Kosher Bookworm

Recent Tehillim commentaries 1: Rabbi Davis


Of all of the books that comprise the Holy Bible of the Jewish people, the Psalms — Tehillim — is among the most venerated. This can be seen inasmuch as there are more varied commentaries, and translations, of Tehillim, in all languages, than of any other book outside that of the Torah itself.

This week will be devoted to the recent republication of the classic “Metsudah Tehillim: Linear Edition” by Rabbi Avraham Davis. My remarks will be restricted to Rabbi Davis’ take on the depth of meaning that the Book of Psalms represents in the Jewish literary tradition and of its use in Jewish liturgy.

“All the books of the Bible are G-d’s teachings, revealing, as it were, His Divine message to man,” Rabbi Davis teaches. “Sefer Tehillim, however, is different in one significant respect. In the Torah and the Prophets, G-d speaks to man. In Sefer Tehillim, man addresses G-d. In the other sacred books, G-d reaches out to His people through his prophets, to draw them near to Him. In Sefer Tehillim, man’s soul reaches out to G-d in a constant search for knowledge and nearness to Him. In Sefer Tehillim G-d does not speak to man but He speaks within man.

“Of all the books of the Bible, except for the Torah, Sefer Tehillim has had the greatest influence upon the development of the Jewish mind and spirit. It has truly become the ‘book of the people,’ many of whom recite its chapters with a frequency and fluency that no other sacred book is accorded. It enjoys this popularity because we identify ourselves with the problems and yearnings portrayed in it. We draw strength, comfort and security from its words. It is basically for this reason that we have published this edition in the linear style which has been so widely acclaimed in the Metsudah Siddur.

“This style of linear translation gives the reader an excellent opportunity to understand the meaning of the words while reciting them in the original Hebrew text. It permits him to capture the essence of each praise and prayer. It allows the Tehillim to be ‘said’ without the cumbersome apparatus of lengthy commentaries.”

This short take by Rabbi Davis says it all. He details for us his operational M.O. and thus gives us an effective, practical, and technical path in service to our G-d.

In this upcoming summer season it behooves us to reacquaint ourselves with this precious liturgical medium and to utilize it effectively as we approach the Almighty for whatever we wish to request of him. 

Rabbi Davis’ translation, utilizing an effective English language structure, further serves to enhance both the liturgy’s meaning and our ability to effectively articulate our needs for divine help and response.


Next week I plan to present my take on another new edition of a longtime favorite Tehillim translation, “ Tehillim Eis Ratzon” by Rabbi Yaakov Yosef Iskowitz (Feldheim Publishers).

Also please keep in mind the following new editions of some excellent English commentaries to the Book of Bamidbar for your learning pleasure:

“Born Upon A Spirit: Bamidbar” by Rabbi Shabtai Sabato.

“Chumash with commentary based on the teachings of Rabbi Joseph B. Soloveitchik,” (OU Press).

“The Rav Thinking Aloud: Sefer Bamidbar” (2013) by Rabbi David Holzer.

“Redeeming Relevance in the Book of Numbers” (Urim Publications) by Rabbi Francis Nataf.

“Covenant & Conversation: Numbers — The Wilderness Years” (OU Press, Maggid Books, 2017) by Rabbi Jonathan Sacks.