From Text to Truth: Translating and Unraveling Tehillim 83’s Deeper Layers

24 min read

Tehillim 83 and Kabbalistic Commentary

First, I provide the full text in Hebrew, Sephardic Transliteration, and English. About halfway down the page, I provide Commentary on each verse.

This chapter of Tehillim is a reflection of the Jewish people’s resilience, faith, and unyielding hope in HaShem’s protection and salvation. It resonates with anyone seeking divine guidance and intervention during challenging times.


Translations

Tehillim 83:1:

Hebrew Original:
שִׁיר מִזְמוֹר לְאָסָף

Hebrew Transliteration:
Sheer mizmor l’ahsaf

English Translation:
A song, a psalm of Asaph.

Tehillim 83:2:

Hebrew Original:
אֱלֹהִים אַל-דֳּמִי-לָךְ; אַל-תֶּחֱרַשׁ וְאַל-תִּשְׁקוֹט אֵל

Hebrew Transliteration:
Eloheem ah-l-domi-lakh; ah-l-tekh’eh’rash v’ah-l-teesh’kot eel

English Translation:
O God, do not remain silent; do not turn a deaf ear, do not stand aloof, O God.

Tehillim 83:3:

Hebrew Original:
כִּי הִנֵּה אוֹיְבֶיךָ, יֶהֱמָיוּן; וּמְשַׂנְאֶיךָ, נָשְׂאוּ רֹאשׁ

Hebrew Transliteration:
Ki heeneh oy’veykha, yeh’emayoon; oo-m’san’eykha, nah’s’oo rosh

English Translation:
For behold, Your enemies are in tumult; and those who hate You have raised their head.

Tehillim 83:4:

Hebrew Original:
עַל-עַמְּךָ, יַעֲרִימוּ סוֹד; וְיִתְיָעֲצוּ, עַל-צְפוּנֶיךָ

Hebrew Transliteration:
Ah-l-ahm’kha, ya’ah’reemoo sod; v’yit’ya’atzoo, ah-l-tz’foonekha

English Translation:
Against Your people they plot craftily; they consult together against Your treasured ones.

Tehillim 83:5:

Hebrew Original:
אָמְרוּ, לְכוּ וְנַכְחִידֵם מִגּוֹי; וְלֹא-יִזָּכֵר שֵׁם-יִשְׂרָאֵל עוֹד

Hebrew Transliteration:
Ah’mroo, lekhoo v’nakh’heedeim migoy; v’lo-yiz’khehr shehm-yis’rah’eel od

English Translation:
They have said, “Come, let us wipe them out as a nation; let the name of Israel be remembered no more.”

Tehillim 83:6:

Hebrew Original:
כִּי נוֹעֲצוּ לֵב יַחְדָּו; עָלֶיךָ, בְּרִית יִכְרֹתוּ

Hebrew Transliteration:
Ki no’atzoo lev yah’dav; ah’leykha, b’reet yikh’rotu

English Translation:
For they have conspired with one accord; against You, they make a covenant.

Tehillim 83:7:

Hebrew Original:
אָהֳלֵי אֱדוֹם, וְיִשְׁמְעֵאלִים; מוֹאָב, וְהַגְּרֵי-שֵׁעִיר

Hebrew Transliteration:
Ahoh’lei Edom, v’yish’me’ay’leem; Mo’av, v’hag’ray-she’eer

English Translation:
The tents of Edom and the Ishmaelites; Moab, and the Hagrites of Seir.

Tehillim 83:8:

Hebrew Original:
גְּבָל וַעֲמֹן, וַעֲמָלֵק; פְּלֶשֶׁת, עִם-יֹשְׁבֵי צוֹר

Hebrew Transliteration:
G’val va’ahmon, va’ahma’lek; P’leshet, eem-yosh’vey tzoor

English Translation:
Gebal and Ammon, and Amalek; Philistia with the inhabitants of Tyre.

Tehillim 83:9:

Hebrew Original:
גַּם-אַשּׁוּר, נִלְוָה עִמָּם; הָיוּ זְרוֹעַ לִבְנֵי-לוֹט סֶלָה

Hebrew Transliteration:
Gam-Ashoor, nil’vah eem’mam; hayoo z’roah liv’ney-lot selah

English Translation:
Assyria also has joined with them; they have become an arm for the descendants of Lot. Selah.

Tehillim 83:10:

Hebrew Original:
עֲשֵׂה-לָהֶם כְּמִדְיָן; כְּסִיסְרָא, כְּיָבִין, בְּנַחַל קִישׁוֹן

Hebrew Transliteration:
A’seh-lahem k’mid’yan; k’sis’ra, k’yaveen, b’nakhal kee’shon

English Translation:
Do to them as You did to Midian; as to Sisera, as to Jabin at the brook of Kishon.

