Why do we say the Psalm “L’Dovid” (Tehillim 27) during the Month of Elul?
This entire month is a preparation for Judgment. These Yomim Tovim are both the culmination of the year and the beginning of the year, the culmination of the Yom Tov Cycle and the beginning of the new year. How does Psalm 27 fit in?
Psalm 27 focuses on our utter dependance on the Ribono shel Olam.
I am going to repeat a passage from Sefer Kol Aryeh which I recently quoted: “Why do we cover our eyes when we say the Shema? To teach us not to look at what happens in this world, not to pay attention to what we see. Because, if we do, we will get very confused and depressed…. In the World to Come … we will [perceive that what we thought was bad was really] good. In the meanwhile, our Sages imparted to us this secret: Don’t look. It’s not what it seems, and don’t be misled ….” (Rav Yaakov Moshe Kulefsky zt”l, Artscroll/ Mesorah)
The only way to get through this world is to focus on the Next World.
“The Chazon Ish’s entire perspective on the world came through his Torah study. A prominent rav once asked him how he could make major halachic decisions without being aware of public opinion…. He answered: ‘I do not rule based on public opinion, but by looking into the Shulchan Aruch. I am not … interested in what the public has to say and what it wants, because one doesn’t decide halacha based on what one sees in the street….’” (In the Shadow of the Great, Feldheim Publishers)
This is how the Chazon Ish was able to replant Torah in Israel after two thousand years.
This is the total secret to success in this world, to avert our eyes from the world in order to live in it. This is tremendously difficult, but in fact we are charged with difficult tasks in order to make our sojourn in this world productive. Since the days of Avraham Avinu, Am Yisroel has taken as its credo to represent the Ribono shel Olam. That means basically that we are fighting the entire world, not only the world around us but also the world inside us, which desires the pleasures of this world.
The world hates us, but the Ribono shel Olam loves us.
“Hashem is my life’s strength. Whom shall I dread? … When evildoers approach me to devour my flesh … it is they who stumble and fall. Though an army would besiege me, my heart would not fear….” (Psalm 27)
Why does it say, “devour my flesh?” Isn’t that a bit strong?
My friends, let’s not be naïve. Wouldn’t our enemies in the Holy Land eat us alive? And what about the Third Reich, ymak shemo. Is this not called “devouring flesh?” The hatred against us is beyond comprehension. Remember, our enemies descend from Esav, who said, “Pour into me, now some of that very red stuff …” (Beraishis 25:30) There is a huge mouth out there which desires to swallow us alive.
It’s not only the other nations. Look what happened when Korach tried to overturn the Ratzon Hashem: “When [Moshe Rabbeinu] finished speaking all these words, the ground … split open … and swallowed them and their households and all the people who were with Korach …” (Bamidbar 16:31-32)
That’s why we have to go beyond this world. There is no protection here. We need to dwell in the World of Truth in order to survive in this world. That is why Dovid says, “One thing I asked of Hashem, that I shall seek: that I dwell in the House of Hashem all the days of my life … Indeed, He will hide me in His shelter on the day of evil….”
As we approach Rosh Hashana, we have to face the reality of the hatred and how we need to go beyond this world in order to save ourselves. In this world we “hope to Hashem” and in the next world we will see there is nothing else besides Hashem. When we cover our eyes during Shema, we affirm that there is nothing in this world that has independent existence. Hashem is Reality. If we don’t grasp onto Him with dvaykus – glue-like intensity – then we don’t exist.
My friends, I have seen the current generation, even Torah-observant children. The pull of this world is almost-irresistible: the pleasures, the food, the electronics, the games, the vacations, the restaurants, the music. It may be called “kosher,” but it is a huge mouth which threatens to swallow us alive! We are in terrible danger.
Years ago, a great rabbi said to me, “If Moshiach doesn’t come soon, there will be no one left for him to come for.” Those terrible words ring in my ear.
“Achas Shoalti .... one thing I desire!” I know that I have to cover my eyes. “Shema, Yisroel!” I have to hear the Voice of Hashem! May Hashem have mercy on us, before it is too late! “Ka’ve el Hashem … Hope to Hashem.” There is no other way. “Ka’ve el Hashem!”
Halacha: Jewish Law
Ratzon Hashem: The Will of G-d
Ribono shel Olam: Master of the Universe, G-d
Shulchan Aruch: Code of Jewish Law
Ymak shemo: May their name be erased
Yomin Tovim: Biblical holidays