֶּנּוּ אֶת־פְּשָׁעֵינוּ: (יג) כְּרַחֵם אָב עַל־בָּנִים רִחַם ה’ עַל־יְרֵאָיו: (יד) כִּי־הוּא יָדַע יִצְרֵנוּ זָכוּר כִּי־עָפָר אֲנָחְנוּ: (טו) אֱנוֹשׁ כֶּחָצִיר יָמָיו כְּצִיץ הַשָּׂדֶה כֵּן יָצִיץ: (טז) כִּי רוּחַ עָבְרָה־בּוֹ וְאֵינֶנּוּ וְלֹא־יַכִּירֶנּוּ עוֹד מְקוֹמוֹ: (יז) וְחֶסֶד ה’ מֵעוֹלָם וְעַד־עוֹלָם עַל־יְרֵאָיו וְצִדְקָתוֹ לִבְנֵי בָנִים: (יח) לְשֹׁמְרֵי בְרִיתוֹ וּלְזֹכְרֵי פִקֻּדָיו לַעֲשׂוֹתָם:
(6) Hashem performs acts of kindness and justice for all who are oppressed. (7) He made known His ways to Moshe, [and revealed] His deeds to the Bnai Yisrael. (8) Compassionate and gracious is Hashem, slow to anger and abundant in kindness. (9) He does not maintain his anger for all time, nor will He forever bear a grudge. (10) He has not dealt with us according to our sins, nor repaid us according to our iniquities. (11) For as high as heaven is above the earth so has his love continued to build for those who fear Him. (12) As far as east from west so has He distanced our transgressions from us (13) As a father has compassion for his children, so has Hashem shown mercy to those who fear Him. (14) For He was well aware of our natural inclination; He is mindful that we are of the earth. (15) As for mortal man, his days are like grass, like a flower of the field, he blossoms. (16) When a wind passes over it, and its place no longer knows it. (17) But the kindness of Hashem is forever and ever upon those who fear Him, and His generosity is to the children’s children, (18) to those who keep His covenant and to those who keep in mind His commands to fulfill them.
PART 3. THE GRATITUDE OF THE UNIVERSE. David enlarges his perspective to encompass as much of Hashem’s universe as we have been permitted to contemplate. This includes the upper heavenly regions and the legions of angels. Since they all continue to exist through the will of their Creator, they all share with mankind in blessing Him with their thanks. Finally David returns to his own soul, to demonstrate that despites its limitations, each individual soul is a prism through which all of existence can be contemplated in a single glorious mizmor.
(יט) ה’ בַּשָּׁמַיִם הֵכִין כִּסְאוֹ וּמַלְכוּתוֹ בַּכֹּל מָשָׁלָה: (כ) בָּרֲכוּ ה’ מַלְאָכָיו גִּבֹּרֵי כֹחַ עֹשֵׂי דְבָרוֹ לִשְׁמֹעַ בְּקוֹל דְּבָרוֹ: (כא) בָּרֲכוּ ה’ כָּל־צְבָאָיו מְשָׁרְתָיו עֹשֵׂי רְצוֹנוֹ: (כב) בָּרֲכוּ ה’ כָּל־מַעֲשָׂיו בְּכָל־מְקֹמוֹת מֶמְשַׁלְתּוֹ בָּרֲכִי נַפְשִׁי אֶת־ה’:
(19) Hashem has established His throne in heaven, but His dominion reigns over all. (20) Bless Hashem, O you His angels, for you are the powerful agents who do His bidding, to obey the sound of His word .(21) Bless Hashem, all His heavenly legions, His servants who do His will. (22) Bless Hashem, all His works, in all the places of His dominion. Bless Hashem, O my soul.
Learning the Mizmor
(א) לְדָוִד בָּרֲכִי נַפְשִׁי אֶת ה’
A mizmor composed by David — לְדָוִד O my soul, I call upon you to bless Hashem — בָּרֲכִי נַפְשִׁי אֶת־ה’ with gratitude for everything He does, for you, my soul, are the best part of me. I call upon you, my soul, to communicate with Hashem for your relationship to the rest of me is somewhat like Hashem’s relationship to the world. I could not exist without my soul, even though I cannot see it. Similarly, He is the soul of the world, which exists only because of Him, even though we cannot see it.