Tehillim 83:11:

Hebrew Original:
שִׁמְּדוּ בְאֵין-דֹּעַר; הָיוּ דֹּמֶן, לָאֲדָמָה

Hebrew Transliteration:
Shim’m’doo b’ayn-do’ar; hayoo domehn, la’ahda’mah

English Translation:
Who were destroyed at En-dor; they became like dung for the ground.

Tehillim 83:12:

Hebrew Original:
שִׁיתֵמוֹ, נְדִיבֵיהֶם, כְּעֹרֵב וּכְזֵעֵב; וּכְזֶבַח, וּכְצַלְמֻנָּע, כֹּל נְסִיכֵיהֶם

Hebrew Transliteration:
Shee’te’mo, n’di’ve’hem, k’orev oo’k’zeh’ev; oo’k’ze’bah, oo’k’tzal’mun’na, kol n’see’khe’hem

English Translation:
Make their nobles like Oreb and Zeeb, and all their princes like Zebah and Zalmunna.

Tehillim 83:13:

Hebrew Original:
אֲשֶׁר אָמְרוּ, נִירְשָׁה לָּנוּ– אֶת-נְאוֹת אֱלֹהִים

Hebrew Transliteration:
A’sher ah’m’roo, neer’shah lah’noo– et-ne’ot Eloheem

English Translation:
Who said, “Let us possess for ourselves the pastures of God.”

Tehillim 83:14:

Hebrew Original:
אֱלֹהַי, שִׂימֵם כַּגַּלְגַּל; כְּקַשׁ, לִפְנֵי-רוּחַ

Hebrew Transliteration:
Elohai, see’meem ka’gal’gal; k’kash, lif’ney-ru’ah

English Translation:
O my God, make them like the whirling dust; like chaff before the wind.

Tehillim 83:15:

Hebrew Original:
כְּאֵשׁ, תִּבְעַר-יָעַר; וּכְלֶהָבָה, תְּלַהֵט הָרִים

Hebrew Transliteration:
K’esh, tiv’ar-ya’ar; oo’klehavah, te’la’het ha’reem

English Translation:
As fire burns a forest, and as the flame sets the mountains ablaze.

Tehillim 83:16:

Hebrew Original:
כֵּן, תִּרְדְּפֵם בְּסַעֲרֶךָ; וּבְסוּפָתְךָ, תְּבַהֲלֵם

Hebrew Transliteration:
Ken, tir’de’fem b’sa’arekha; oo’b’soo’fa’tekha, te’vah’a’lem

English Translation:
So, pursue them with Your tempest and terrify them with Your storm.

Tehillim 83:17:

Hebrew Original:
מַלֵּא, פְנֵיהֶם קָלוֹן; וִיבַקְשׁוּ שִׁמְךָ, יְהוָה

Hebrew Transliteration:
Mal’ay, f’nei’hem kalon; vi’bak’shoo shim’kha, YHVH

English Translation:
Fill their faces with disgrace, that they may seek Your name, O HaShem.

Tehillim 83:18:

Hebrew Original:
יֵבֹשׁוּ וְיִבָּהֲלוּ עֲדֵי-עַד; וִיחַפְּרוּ, וְיֹאבֵדוּ

Hebrew Transliteration:
Yeh’bo’shoo v’yib’ah’loo ah’dei-ad; vi’khah’p’roo, v’yo’eh’ve’doo

English Translation:
Let them be ashamed and dismayed forever, and let them be confounded and perish.

Tehillim 83:19:

Hebrew Original:
וְיֵדְעוּ, כִּי-אַתָּה שִׁמְךָ יְהוָה– לְבַדְּךָ, עֶלְיוֹן, עַל-כָּל-הָאָרֶץ

Hebrew Transliteration:
V’yeh’d’oo, ki-attah shim’kha YHVH– levad’d’kha, el’yone, al-kol-ha’aretz

English Translation:
That they may know that You alone, whose name is HaShem, are the Most High over all the earth.


Commentary

Tehillim 83 is a fervent prayer attributed to Asaph, a Levite musician and prophet who served in the Tabernacle. This Psalm is a plea to HaShem for protection and intervention against a confederation of Israel’s adversaries that conspire to wipe out the Jewish nation. The Psalm enumerates these foes, evoking past battles and seeking divine intervention similar to historical victories.

