(1) Happy is the man who has not followed the counsel of the wicked,
or taken the path of sinners,
or joined the company of the insolent; (2) rather, the teaching of the LORD is his delight,
and he studies that teaching day and night. (3) He is like a tree planted beside streams of water,
which yields its fruit in season,
whose foliage never fades,
and whatever it produces thrives.-b (4) Not so the wicked;
rather, they are like chaff that wind blows away. (5) Therefore the wicked will not survive judgment,
nor will sinners, in the assembly of the righteous. (6) For the LORD cherishes the way of the righteous,
but the way of the wicked is doomed.(Translation by Robert Alter)
Ashrei אשרי doesn't mean simple happiness, it's perhaps best understood through the Greek concept of Eudaimonia. Eudaimonia, is a Greek word that is often translated as happiness, but it’s really about the feeling that we have reached a place of spiritual meaningfulness. Eudaimonia is about self discovery, development of one’s best potentials, a sense of purpose and meaning in life; investment in the pursuit of excellence; intense involvement in the present state of being; and enjoyment of the reality in which we are in.
The first word of the psalm, ashrei, “happy,” may pun on ashurim, “steps,” and hence reinforce the walking metaphor.
Robert Alter (Art of Biblical Poetry): “The righteous man stands still—indeed, his righteousness may depend on his ability to stand still and reflect upon true things. The wicked are in constant motion, restless, without direction, carried higher and thither by forces over which they exert no control” (116).
דבר אחר כעץ שתול. נטוע אינו אומר אלא שתול. ללמדך שאפילו כל הרוחות שבעולם נושבות בו אין מזיזות אותו ממקומו.
Another interpretation: a tree that is "shatul," well rooted. It doesn't say that it is planted, but rather well rooted. This is to teach you that even if all the winds in the world were to blow upon it, they couldn't move it from its place
והיה כעץ שתול שנטלו הקב"ה ושתלו בגן עדן. אשר פריו יתן בעתו זה קין. ועלהו לא יבול זה הבל. וכל אשר יעשה יצליח זה שת. לא כן הרשעים זה נחש.
A tree that is both well rooted and planted by God, and it is rooted in the Garden of Eden. "its fruit produces at its season," thats Cain. "Its leaves do not wither," that's Abel. "Everything it does succeeds," that's Seth. "Not such with the wicked," that's the snake.
William Brown (Seeing the Psalms): “The psalmist is a cultivator of images…The poet lingers over the stately, arboreal profile of the righteous individual, who remains in a state of continual study and blessed constancy, while passing over the ‘wicked,’ who are only hastily described as wind-driven chaff. Tantamount to nothing, the ‘wicked’ require little poetic reflection; they are gone with the wind. Not so with the ‘righteous’: they steadily flourish under the poet’s lavish attention. The contrast could not be more sharply drawn: the wicked are purely passive, driven away, while the image of the righteous command the position of subject” (56).
Happy are they who keep my ways. (33) Heed discipline and become wise;
Do not spurn it. (34) Happy is the man who listens to me,
Coming early to my gates each day,
Waiting outside my doors. (35) For he who finds me finds life
And obtains favor from the LORD. (36) But he who misses me destroys himself;
All who hate me love death.”
Cursed is he who trusts in man,
Who makes mere flesh his strength,
And turns his thoughts from the LORD. (6) He shall be like a bush in the desert,
Which does not sense the coming of good:
It is set in the scorched places of the wilderness,
In a barren land without inhabitant. (7) Blessed is he who trusts in the LORD,
Whose trust is the LORD alone. (8) He shall be like a tree planted by waters,
Sending forth its roots by a stream:
It does not sense the coming of heat,
Its leaves are ever fresh;
It has no care in a year of drought,
It does not cease to yield fruit.
(יז) רַבִּי אֶלְעָזָר בֶּן עֲזַרְיָה אוֹמֵר. . . . כָּל שֶׁחָכְמָתוֹ מְרֻבָּה מִמַּעֲשָׂיו, לְמַה הוּא דוֹמֶה, לְאִילָן שֶׁעֲנָפָיו מְרֻבִּין וְשָׁרָשָׁיו מֻעָטִין, וְהָרוּחַ בָּאָה וְעוֹקַרְתּוֹ וְהוֹפַכְתּוֹ עַל פָּנָיו, שֶׁנֶּאֱמַר (ירמיה יז) וְהָיָה כְּעַרְעָר בָּעֲרָבָה וְלֹא יִרְאֶה כִּי יָבוֹא טוֹב וְשָׁכַן חֲרֵרִים בַּמִּדְבָּר אֶרֶץ מְלֵחָה וְלֹא תֵשֵׁב. אֲבָל כָּל שֶׁמַּעֲשָׂיו מְרֻבִּין מֵחָכְמָתוֹ, לְמַה הוּא דוֹמֶה, לְאִילָן שֶׁעֲנָפָיו מֻעָטִין וְשָׁרָשָׁיו מְרֻבִּין, שֶׁאֲפִלּוּ כָל הָרוּחוֹת שֶׁבָּעוֹלָם בָּאוֹת וְנוֹשְׁבוֹת בּוֹ אֵין מְזִיזִין אוֹתוֹ מִמְּקוֹמוֹ, שֶׁנֶּאֱמַר (שם) וְהָיָה כְּעֵץ שָׁתוּל עַל מַיִם וְעַל יוּבַל יְשַׁלַּח שָׁרָשָׁיו וְלֹא יִרְאֶה כִּי יָבֹא חֹם, וְהָיָה עָלֵהוּ רַעֲנָן, וּבִשְׁנַת בַּצֹּרֶת לֹא יִדְאָג, וְלֹא יָמִישׁ מֵעֲשׂוֹת פֶּרִי:
(17) Rabbi Elazar ben Azariah said . . . . one whose wisdom exceeds his deeds, to what may he be compared? To a tree whose branches are numerous but whose roots are few, so that when the wind comes, it uproots it and overturns it, as it is said, “He shall be like a bush in the desert, which does not sense the coming of good. It is set in the scorched places of the wilderness, in a barren land without inhabitant” (Jeremiah 17:6). But one whose deeds exceed his wisdom, to what may he be compared? To a tree whose branches are few but roots are many, so that even if all the winds in the world come and blow upon it, they cannot move it out of its place, as it is said, “He shall be like a tree planted by waters, sending forth its roots by a stream. It does not sense the coming of heat, its leaves are ever fresh. It has no care in a year of drought; it does not cease to yield fruit” (ibid, 17:8).
