כ״ג באב ה׳תשע״ב (August 11, 2012)

Berakhot 10a-b: Recognizing God in Every Stage of Life

Much of today’s daf is devoted to explanations of prophetic verses in the books of Tehillim and Mishlei. One of the passages discussed appears in Eshet Hayil, a section at the end of the Book of Mishlei. Rabbi Yohanan quotes Rabbi Shimon ben Yohai as teaching:

What is the meaning of that which is written: “She opens her mouth with wisdom, and the teaching of loving-kindness is on her tongue” (Mishlei 31:26)? explain that this chapter discusses the wisdom of Torah and those who engage in its study, so with reference to whom did Solomon say this verse? He said this verse about none other than his father, David, who was the clearest example of one who opens his mouth in wisdom, and who resided in five worlds or stages of life and his soul said a song of praise corresponding to each of them. Five times David said: “Bless the Lord, O my soul,” each corresponding to a different stage of life.

He resided in his mother’s womb, his first world, and said a song of praise of the pregnancy, as it is stated: “Of David. Bless the Lord, O my soul and all that is within me bless His holy name” (Tehillim 103:1). He emerged into the atmosphere of the world, his second world, looked upon the stars and constellations and said a song of praise of God for the entirety of creation, as it is stated: “Bless the Lord, His angels, mighty in strength, that fulfill His word, listening to the voice of His word. Bless the Lord, all His hosts, His servants, that do His will. Bless the Lord, all His works, in all places of His kingship, bless my soul, Lord” (Tehillim 103:20-23). David saw the grandeur of all creation and recognized that they are mere servants, carrying out the will of their Creator.
He nursed from his mother’s breast, his third world, and he looked upon her bosom and said a song of praise, as it is stated: “Bless the Lord, O my soul, and do not forget all His benefits [gemulav]” (Tehillim 103:2). The etymological association is between gemulav and gemulei meḥalav, which means weaned from milk (Yeshayahu 28:9).
He witnessed in both vision and reality the downfall of the wicked and he said a song of praise, as it is stated: “Let sinners cease from the earth, and let the wicked be no more. Bless the Lord, O my soul, Halleluya” (Tehillim 104:35).
The fifth world was when David looked upon the day of death and said a song of praise, as it is stated: “Bless the Lord, O my soul. Lord my God, You are very great; You are clothed in glory and majesty” (Tehillim 104:1); for even death is a time of transcendence for the righteous.

In his Ein Ayah, Rav Kook teaches that there is a tremendous difference between looking upon an experience in a superficial manner and reflecting upon it and contemplating it. An individual who merely sees the external will not come to understand the deeper, spiritual significance of a given experience or encounter. Natural events like pregnancy, birth, and nursing may seem to be mundane events experienced by humans and animals alike. However, one with a higher level of spiritual discernment will appreciate the vast difference between man and animal. King David’s songs of praise, uttered at every stage of life, attest to the magnitude of his sensitivity to God’s beneficence and to his appreciation of His role in the world.

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