The adversaries listed are not just historical enemies but symbolize broader spiritual challenges that the Jewish people face, both externally and internally. The Psalm serves as a timeless reminder of the eternal bond between the Jewish people and HaShem, emphasizing reliance on divine providence even in the face of overwhelming adversity.

When delving into the sod, “the deepest secrets” of a particular text, we approach each verse with the aim of uncovering its most profound spiritual implications, often touching on Kabbalistic concepts.

Let us begin with the first verse of Tehillim 83, and explore its deeper implications in the realm of sod:

Tehillim 83:1:
“שִׁיר מִזְמוֹר לְאָסָף”

English Translation:
“A song, a psalm of Asaph.”

Exploration:
The mention of “שִׁיר” (song) and “מִזְמוֹר” (psalm) suggests two distinct forms of divine connection. In Kabbalistic teachings, a “song” often represents an elevated, transcendent connection to HaShem – it’s the soul’s spontaneous outpouring of emotion, much like the birds that sing without a particular reason. On the other hand, a “psalm” represents a more structured, conscious, and deliberate approach to the Divine. The combination of both in this verse hints at the balance and integration of heart and mind in our relationship with HaShem.

Furthermore, the name “אָסָף” (Asaph) is significant. Asaph was not only a Levite musician but also a prophet. In the realm of “sod”, names carry profound spiritual significance. The name Asaph can be broken down to “אסף” which means “to gather” or “to collect”. This could represent the gathering of divine sparks, a central theme in Kabbalah, where every action we do can elevate and gather these sparks back to their source.

Tehillim 83:2:
“אֱלֹהִים אַל-דֳּמִי-לָךְ; אַל-תֶּחֱרַשׁ וְאַל-תִּשְׁקוֹט אֵל”

English Translation:
“O God, do not remain silent; do not turn a deaf ear, do not stand aloof, O God.”

Exploration:
This verse conveys a deep yearning for HaShem’s intervention and presence. The repetition of the request – not to be silent, not to be still, and not to stand aloof – might allude to different spiritual states or realms in Kabbalistic thought.

In the realm of Kabbalah, “אֱלֹהִים” (Elohim) is associated with the sefirah of Gevurah, the attribute of judgment and restraint. This Name represents the concealed aspect of the Divine, where HaShem’s presence is hidden and not readily apparent in the world. The plea “אַל-דֳּמִי-לָךְ” (do not remain silent) might hint at a desire for the Divine light to penetrate the veils of concealment, to illuminate the darkness, and to bring clarity where there is confusion.

“אַל-תֶּחֱרַשׁ” (do not turn a deaf ear) and “אַל-תִּשְׁקוֹט” (do not stand aloof) further emphasize the yearning for a closer, more intimate connection with the Divine, to feel HaShem’s presence and guidance in every facet of existence. In the language of Kabbalah, this could be seen as a call for the unification of the sefirot of Chesed (kindness) and Gevurah (judgment), to bring about a harmonious flow of divine energy into the world.

Tehillim 83:3:
“כִּי הִנֵּה אוֹיְבֶיךָ, יֶהֱמָיוּן; וּמְשַׂנְאֶיךָ, נָשְׂאוּ רֹאשׁ”

English Translation:
“For behold, Your enemies are in tumult; and those who hate You have raised their head.”

Exploration:
On a surface level, this verse refers to the physical enemies of the Jewish people. However, on a deeper, esoteric level, it can be understood as referring to spiritual challenges and the forces of impurity in the world.

The term “אוֹיְבֶיךָ” (Your enemies) can represent the negative forces or klipot (shells) that obscure the divine light. In Kabbalistic thought, klipot are spiritual barriers that hide the true essence of HaShem from our perception. The tumultuous state of these enemies, “יהֱמָיוּן” (in tumult), could signify the chaos and instability inherent in a world that is distant from its divine source.

The phrase “מְשַׂנְאֶיךָ, נָשְׂאוּ רֹאשׁ” (those who hate You have raised their head) is particularly profound. Raising one’s head can signify arrogance and pride. In a spiritual sense, it might symbolize how these forces of negativity and impurity can sometimes appear dominant in the world, challenging the sovereignty of HaShem.

This verse is a poignant reflection of the spiritual battles that we face in our journey toward closeness with HaShem, emphasizing the importance of seeking divine guidance and protection against these adversarial forces.

Tehillim 83:4:
“עַל-עַמְּךָ, יַעֲרִימוּ סוֹד; וְיִתְיָעֲצוּ, עַל-צְפוּנֶיךָ”

English Translation:
“Against Your people they plot craftily; they consult together against Your treasured ones.”