וְכָל קְרָבַי אֶת שֵׁם קָדְשׁוֹ:
But I also call upon my other organs that are within me to bless His holy Name — וְכָל־קְרָבַי אֶת־שֵׁם קָדְשׁוֹ for they enable me to function as a human being that can serve You. My physical body lacks the conscious awareness of Hashem but is an indirect reflection of His universal presence. And so it communicates passively with His Name, that is with the qualities that describe Him
(ב) בָּרֲכִי נַפְשִׁי אֶת ה’ 
וְאַל תִּשְׁכְּחִי כָּל גְּמוּלָיו:
O my soul, I call upon you again to bless Hashem, — בָּרֲכִי נַפְשִׁי אֶת־ה’ Do not take your continued existence for granted You could only have survived if He forgave Your sins. And never forget all His kindnesses — וְאַל־תִּשְׁכְּחִי כָּל־גְּמוּלָיו that He did for you in giving you so many ingenious organs and limbs to enable your life. Bless Hashem for giving you the intelligence to appreciate being allowed to live and to serve Him.
(ג) הַסֹּלֵחַ לְכָל עֲוֹנֵכִי 
הָרֹפֵא לְכָל תַּחֲלֻאָיְכִי:
Bless Him Who forgives all your sins — הַסֹּלֵחַ לְכָל־עֲוֹנֵכִי when you sincerely repent, so that you return to your original state of purity. Bless Him Who heals all your spiritual failings — הָרֹפֵא לְכָל־תַּחֲלֻאָיְכִי .
(ד) הַגּוֹאֵל מִשַּׁחַת חַיָּיְכִי 
הַמְעַטְּרֵכִי חֶסֶד וְרַחֲמִים:
Bless Him Who redeems your immortal life from the grave to which your physical body is destined  הַגּוֹאֵל מִשַּׁחַת חַיָּיְכִי Even when you endure physical suffering it is a kindness because your suffering cleanses you to make you worthy of immortality in the World to Come. Bless Him Who crowns you above all other creatures with the virtues of kindness and compassion — הַמְעַטְּרֵכִי חֶסֶד וְרַחֲמִים by which you are able to emulate Him.
(ה) הַמַּשְׂבִּיעַ בַּטּוֹב עֶדְיֵךְ 
תִּתְחַדֵּשׁ כַּנֶּשֶׁר נְעוּרָיְכִי:
Bless Him Who fills the continuity of your existence with the goodness of Torah and mitzvos — הַמַּשְׂבִּיעַ בַּטּוֹב עֶדְיֵךְ so that when the spirit departs from the body and enters into immortality your youth is renewed like the wings of the eagle — תִּתְחַדֵּשׁ כַּנֶּשֶׁר נְעוּרָיְכִי which are renewed every ten years.
(ו) עֹשֵׂה צְדָקוֹת ה’ 
וּמִשְׁפָּטִים לְכָל עֲשׁוּקִים:
As we have seen in the freeing of the slaves in Mitzrayim, Hashem performs acts of kindness — עֹשֵׂה צְדָקוֹת ה’ towards Yisrael, even when they are unworthy, and He performs justice — וּמִשְׁפָּטִים for all who are unfairly treated — לְכָל־עֲשׁוּקִים by their fellow man.
(ז) יוֹדִיעַ דְּרָכָיו לְמֹשֶׁה 
לִבְנֵי יִשְׂרָאֵל עֲלִילוֹתָיו:
He made known His characteristic middos — יוֹדִיעַ דְּרָכָיו to Moshe Rabbeinu  לְמֹשֶׁה (the 13 middos listed in Shemos 34:6). Then He revealed to the Bnai Yisrael — לִבְנֵי יִשְׂרָאֵל His deeds — עֲלִילוֹתָיו that implemented His middos.
(ח) רַחוּם וְחַנּוּן ה’ 
אֶרֶךְ אַפַּיִם וְרַב חָסֶד:
Which of His middos are especially relevant now in the Galus? Hashem is forthcoming in His compassion for us and He is responsive to our tefilos  רַחוּם וְחַנּוּן ה’ He is slow to anger and abundant in kindness without interruption — אֶרֶךְ אַפַּיִם וְרַב־חָסֶד .
(ט) לֹא לָנֶצַח יָרִיב
וְלֹא לְעוֹלָם יִטּוֹר:
Furthermore, even though our teshuvah is not complete He does not maintain his anger to continue punishing us for our sins for all time — לֹא־לָנֶצַח יָרִיב into the World to Come. Nor will He forever bear a grudge to remember our sins  וְלֹא לְעוֹלָם יִטּוֹר throughout our lives in this world because His purpose in punishing us is to encourage us to do teshvah, not to destroy us. He will eventually have mercy on us and redeem us from Galus.