(8) The torah of YHWH is pure, restoring the soul. The testimony of God is firm, bringing wisdom to the foolish(9) The precepts of YHWH are just, bringing gladness to the heart; the mitzvot of YHWH are clear, illuminating the eyes. (10) The awe of God is pure, enduring endlessly; the laws of YHWH are true, and do not contradict justice. (11) More desirable than gold,
than much fine gold;
sweeter than honey,
than drippings of the comb. (12) Your servant carefully follows them;
in obeying them one finds abundance. (13) Who can understand their errors?
Make me clean of my sins that I am not aware of (14) and from intentional sins, keep Your servant;
let them not rule over me;
then shall I be blameless
and clear of grave offense. (15) May the words of my mouth
and the groanings of my heart
be acceptable to You, YHWH, my rock and my rescuer.
The Torah restores the soul; it shows people the path to follow and rescues them from materialistic indulgence and the many pitfalls of life. The Torah thereby liberates the soul from its captivity, restoring her to her natural and glorious state (Radak)
Rabbi Yehuda, son of Rabbi Shimon ben Pazi, said: This verse ["may the words of my mouth and the mediations of my heart..."] is recited after the eighteen blessings comprising the Amida because David only said this verse after eighteen chapters of Psalms (end of ch. 19). Therefore, the Sages instituted to recite it after the eighteen blessings of the Amida.
Do not be vexed by evil men;
do not be incensed by wrongdoers; (2) for they soon wither like grass,
like verdure fade away. (3) Trust in the LORD and do good,
abide in the land and remain loyal. (4) Seek the favor of the LORD,
and He will grant you the desires of your heart. (5) Leave all to the LORD;
trust in Him; He will do it. (6) He will cause your vindication to shine forth like the light,
the justice of your case, like the noonday sun. (7) Be patient and wait for the LORD,
do not be vexed by the prospering man
who carries out his schemes.
(8) Give up anger, abandon fury,
do not be vexed;
it can only do harm. (9) For evil men will be cut off,
but those who look to the LORD—
they shall inherit the land. (10) A little longer and there will be no wicked man;
you will look at where he was—
he will be gone. (11) But the lowly shall inherit the land,
and delight in abundant well-being. (12) The wicked man schemes against the righteous,
and gnashes his teeth at him. (13) The Lord laughs at him,
for He knows that his day will come. (14) The wicked draw their swords, bend their bows,
to bring down the lowly and needy,
to slaughter upright men.-b (15) Their swords shall pierce their own hearts,
and their bows shall be broken. (16) Better the little that the righteous man has
than the great abundance of the wicked. (17) For the arms of the wicked shall be broken,
but the LORD is the support of the righteous. (18) The LORD is concerned for the needs of the blameless;
their portion lasts forever; (19) they shall not come to grief in bad times;
in famine, they shall eat their fill. (20) But the wicked shall perish,
and the enemies of the LORD shall be consumed,
like meadow grass consumed in smoke. (21) The wicked man borrows and does not repay;
the righteous is generous and keeps giving. (22) Those blessed by Him shall inherit the land,
but those cursed by Him shall be cut off. (23) The steps of a man are made firm by the LORD,
when He delights in his way. (24) Though he stumbles, he does not fall down,
for the LORD gives him support. (25) I have been young and am now old,
but I have never seen a righteous man abandoned,
or his children seeking bread. (26) He is always generous, and lends,
and his children are held blessed. (27) Shun evil and do good,
and you shall abide forever. (28) For the LORD loves what is right,
He does not abandon His faithful ones.
They are preserved forever,
while the children of the wicked will be cut off. (29) The righteous shall inherit the land,
and abide forever in it. (30) The mouth of the righteous utters wisdom,
and his tongue speaks what is right. (31) The teaching of his God is in his heart;
his feet do not slip. (32) The wicked watches for the righteous,
seeking to put him to death; (33) the LORD will not abandon him to his power;
He will not let him be condemned in judgment. (34) Look to the LORD and keep to His way,
and He will raise you high that you may inherit the land;
when the wicked are cut off, you shall see it. (35) I saw a wicked man, powerful,
well-rooted like a robust native tree. (36) Suddenly he vanished and was gone;
I sought him, but he was not to be found. (37) Mark the blameless, note the upright,
for there is a future for the man of integrity. (38) But transgressors shall be utterly destroyed,
the future of the wicked shall be cut off. (39) The deliverance of the righteous comes from the LORD,
their stronghold in time of trouble. (40) The LORD helps them and rescues them,
rescues them from the wicked and delivers them,
for they seek refuge in Him.