NOTE: For a PDF of this mizmor, please click here. This will enable you to print out the entire text of the article. [Rev 1]
Key Concepts of Mizmor 119-003 (Aleph 3) – Injustice
The Creator has given mankind an instinctive sense of right and wrong. This sense enables us to recognize behavior that violates our moral and ethical values. Hashem considers the selfish attitude that motivates such behavior to be offensive even if it is not an outright sin.
People who make a conscious effort to stay on the path of virtue will be aware when they are tempted to stray from that path. They will resist the temptation and will bend over backwards to do the right thing.
Exploring the Mizmor
The third pasuk of the Aleph group draws attention to the issue of injustice. This matter is placed here in such a prominent position because it puts us on guard to do what is right even when the offense that is tempting us seems subtle.
(ג) אַף לֹא פָעֲלוּ עַוְלָה בִּדְרָכָיו הָלָכוּ:
They have not even committed an injustice, for they have walked in His ways.
A person who seeks advantage by treating his fellow man unfairly is stepping beyond the limits of the path of virtue. The injustice that he is doing is referred to as an עַוְלָה , which may be defined as a misuse of power. In Mizmor 092 David speaks of Hashem as setting the model for total rejection of such misuse, וְלֹא עַוְלָתָה בּוֹ , “there is no injustice in Him” (92:16).
Learning the Mizmor
(ג) אַף לֹא פָעֲלוּ עַוְלָה
The fortunate people who have been able to stay on the path of virtue have not even commited an injustice — אַף לֹא פָעֲלוּ עַוְלָה , for they have walked in His ways — בִּדְרָכָיו הָלָכוּ and have treated everyone in a fair manner.
The approach used above to interpret the pasuk is based on the commentary of Malbim. This approach is based partially on an interpretation of עַוְלָה as misuse of power (Rav Shamshon Refael Hirsch). Other commentators extend its meaning to refer to wider forms of sin. A series of insights illuminating the pasuk based on the extended interpretation are presented below. The numbers identifying the insights refer to the listing of sources below.
(1) Even when people manage to avoid sin, they have not fulfilled their duty in life unless they have done positive mitzvos.
(2) When people seek Hashem with all their heart, their worthy way of life will keep them from sin. Hashem wil also reward their righteous behavior by keeping them from inadvertent sin.
(3) A person who expends effort to avoid sin is given credit for this because it is also considered an act of walking on a path of virtue.
The primary sources used for the additional insights illuminating this pasuk are listed below.
(1) – רש”י, מצודות
(2) – רד”ק
(3) – מלבים