(י) לֹא כַחֲטָאֵינוּ עָשָׂה לָנוּ 
וְלֹא כַעֲוֹנֹתֵינוּ גָּמַל עָלֵינוּ:
He has not dealt with us according to our sins — לֹא כַחֲטָאֵינוּ עָשָׂה לָנוּ , nor repaid us according to our iniquities — וְלֹא כַעֲוֹנֹתֵינוּ גָּמַל עָלֵינוּ In effect, the quality of His mercy is not diminished by our sins.
(יא) כִּי כִגְבֹהַּ שָׁמַיִם עַל הָאָרֶץ
גָּבַר חַסְדּוֹ עַל יְרֵאָיו:
For as high as heaven is above the earth — כִּי כִגְבֹהַּ שָׁמַיִם עַל־הָאָרֶץ , so has the reservoir of His overwhelming love continued to build for those who fear Him — גָּבַר חַסְדּוֹ עַל־יְרֵאָיו Even when Yisrael sins they do not lose their underlying fear of Hashem. Accordingly, His love for Yisrael is measured by the greatest height that a person can conceive. That is the height of heaven, because heaven is far above the earth both physically and spiritually.
(יב) כִּרְחֹק מִזְרָח מִמַּעֲרָב 
הִרְחִיק מִמֶּנּוּ אֶת פְּשָׁעֵינוּ:
As far as east from west — כִּרְחֹק מִזְרָח מִמַּעֲרָב , so has He distanced the consequences of our transgressions from us — הִרְחִיק מִמֶּנּוּ אֶת־פְּשָׁעֵינוּ The distance between east and west corresponds to the greatest distance that a traveler can visualize, corresponding to the movement of the sun accoross the skies. In contrast, traveling from south to north would involve moving between inhospitable areas of extreme cold and extreme heat.
(יג) כְּרַחֵם אָב עַל בָּנִים 
רִחַם ה’ עַל יְרֵאָיו:
As a father has compassion for his children — כְּרַחֵם אָב עַל־בָּנִים after he has found it necessary to punish them, so has Hashem shown mercy to those who fear Him — רִחַם ה’ עַל־יְרֵאָיו for He knows that just he is concerned for their welfare so is it their wish to follow His ways.
(יד) כִּי הוּא יָדַע יִצְרֵנוּ 
זָכוּר כִּי עָפָר אֲנָחְנוּ:
For He was well aware of our natural inclination — כִּי־הוּא יָדַע יִצְרֵנוּ that was implanted into us when we were created. This yetzer draws us to satisfy earthly needs and desires. He was mindful that we were limited by being physical creatures of the earth — זָכוּר כִּי־עָפָר אֲנָחְנוּ The same yetzer resists the pull of our spiritual side and prevents us from reaching our full potential. But when the spiritual side of a person makes a conscious effort to overcome his earthly side, this fulfills Hashem’s purpose in creating him.
(טו) אֱנוֹשׁ כֶּחָצִיר יָמָיו 
כְּצִיץ הַשָּׂדֶה כֵּן יָצִיץ:
As for mortal man — אֱנוֹשׁ , his days are short like those of fields of grass — כֶּחָצִיר יָמָיו His life is too short for him to correct the errors of his youth. Like a flower of the field — כְּצִיץ הַשָּׂדֶה , so he blossoms — כֵּן יָצִיץ for a brief moment of time. He is rapidly approaching the end of his life and it would be foolish for him to continue to sin.
(טז) כִּי רוּחַ עָבְרָה בּוֹ וְאֵינֶנּוּ 
וְלֹא יַכִּירֶנּוּ עוֹד מְקוֹמוֹ:
When a wind passes over the flower, causing its blossom to wither and die, it is gone — כִּי רוּחַ עָבְרָה־בּוֹ וְאֵינֶנּוּ , and its own place no longer knows it. — וְלֹא־יַכִּירֶנּוּ עוֹד מְקוֹמוֹ So it is if a dead man would return, the people of his place would not know him. His only hope is build a life for himself ion the World to Come.
