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 119-009 (Beis 1) – Complexity
In the Aleph segment of the mizmor David emphasized the wholeness and unity of the Torah and mitzvos. He gave us a broad perspective of the various categories of mitzvos, all sharing the purpose of serving Hashem. The individual who observes the mitzvos was described as being on a main road or way ( דֶּרֶךְ ) with a destination of wholeness in fulfilling Hashem’s will.
David now begins bridging the gap between that conceptual “way” of life and the specific steps that are needed to comply with each individual mitzvah. This involves a recognition that the world of mitzvos is elaborately complex in terms of the specific requirements of each mitzvah (the who, what, when, and how) and the underlying thoughts (the why). Just as Hashem created a miraculous world of boundless complexity and depth, He created a perfect Torah of boundless detail, all fitting together in a unified wholeness according to His plan. (See Mizmor 019.)
Exploring the Mizmor
Whereas the way of living a Torah life is described as a דֶּרֶךְ , the steps to be taken in observing an individual mitzvah are described as forming an אֹרַח (path). Since the complexity of Torah observance may seem daunting, David begins by presenting it to us from the perspective of a young man who has just become Bar Mitzvah and is facing the awesome responsibility of observance in all its complexity.
(ט) בַּמֶּה יְזַכֶּה נַּעַר אֶת אָרְחוֹ לִשְׁמֹר כִּדְבָרֶךָ:
How can a young man purify his path ? To guard it according to Your word.
So he asks himself, how that young man can approach the observance of each individual mitzvah path in the purest possible way. The answer David gives seems obvious, but has great meaning. The young man cannot do everything at once. However, he can commit himself to follow the word of Hashem as he understands it with every mitzvah that he performs. If he does so, he will find the quality of his observance of mitzvos continually improving as his growing Torah knowledge embellishes his day-to-day actions of fulfilling the will of Hashem.
Learning the Mizmor
(ט) בַּמֶּה יְזַכֶּה נַּעַר אֶת אָרְחוֹ
How can a young man who has taken on the responsibility of mitzvos purify his path — בַּמֶּה יְזַכֶּה נַּעַר אֶת אָרְחוֹ ? The answer is simply to guard it, observing each mitzvah, according to Your word — לִשְׁמֹר כִּדְבָרֶךָ .
Three insights illuminating this pasuk are presented below. The numbers identifying the insights refer to the listing of sources at the end of the segment. Other sources, which follow the basic approach outlined in the text above are listed afterwards.
(1) The pasuk teaches that a person’s observance of mitzvos cannot be pure through learning alone. Mitzvos call for doing. Just as a person is required to teach his son Torah he is required to exercise that knowledge through practical training.
(2) Observing a mitzvah according to Your word (כִּדְבָרֶךָ) means more than adhering to the specific requirements of Hashem’s “word.” It means performing the mitzvah because Hashem’s wish, rather than for any other satisfaction it may bring. Rather than think to himself that a particular sin is repugnant to him, he should think that he would really like to have that experience, but he is resisting it out of devotion to the will of Hashem.
(3) When David used the term נַּעַר (young man) he also had in mind a sense of his own inadequacy. He put himself in the shoes of that נַּעַר and felt a great ambition to be more than he was. He was thinking of what it would take for someone as unworthy as himself to rise in his level of mitzvah observance.
The primary sources used for the additional insights illuminating this pasuk are listed below.
(1) – רד”ק
(2) – מצודות
(3) – המאירי, אבן יחייא
(4) – מלבים, הרר”מ היצהרי