Exploration:
The verse speaks of secret plots and consultations against HaShem’s chosen ones. In the realm of “sod”, this can be seen as a reference to the hidden challenges that the soul faces in its journey towards spiritual elevation.

The word “סוֹד” (secret) is deeply resonant in Kabbalistic thought. While it literally means secret, it also denotes the deepest, most esoteric teachings of the Torah. The fact that the enemies are plotting a “סוֹד” against the people suggests that these adversarial forces aim to obstruct our access to the deepest spiritual truths.

“צְפוּנֶיךָ” (Your treasured ones) holds another layer of depth. The root “צפן” means hidden or concealed. This can refer to the hidden souls, the righteous individuals or tzaddikim, who sustain the world through their righteous deeds, often unbeknownst to those around them. The plotting against these individuals is a plotting against the spiritual pillars of the world.

In the grand tapestry of creation, where every action in the physical realm mirrors a spiritual reality, this verse evokes the constant tension between the forces of purity and impurity, and the hidden battles waged in the celestial realms that influence our lives.

Tehillim 83:5:
“אָמְרוּ, לְכוּ וְנַכְחִידֵם מִגּוֹי; וְלֹא-יִזָּכֵר שֵׁם-יִשְׂרָאֵל עוֹד”

English Translation:
“They have said, ‘Come, let us wipe them out as a nation; let the name of Israel be remembered no more.'”

Exploration:
The verse portrays the enemies’ intent to obliterate the very memory of Israel. While this can be understood historically as various nations’ attempts to eradicate the Jewish people, in the realm of “sod”, it alludes to deeper spiritual battles.

The name “יִשְׂרָאֵל” (Israel) is not just a reference to the Jewish people but is symbolic of the soul’s divine mission. The name itself can be dissected into “ישר-אל”, meaning “straight to God”, indicating a direct and devoted path towards the Divine. To erase the name of “Israel” is an attempt by the forces of impurity to sever our connection with HaShem and hinder our spiritual ascent.

Moreover, the notion of obliterating Israel “as a nation” (מִגּוֹי) hints at the collective power and unity of the Jewish people. In Kabbalah, it is believed that every Jewish soul is interconnected, forming a collective entity that has the power to draw down divine blessings. The enemies’ desire to wipe out Israel “as a nation” is a scheme to break this unity and collective strength.

Tehillim 83:6:
“אָהֳלֵי אֱדוֹם, וְיִשְׁמְעֵאלִים; מוֹאָב, וְהַגְּרֵי-שֵׁעִיר”

English Translation:
“The tents of Edom and the Ishmaelites; Moab, and the Hagrites of Seir.”

Exploration:
This verse lists specific nations that are traditionally seen as adversaries of Israel. In the realm of “sod”, these nations symbolize various spiritual challenges and negative attributes that hinder our connection to HaShem.

Edom (אֱדוֹם): Traditionally associated with the descendants of Esau, Jacob’s twin brother. In Kabbalistic thought, Edom represents the force of gevurah (severity or judgment) when it’s unbalanced. It can also symbolize the ego and the desire for physicality over spirituality.

Ishmaelites (יִשְׁמְעֵאלִים): Descendants of Ishmael, Abraham’s son. They represent the challenge of hedonism and the pursuit of physical pleasure over spiritual purpose. The very name “Ishmael” contains the Hebrew word “שמע” (hear), hinting at a superficial form of hearing without true understanding or depth.
Moab (מוֹאָב): Descendants of Lot, Abraham’s nephew. The Moabites symbolize the result of blurring moral boundaries, as their nation’s inception came from an act of incest between Lot and his daughter.

Hagrites of Seir (הַגְּרֵי-שֵׁעִיר): The inhabitants of Mount Seir. The term “שֵׁעִיר” is related to the word for “hair” in Hebrew, symbolizing externalities. The Hagrites represent an attachment to external appearances and superficialities over inner substance.
In the spiritual journey, these nations represent internal adversaries – negative traits and inclinations that one must overcome to draw closer to HaShem. By identifying and understanding these symbolic adversaries, one can better navigate the spiritual battles that lie ahead.

Tehillim 83:7:
“גְּבָל וַעֲמֹן, וַעֲמָלֵק; פְּלֶשֶׁת, עִם-יֹשְׁבֵי צוֹר”

English Translation:
“Gebal and Ammon, and Amalek; Philistia with the inhabitants of Tyre.”