(יז) וְחֶסֶד ה’ מֵעוֹלָם וְעַד עוֹלָם עַל יְרֵאָיו 
וְצִדְקָתוֹ לִבְנֵי בָנִים:
But the kindness of Hashem lasts forever and ever — וְחֶסֶד ה’ מֵעוֹלָם וְעַד־עוֹלָם granting a reward upon those who fear Him — עַל־יְרֵאָיו , and His loving generosity extends to their children’s children — וְצִדְקָתוֹ לִבְנֵי בָנִים and beyond…
(יח) לְשֹׁמְרֵי בְרִיתוֹ 
וּלְזֹכְרֵי פִקֻּדָיו לַעֲשׂוֹתָם:
to those who keep His covenant — לְשֹׁמְרֵי בְרִיתוֹ , and to those who bring to mind His mitzvos to practice them — וּלְזֹכְרֵי פִקֻּדָיו לַעֲשׂוֹתָם They learn Torah with the intent of fulfilling the halachos.
(יט) ה’ בַּשָּׁמַיִם הֵכִין כִּסְאוֹ 
וּמַלְכוּתוֹ בַּכֹּל מָשָׁלָה:
Hashem is fully capable of keeping His promise to mankind for although He has established His throne in heaven — ה’ בַּשָּׁמַיִם הֵכִין כִּסְאוֹ and His presence is not directly visible on earth, His dominion reigns over all beings — וּמַלְכוּתוֹ בַּכֹּל מָשָׁלָה .
(כ) בָּרֲכוּ ה’ מַלְאָכָיו 
גִּבֹּרֵי כֹחַ עֹשֵׂי דְבָרוֹ 
לִשְׁמֹעַ בְּקוֹל דְּבָרוֹ:
Bless Hashem, O you His angels — בָּרֲכוּ ה’ מַלְאָכָיו , for you are the powerful agents who happily do His bidding — גִּבֹּרֵי כֹחַ עֹשֵׂי דְבָרוֹ to drive the heavenly bodies and arrange supernatural earthly events. They fulfill their misssion without expectation of reward, merely to obey the sound of His word — לִשְׁמֹעַ בְּקוֹל דְּבָרוֹ .
(כא) בָּרֲכוּ ה’ כָּל צְבָאָיו 
מְשָׁרְתָיו עֹשֵׂי רְצוֹנוֹ:
Bless Hashem, all you His heavenly legions — בָּרֲכוּ ה’ כָּל־צְבָאָיו , including the sun, moon, and constellations of stars. They are all His servants doing His will — מְשָׁרְתָיו עֹשֵׂי רְצוֹנוֹ to control our meteorological and physical environment.
(כב) בָּרֲכוּ ה’ כָּל מַעֲשָׂיו 
בְּכָל מְקֹמוֹת מֶמְשַׁלְתּוֹ
Bless Hashem, all His works — בָּרֲכוּ ה’ כָּל מַעֲשָׂיו of our lower world,including all animal and plant life, the vast seas and the awesome mountains in all the places of His dominion — בְּכָל־מְקֹמוֹת מֶמְשַׁלְתּוֹ ! Amazingly, all of this is perceived and contemplated through a human being’s awareness of the universe.
בָּרֲכִי נַפְשִׁי אֶת ה’:
Bless Hashem, O my soul — בָּרֲכִי נַפְשִׁי אֶת־ה’ ! Man’s awareness of Creation reminds him that he is an important part of Creation and is duty bound to join the rest of Creation in thanking and praising the Creator that provides for the needs of everything He has created. But because of man’s pure and holy soul he has special duty to form words of praise that are fitting to him.
The primary sources used in the interpretation of the verses in this mizmor are listed below.
א – רד”ק, מלבי”ם, רשר”ה
ב – מלבי”ם, בן רמוך, נר לרגלי
ג – רד”ק, המאירי, נר לרגלי
ד – רד”ק, ספורנו
ה – רש”י, מצודות, מלבי”ם,
ו – מלבי”ם
ז – רד”ק, מלבי”ם, המאירי, ספורנו
ח – רד”ק, המאירי
ט – רד”ק, מלבי”ם, המאירי, ספורנו
י – נר לרגלי
יא – אבן עזרא, אלשיך, נר לרגלי
יב – רד”ק, בן רמוך
יג – בן רמוך, נר לרגלי
יד – רד”ק, מלבי”ם, נר לרגלי,
טו – רד”ק, ספורנו, אלשיך, נר לרגלי
טז – רד”ק, מלבי”ם, מצודות, נר לרגלי
יז – אבן עזרא, רד”ק, אבן יחייא
יח – רד”ק
יט – אבן עזרא, מצודות, מלבי”ם, נר לרגלי
כ – רד”ק, מצודות
כא – מצודות, בן רמוך
כב – אבן עזרא, נר לרגלי,