UNKNOWN ITALIAN ARTIST [VENETO]
King David, from The Rothschild Miscellany, c.1479, Illumination on vellum, 21 x 15.9 cm, The Israel Museum, Jerusalem, MS 180.51 fol.1b, B61.09.0803o.s., Zev Radovan / Art Resource, NY
[Accessed at The Visual Commentary on Scripture, https://thevcs.org/blessed-and-wicked/fruit-its-season]
We looked at this illumination earlier in class 2.
The Hebrew word אשרי / Ashrei / "Happy" refers to Psalm 1:1.
Chazan Zion Falah (Contemporary. Singing according to an Eastern tradition.)
1a. What is "Ashrei"?
"Ashrei" is a liturgical text based on Psalm 145, with two introductory verses and a concluding verse taken from other psalms. The Hebrew word Ashrei (אשרי) means 'happy.' This word appears three times in the introductory verses.
Psalm 145 is often referred to as 'Ashrei' even though that word does not occur in it. Sometimes this psalm is known by its first words, Tehillah leDavid / תהלה לדוד / "[a song of] praise. Of David."
Psalm 145 is an alphabetical acrostic: The verses start with succeeding letters of the Aleph Bet (aleph, bet, gimel, dalet...א,ב,ד,ג), which includes 22 letters. Other psalms with alphabetical acrostics include Psalms 9+10, 25, 34, 111, and 112. In the book of Proverbs, there is the second part of Chapter 31(known as Eishet Chayil/A Woman of Valor).
Alphabetical acrostics are not always complete. In fact, Psalm 145 lacks a verse for the letter Nun נ.
"Ashrei" is traditionally recited 1) as the first of the psalms of Pesukei deZimrah/Verses of Song in the Morning service before the blessings of the Shema (Psalms 145-150); 2) as part of the conclusion of the morning service; and 3) as the opening passage of the Afternoon service.
Ashrei as the first portion of Pesukei deZimra (see our class #2 about Psalm 147)
Rabbinic reflections on "Ashrei"
1b. Our Text(s)
Psalm 144:15 (closing verse of that psalm)
Psalm 115:18 (closing verse of that psalm)
One generation to another generation / dor le-dor / דור לדור (verse 4)
"Molly participates in the 929 initiative with a dedicated group from the Beth Avraham Yoseph of Toronto congregation."
This psalm tells us that each generation will praise and recite God’s deeds to the next. These are the generational remembrances of the epic acts of God, the supernatural events that have highlighted Jewish history. Each generation passes on the memories that have passed down, and adds the knowledge they personally have gained from their own lived experience. While we sometimes mourn our every-increasing temporal distance from the open miracles of biblical times, we are reassured in this psalm that our closeness to God comes, at least in part, from the iterative process of remembering the past and accumulating new memories from every generation.
The attributes of divine mercy (verse 8)
Adonai is good to all (verse 9)
...feeding every creature to its heart's content (ratzon) (v. 16)
Ratzon may be an expression of...
- blessing (as in Deut. 33:23). (God's ratzon)
- generosity (to do something be-ratzon, generously)
- desire (the ratzon of the recipient of God's kindness)
Who is close to God? (v. 18)
"Israel, God’s Chosen People?"
Dr. Rabbi Michael Marmur is Associate Professor of Jewish Theology at Hebrew Union College – Jewish Institute of Religion in Jerusalem.
דברים ז:ו כִּי עַם קָדוֹשׁ אַתָּה לַה' אֱלֹקֶיךָ בְּךָ בָּחַר ה' אֱלֹקֶיךָ לִהְיוֹת לוֹ לְעַם סְגֻלָּה מִכֹּל הָעַמִּים אֲשֶׁר עַל פְּנֵי הָאֲדָמָה:
Deut 7:6 For you are a people kadosh [holy] to YHWH your God: of all the peoples on earth YHWH your God chose you to be His segulah [treasured] people.
Spinoza deployed a number of Biblical verses including Psalm 145:18 to demonstrate that the Hebrew Bible itself acknowledged that God’s grace is bestowed upon all humanity,
תהלים קמה:יח קָרוֹב ה' לְכָל קֹרְאָיו לְכֹל אֲשֶׁר יִקְרָאֻהוּ בֶאֱמֶת.
Ps 145:18 YHWH is near to all who call Him, to all who call Him with sincerity.
The Deuteronomic claim that God holds Israel in special regard, therefore, should not be understood as evidence of capricious Divine choice, but rather a descriptive statement relating to a particular time and place.
All/Every / Kol / כל
The word "kol/ all, every / כל" appears 17 times in Psalm 145.
What do you think this word communicates?
[Chiasms (example: verses 11-12, letters Kaf and Lamed)]
[Envelope Structure (vv. 1 and 21); (84:5 and 115:18)]
praise-bless : praise-bless
[Ashrei is the entire book of Psalms in Miniature: echoes of the beginning of Psalm 1 and the end of Psalm 150]