Exploration:
The continuation of the list of adversaries presents further spiritual challenges and obstacles:

Gebal (גְּבָל): The name “Gebal” is related to the Hebrew word “גבול” (boundary). In the realm of “sod”, Gebal can represent the challenges posed by boundaries, both real and imagined, that confine and limit our spiritual growth.
Ammon (עֲמֹן): Descendants of Lot’s other daughter, Ammon represents, similar to Moab, the consequences of blurred moral lines and the challenges of maintaining moral clarity in a world filled with ambiguity.
Amalek (עֲמָלֵק): Among the most potent of spiritual adversaries, Amalek embodies doubt and spiritual apathy. In Kabbalistic teachings, Amalek seeks to cool our enthusiasm and passion for serving HaShem. It represents the forces that attempt to make us question our faith and purpose.

Philistia (פְּלֶשֶׁת): Traditionally enemies of the Israelites, Philistia can symbolize materialism and the temptation to prioritize physical comforts and gains over spiritual pursuits.

Inhabitants of Tyre (יֹשְׁבֵי צוֹר): Tyre was known for its wealth and commerce. The inhabitants of Tyre can symbolize the allure of material wealth and the challenges it poses to maintaining spiritual priorities. Tyre’s name in Hebrew, “צוֹר”, means rock, possibly hinting at the hardness or rigidity of being overly attached to material pursuits.

As we navigate our spiritual path, understanding these symbolic adversaries can equip us to better recognize and counteract the challenges they present. Each one offers a unique test, urging us to refine our character and deepen our connection to HaShem.

Tehillim 83:8:
“גַּם-אַשּׁוּר, נִלְוָה עִמָּם; הָיוּ זְרוֹעַ, לִבְנֵי-לוֹט סֶּלָה”

English Translation:
“Assyria too has joined with them; they have become a help to the children of Lot. Selah.”

Exploration:
Assyria (אַשּׁוּר): Historically, the Assyrian empire was a significant and harsh adversary to the Israelites. In the realm of “sod”, Assyria embodies the concept of strict judgment and severity. The Hebrew word “אַשּׁוּר” is related to the term “יָשַׁר” (straight). This can symbolize a rigid, inflexible approach, potentially representing challenges in life where there seems to be no room for leniency or flexibility, forcing us to rely solely on our faith in HaShem.

Children of Lot (בְנֵי-לוֹט): As previously mentioned, the descendants of Lot, Moab and Ammon, represent blurred moral boundaries. Here, in association with Assyria, it can symbolize the combination of rigid judgment and moral ambiguity. This powerful duo represents situations where not only are we faced with strict challenges, but the path of righteousness is unclear.

Selah (סֶּלָה): This term, often found at the end of verses in Tehillim, is deeply significant in the realm of “sod”. While its exact meaning remains somewhat elusive, Kabbalists understand it as an invitation to pause and reflect, to ascend spiritually, and to integrate the teachings of the verse on a deeper level.
The collaboration of Assyria with the children of Lot paints a picture of compounded challenges: the rigid force of judgment coupled with murky moral waters. Such challenges compel us to delve deeper into our reservoirs of faith, seeking guidance and clarity from HaShem in our journey.

Tehillim 83:9:
“עֲשֵׂה-לָהֶם, כְּמִדְיָן; כְּסִיסְרָא, כְּיָבִין– בְּנַחַל קִישׁוֹן”

English Translation:
“Do to them as [You did] to Midian; as to Sisera, as to Jabin at the brook of Kishon.”

Exploration:
Midian (מִדְיָן): The Midianites represent the allure of idolatry and immorality. In the Torah, the Midianites were responsible for leading the Israelites astray through idol worship and immoral behavior. On a deeper level, in the realm of “sod”, Midian can symbolize the inner temptations that divert us from our spiritual path and our connection to HaShem.

Sisera and Jabin (סִיסְרָא, יָבִין): Sisera, the commander of King Jabin’s army, and King Jabin himself were adversaries of the Israelites during the time of the Judges. They represent oppressive forces that sought to dominate and subjugate Israel. In the spiritual realm, they can symbolize the challenges of external pressures and influences that threaten to overwhelm our spiritual identity.

Brook of Kishon (נַחַל קִישׁוֹן): This is where Sisera’s army was decisively defeated by the forces of Deborah and Barak. The waters of the brook swelled, leading to the enemy’s downfall. Water, in Kabbalistic thought, often represents Torah and divine wisdom. The brook’s swelling can be seen as a surge of divine intervention and guidance. It’s a reminder that when faced with overwhelming challenges, immersion in Torah and seeking HaShem’s wisdom can lead to salvation.

