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Key Concepts of Mizmor 119-011 (Beis 3) – The Oral Torah
Because of its scope and complexity, the wisdom of the Torah far exceeds the physical limitations of the written word (תּוֹרָה שֶׁבִּכְּתַב) . These limitations were overcome by the spoken word originally transmitted by Hashem as He taught the Torah to Moshe Rabbeinu. Without that spoken wisdom, the Torah could have been a mysterious collection of unresolved secrets.
The aggregated spoken wisdom is the Oral Torah (תּוֹרָה שֶׁבְּעַל פֶּה) , which was subsequently passed on in an unbroken chain from generation to generation, father to son and teacher to student. Each each generation was held responsible for learning this content by heart and that challenge continued to grow as the Sages of each generation added to it in the form of further insights and halachic rulings that were called for by the new situations that arose over the years.
Ultimately, the tragic conditions of the Galus after the destruction of the Second Bais Hamikdash made it necessary to transcribe the Oral Torah and record its wisdom in written form. However, at the time of David Hamelech, that momentous process was still far off in the distant future.
Even in David’s time, the ever-growing scope and complexity of the Oral Torah made the challenge of keeping the Torah alive in human memory all the greater. This challenge continued to be an urgent necessity. Each individual has always had the great mitzvah of keeping the Torah content fresh in his mind so that he could be guided by the Torah knowledge in his day-to-day observance.
Exploring the Mizmor
David declares his devotion to serving Hashem by having committed the Oral Torah to memory. Although he has stored the Torah deep within his heart, he continues to think of that it as “Your spoken word.” That means he visualizes Hashem as continually speaking directly to him. As he performs each mitzvah He recalls Hashem’s instructions relative to that mitzvah because the remembered words are always accessible to his heart. David treasures Hashem’s words and so they are concealed in his heart the way that one might conceal a treasure.
(יא) בְּלִבִּי צָפַנְתִּי אִמְרָתֶךָ לְמַעַן לֹא אֶחֱטָא לָךְ:
I have concealed Your spoken word within my heart, so that I would not sin against You.
David states that the purpose of doing all this is to enable him to have the knowledge he needs to perform the mitzvos in a proper manner, as Hashem wishes it. He realizes that if he lacked this knowledge he would inadvertently be violating the halachic requirements of each mitzvah. That is a sin he desperately wants to avoid.
Learning the Mizmor
(יא) בְּלִבִּי צָפַנְתִּי אִמְרָתֶךָ
לְמַעַן לֹא אֶחֱטָא לָךְ:
Deep within my heart — בְּלִבִּי I have concealed — צָפַנְתִּי Your spoken word — אִמְרָתֶךָ , so that I would not sin against You — לְמַעַן לֹא אֶחֱטָא לָךְ .
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.
(1) The word אִמְרָתֶךָ is based on the root אמר , which refers to the use of speech to inform or communicate an idea, that is, to have an effect upon the mind or heart of a listener. This is in contrast to the root דבר , which refers to the uttering of words without consideration of their affecting a listener. Thus, the success of אִמְרָתֶךָ , is suggested by בְּלִבִּי צָפַנְתִּי .
(2) David commits himself to remembering not only the back and forth analytical discussions related to each issue, but also the final ruling so that he can be sure comply with the accepted halachah in each case.
(3) In positioning the words of the Torah deep within his heart, David has internalized them so that they have become part if his active thinking process rather than a rote memorization.
(4) David feels that he is in always in the presence of the words of the Torah. Thus, he is assured of conforming his actions to them.
The primary sources used for the additional insights illuminating this pasuk are listed below.
(1) – רשר”ה
(2) – יצהרי
(3) – נר לרגלי
(4) – אבן יחייא