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 119-012 (Beis 4) – Learning Torah
To be able to learn Torah effectively a person must realize that he cannot do it alone. Since the Torah originates with Hashem and belongs to Him, a person can only learn Torah if Hashem teaches it to him.
What must the person do to get Hashem to teach him Torah? He must first acknowledge Hashem’s essential role in the process. He must then humbly ask for Hashem to teach the Torah to him.
The next step is for the individual to apply himself to study the words and thoughts of the Torah. As he does so he will find that his mind is absorbing these words and thoughts as a gift from Hashem, his Teacher. He may be also gratified to discover new insights and interpretations in the meaning of what he is learning. If he is worthy, those new ideas will become part of the Oral Torah which he may pass on to others.
Exploring the Mizmor
In this pasuk David demonstrates a proper approach to learning Torah. He begins with acknowledging and praising Hashem as the source of all Torah wisdom as well all forms of blessing that a human being can receive (בָּרוּךְ אַתָּה ה‘) . He addresses Hashem directly because the process of learning His Torah is a very personal one and is unique to each individual. As he learns, the wisdom of the Torah is being transmitted directly to his mind from the mind of Hashem.
(יב) בָּרוּךְ אַתָּה ה‘ לַמְּדֵנִי חֻקֶּיךָ:
Blessed are You, Hashem, teach me Your decrees.
David then asks Hashem to teach him personally, thereby committing himself to applying his mind to receive the wisdom that Hashem will choose to grant. He identifies a specific area of focus (חֻקֶּיךָ) because effective learning is not random. A person needs to adopt a learning structure and a clear knowledge objective so that his mind can grasp and remember what he has learned.
David specifically focuses on the decrees in this pasuk since they present a special challenge. These are mitzvos for which some aspect of the procedure seems to have little or no apparent rationale. Therefore a person needs extra help from Hashem to gain the insight and understanding that will help him perform those mitzvos to the best of his ability.
Learning the Mizmor
(יב) בָּרוּךְ אַתָּה ה‘
Blessed are You, Hashem — בָּרוּךְ אַתָּה ה‘ , teach me Your decrees — לַמְּדֵנִי חֻקֶּיךָ .
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) By acknowledging Hashem as the Teacher of the Torah, a person becomes deserving of being taught its wisdom.
(2) Not only is Hashem the Teacher of the Torah, His relationship with mankind is based on His quality of doing good for the beings that He has created.
(3) David has previously committed himself to observe the Decrees even though he realizes they are designed not to be fully understood (Mizmor 119-005). He now show his love for the mitzvos by asking for a greater understanding.
(4) David’s plea to be taught the Torah is a humble admission that without Hashems’s help he will be unable to learn its wisdom by himself.
The primary sources used for the additional insights illuminating this pasuk are listed below.
(1) – אבן עזרא
(2) – ספורנו
(3) – המאירי, מלבי”ם
(4) – בן רמוך