The verse serves as a prayer, asking HaShem to intervene and act towards the adversaries as He did in the past, drawing from historical victories to inspire hope and faith for current and future challenges.

Tehillim 83:10:
“נִשְׁמְדוּ בְאֵידוֹעַ; הָיוּ דֹּמֶן, לָאֲדָמָה”

English Translation:
“Who were destroyed at Ein-dor; they became like dung for the earth.”

Exploration:
Ein-dor (אֵידוֹעַ): This location is historically significant. It’s the place where King Saul sought the counsel of the witch of Ein-dor on the eve of his final battle. In the realm of “sod”, Ein-dor can represent places or moments of spiritual vulnerability, where, in moments of desperation or uncertainty, one might be tempted to seek answers outside the boundaries of Torah.

Dung for the earth (דֹּמֶן, לָאֲדָמָה): The imagery here is potent. Those who were adversaries of Israel and opposed the Divine will ended up like dung, a substance discarded and trampled upon. In a spiritual sense, this can represent the ultimate fate of actions, thoughts, and inclinations that are contrary to the divine purpose. Just as dung, over time, becomes absorbed into the earth and contributes to its fertility, even the negative forces, when rectified, can be transformed and contribute to spiritual growth.

This verse emphasizes the transient nature of those who oppose HaShem and His chosen ones. It serves as a reminder that while challenges and adversaries may appear formidable, with faith and divine assistance, they too can be transformed into agents of growth and elevation.

Tehillim 83:11:
“שִׁיתֵמוֹ, נְדִיבֵיהֶם, כְּעוֹרֵב– וּכְזֵאב; וְכַזְּבַח וּכְצַלְמֻנָּע, כֹּל, נְסִיכִים”

English Translation:
“Make their nobles like Oreb and Zeeb, all their princes like Zebah and Zalmunna.”

Exploration:
Oreb and Zeeb (עוֹרֵב, זֵאב): These were leaders of the Midianites, defeated by Gideon and the Israelites. Their names are significant in Hebrew. “עוֹרֵב” means raven, a bird often associated with omens and mystery. “זֵאב” translates to wolf, a symbol of predatory behavior and danger. In the spiritual realm, they may symbolize the dark, mysterious forces that lurk, ready to prey on moments of spiritual weakness.

Zebah and Zalmunna (זְּבַח, צַלְמֻנָּע): These were kings of Midian, who were also defeated by Gideon. Their names carry deep implications. “זְּבַח” means sacrifice, suggesting the idea of surrender or giving up, while “צַלְמֻנָּע” can be broken down into “צֵל” (shadow) and “מֻנָּע” (withheld or restrained). It hints at the shadows or dark areas in our lives where divine light seems withheld or obscured.

The verse serves as a prayer, asking HaShem to deal with the current adversaries as He did with these ancient foes. In a deeper sense, it’s a plea to help us overcome our inner challenges, those dark areas in our spiritual journey, and the forces that prey on our vulnerabilities.

Tehillim 83:12:
“אֲשֶׁר אָמְרוּ, נִירְשָׁה, לָּנוּ– אֵת, נְאוֹת אֱלֹהִים”

English Translation:
“Who said, ‘Let us possess for ourselves the pastures of God.'”

Exploration:
“נִירְשָׁה, לָּנוּ” (Let us possess for ourselves): The desire of the adversaries to “possess” suggests an urge to control or dominate. In spiritual terms, this might represent the ego’s attempts to assert dominance over one’s divine soul, pushing it aside in favor of worldly pursuits and desires.

“נְאוֹת אֱלֹהִים” (the pastures of God): In the literal sense, this phrase refers to the lush, fertile lands of Israel. However, delving deeper, “נְאוֹת” (pastures) can symbolize spiritual sustenance, the divine teachings, and the rich spiritual experiences that nurture and feed the soul. Thus, the adversaries’ desire to take over these “pastures” represents an attempt to divert or deprive one’s soul of its spiritual nourishment.

The verse paints a picture of the constant struggle between the material and spiritual, the ego and the soul, for dominance and control over one’s inner landscape. It underscores the importance of safeguarding our spiritual pastures, ensuring that they remain a source of nourishment and connection to HaShem.

Tehillim 83:13:
“אֱלֹהַי, שִׁיתֵמוֹ כַגַּלְגַּל; כַּקַּשׁ, לִפְנֵי-רוּחַ”

English Translation:
“My God, make them like the whirling dust, like chaff before the wind.”

Exploration:
“כַגַּלְגַּל” (like the whirling dust): Dust, in its essence, is fragmented, dispersed, and without form. When it whirls, it’s unstable and directionless. In the spiritual realm, this can symbolize confusion, lack of clarity, or being unanchored from one’s spiritual foundations. The plea to make the adversaries like whirling dust is a request to HaShem to render their efforts aimless and ineffective.

“כַּקַּשׁ, לִפְנֵי-רוּחַ” (like chaff before the wind): Chaff is the outer husk of grains, which is separated and discarded during the threshing process. Being lightweight, it’s easily carried away by even a gentle breeze. This imagery represents the superficial, transient nature of falsehood and negativity. When faced with the “wind” or breath of divine truth, these superficialities are blown away, revealing the essential grain or truth beneath.

Both metaphors emphasize the fleeting nature of opposition when faced with divine truth and righteousness. They offer solace in the understanding that even though challenges might seem formidable, with faith and divine assistance, they can be dispersed and overcome, much like dust in the wind or chaff separated from the grain.

Tehillim 83:14:
“כְּאֵשׁ, תִּבְעַר-יָעַר; וּכְלֶהָבָה, תְּלַהֵט הָרִים”

English Translation:
“As fire consumes a forest, and as a flame sets the mountains ablaze.”

Exploration:
“כְּאֵשׁ, תִּבְעַר-יָעַר” (As fire consumes a forest): Fire, with its transformative power, has the capacity to quickly and entirely consume a forest, reducing it to ash. Spiritually, the forest can represent dense, entangled situations or challenges that seem overwhelming. The fire symbolizes the purifying force of divine intervention, cutting through complications and illuminating the path forward.

“כְלֶהָבָה, תְּלַהֵט הָרִים” (As a flame sets the mountains ablaze): Mountains, in their grandeur and solidity, often represent challenges or obstacles that seem insurmountable. The flame here is a metaphor for the divine light, passion, and inspiration. Just as a small flame can set an entire mountain ablaze, a spark of divine inspiration can help us overcome even the most daunting challenges.

Both images convey the immense power of faith and divine assistance in overcoming adversities. When we invite the purifying fire of HaShem’s presence into our lives, even the thickest forests of confusion and the tallest mountains of challenges can be surmounted.

Tehillim 83:15:
“כֵּן, תִּרְדְּפֵם בְּסַעֲרֶךָ; וּבְסוּפָתְךָ, תְּבַהֲלֵם”

English Translation:
“So may You pursue them with Your tempest and terrify them with Your storm.”

Exploration:
“בְּסַעֲרֶךָ” (With Your tempest): A tempest is a powerful, turbulent storm. In the spiritual realm, it can symbolize the overwhelming force of divine retribution or corrective action. This is not merely a force of destruction but a transformative power, reshaping and refining the spiritual landscape.

“בְסוּפָתְךָ, תְּבַהֲלֵם” (Terrify them with Your storm): The storm, with its suddenness and intensity, represents moments of divine revelation that can upend our understanding and perspective. It’s a force that can bring about deep introspection and change. The term “תְּבַהֲלֵם” (terrify them) speaks to the awe and reverence one feels when confronted with the might and majesty of HaShem.

This verse is a plea for divine intervention against the adversaries. But on a deeper level, it’s also an acknowledgment of the power of divine experiences to bring about transformation, both in challenging the adversaries and refining the soul. These intense experiences, like storms, can be disruptive, but they also have the potential to cleanse, refresh, and renew.

Tehillim 83:16:
“מַלֵּא פְנֵיהֶם, קָלוֹן; וִיבַקְשׁוּ, שִׁמְךָ יְהוָה”

English Translation:
“Fill their faces with shame, that they may seek Your name, O HaShem.”

Exploration:
“מַלֵּא פְנֵיהֶם, קָלוֹן” (Fill their faces with shame): Shame, in its essence, is a realization of one’s own shortcomings or misdeeds. On a deeper level, it can be seen as a form of divine awakening, prompting the soul to recognize its deviations from its true purpose. This is not about humiliation but about spurring a process of introspection and return.

“וִיבַקְשׁוּ, שִׁמְךָ יְהוָה” (That they may seek Your name, O HaShem): The ultimate purpose of this awakening or realization of shame is not to push one into despair, but to direct them towards HaShem. Seeking His name is an endeavor to understand His essence, to connect more deeply, and to align one’s life with divine purpose.

The verse beautifully encapsulates the idea that challenges, missteps, and realizations are not ends in themselves but means to bring us closer to HaShem. Even in moments of profound realization of our shortcomings, the ultimate goal is to turn to Him, seeking His guidance, mercy, and presence.

Tehillim 83:17:
“יֵבֹשׁוּ וְיִבָּהֲלוּ, עֲדֵי-עַד; וְיַחְפְּרוּ, וְיֹאבֵדוּ”

English Translation:
“Let them be ashamed and dismayed forever; let them be confounded and perish.”

Exploration:
“יֵבֹשׁוּ וְיִבָּהֲלוּ” (Let them be ashamed and dismayed): As we’ve explored, shame is a profound realization of one’s distance from the divine path. To be “dismayed” further amplifies this sense, leading to a profound internal reevaluation. Together, these feelings can catalyze a return to HaShem.

“וְיַחְפְּרוּ, וְיֹאבֵדוּ” (Let them be confounded and perish): This is not merely a call for physical destruction. On a deeper level, “confounded” suggests a profound inner turmoil, a grappling with one’s actions and intentions. “Perish” symbolizes the end of negative traits and inclinations, a cessation of actions that distance one from the divine.
The verse, in essence, is a call for the transformation of adversaries. The profound realizations and the resulting inner turmoil are meant to guide them away from actions that oppose the divine will, leading them towards a path of righteousness and closeness to HaShem.

Tehillim 83:18:
“וְיֵדְעוּ, כִּי-אַתָּה שִׁמְךָ יְהוָה– לְבַדְּךָ, עֶלְיוֹן, עַל-כָּל-הָאָרֶץ”

English Translation:
“And may they know that You, whose name alone is HaShem, are the Most High over all the earth.”

Exploration:
“וְיֵדְעוּ, כִּי-אַתָּה שִׁמְךָ יְהוָה” (And may they know that You, whose name alone is HaShem): This is the core of the message. The ultimate goal is not merely the defeat of adversaries but their realization and acknowledgment of HaShem’s sovereignty. Recognizing “שִׁמְךָ יְהוָה” means understanding the essence of HaShem and His immeasurable, infinite nature.

“עֶלְיוֹן, עַל-כָּל-הָאָרֶץ” (Most High over all the earth): The title “עֶלְיוֹן” (Most High) underscores HaShem’s transcendence above all of creation, not just in a physical sense, but in all realms of existence. He is above all in His knowledge, wisdom, and dominion. Recognizing this is key to understanding one’s place in the universe and the imperative to align one’s will with the divine.

Tehillim 83:19:
“וִידְעוּ, כִּי אַתָּה שְׁמֶךָ יְהוָה–לְבַדֶּךָ”

English Translation:
“And let them know that You, Your name is HaShem, are alone.”

Exploration:
“וִידְעוּ, כִּי אַתָּה שְׁמֶךָ יְהוָה” (And let them know that You, Your name is HaShem): This is an emphasis on the profound understanding that HaShem is the singular force behind all existence. “שְׁמֶךָ יְהוָה” is not just a name, but an encapsulation of the essence of God – He who was, is, and will be.

“לְבַדֶּךָ” (are alone): This signifies HaShem’s uniqueness and oneness. It underscores the fundamental Jewish belief in monotheism. On a deeper level, it’s a declaration that all existence emanates from a singular divine source, and all of creation is interconnected through this oneness.

This verse echoes the central Jewish tenet of the Shema: “Hear, O Israel: HaShem our God, HaShem is one.” It’s a call for universal recognition of HaShem’s oneness and sovereignty. In the context of the Psalm, it’s a prayer that even the adversaries come to this profound realization, leading to a world unified in its recognition of the divine.

Conclusion

Exploring Tehillim 83 as a whole, we see it’s a plea for HaShem to act against a coalition of enemies who seek to annihilate the Jewish people. Yet, like many Psalms, its deeper layers reveal universal and timeless spiritual truths.

When we face challenges, whether external adversaries or internal struggles, the Psalms teach us to turn to HaShem for guidance, protection, and salvation. The specific adversaries named in this Psalm represent not just historical foes but also various spiritual challenges and obstacles in our journey towards divine connection.

The plea to HaShem is not just for retribution but for transformation – that these adversaries, both external and internal, come to recognize the sovereignty and majesty of HaShem. This Psalm underscores the belief that even in the face of overwhelming adversity, with faith and divine assistance, transformation and elevation are possible.

Drawing from the wellsprings of our tradition, the teachings of Rabbi Shimon Kessin, Rabbi Isaac Luria, Rabbi Moshe Chaim Luzzatto, and others, we understand that every challenge, every adversary, is an opportunity for growth, introspection, and deepening our connection to HaShem. The Psalmist’s words resonate through time, reminding us of the eternal bond between the Jewish people and the Creator and the journey of the soul in its quest for divine closeness.

 

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