The traditional month of preparation for the Fall Feasts of the Lord is called Elul, an acronym for Ani l’dodi v’dodi li — “I am my beloved’s and my beloved is mine” (Song of Songs 6:3). Elul began on Aug. 26, 2014 and will end at sunset on Sept. 24. It is a month for preparing the heart for the special “moedim” or appointments that God has ordained for His children every year in the autumn season.
The God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob proclaims, “The feasts of the LORD, which you shall proclaim to be holy convocations, these are My feasts” (Lev. 23:2). They are more than just the “Jewish Holidays.” They are God’s feasts! Those that occur in the fall include Yom Teruah (aka Rosh Hashana, Sept. 24 PM – 26 PM, Yom Kippur October 3 PM – October 4 PM, and Sukkot or Tabernacles October 8 PM – October 15 PM.
Jewish people all over the world recite Psalm 27 daily throughout the entire month of Elul, as well as during the Ten Days of Repentance (Days of Awe) in between Yom Teruah and Yom Kippur. Many continue to recite Psalm 27 throughout the Festival of Sukkot.
What’s so special about Psalm 27 that all Israel recites it at this holiday season? Traditional rabbis say that this psalm combats sin by teaching God’s people how to prevent it at its source—through single-minded dedication to God—One goal—One thing. They also find veiled references to the three fall feasts in the psalm. Let us join all Israel this year, and make Psalm 27 part of our daily worship. We have found it to be very timely, instructional, and encouraging. May our brief d’rash (commentary), help you uncover some of the treasures hidden in the Jewish roots of Psalm 27.
1 The Lord is my light and my salvation; whom shall I fear? The Lord is the strength of my life; of whom shall I be afraid? 2 When the wicked came against me to eat up my flesh, my enemies and foes, they stumbled and fell. 3 Though an army may encamp against me, my heart shall not fear; though war may rise against me, in this I will be confident. 4 One thing I have desired of the Lord, that will I seek: that I may dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life, to behold the beauty of the Lord, and to inquire in His temple. 5 For in the time of trouble He shall hide me in His pavilion; in the secret place of His tabernacle He shall hide me; He shall set me high upon a rock. 6 And now my head shall be lifted up above my enemies all around me; therefore I will offer sacrifices of joy in His tabernacle; I will sing, yes, I will sing praises to the Lord. 7 Hear, O Lord, when I cry with my voice! Have mercy also upon me, and answer me. 8 When You said, “Seek My face,” my heart said to You, “Your face, Lord, I will seek.” 9 Do not hide Your face from me; do not turn Your servant away in anger; you have been my help; do not leave me nor forsake me, O God of my salvation. 10 When my father and my mother forsake me, then the Lord will take care of me. 11 Teach me Your way, O Lord, and lead me in a smooth path, because of my enemies. 12 Do not deliver me to the will of my adversaries; for false witnesses have risen against me, and such as breathe out violence. 13 I would have lost heart, unless I had believed that I would see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living. 14 Wait on the Lord; be of good courage, and He shall strengthen your heart; wait, I say, on the Lord!
My Light, My Salvation, My strength (Verse 1)
My light—ori (o-REE) אוריּ in Hebrew, is referring to a spiritual light. It has been said that God aids our repentance by revealing how Bright and Clear He is, as contrasted to our spiritual darkness. This connects Psalm 27 with Yom Teruah, when we allow the light of God to search our hearts and reveal our sin. An ancient rabbinic comment gives us food for thought: “God provides light in direct proportion to a person’s desire and striving for it.”
My salvation—yi-SHEE ( ישעיּ ) in Hebrew, is the psalm’s connection with Yom Kippur. After perceiving light and truth on Yom Teruah, we yearn to repent fully and be completely cleansed of sin on the Day of Atonement. Of course, for us as Messianic believers, that cleansing has happened—once, for all time—through the atoning blood of Yeshua, the final sacrifice for sin. He is our salvation! Even His name—which means “God saves”—testifies to the redemption that He has provided for all who call upon His name.
The strength of my life— מעוז (ma-OZ) in Hebrew. Since God is the strength of David’s life (and ours), nothing can harm us. We do not need to be afraid. Whom shall I fear? No one. Ps. 118:6 reinforces this idea, “The LORD is on my side; I will not fear. What can man do to me?” Verses 2-3 speak about the wicked, enemies, foes who desire to “devour” us, a host camped against us, and finally, war. This sounds like Israel today! Know this: As it goes with natural Israel, so it is with the Body of Believers. We are at war!—and our enemies are spiritual. Nevertheless, in this we are confident, in this we trust (bitachon—be-ta-HONE— בטחון ): God is our light and our salvation!
One Thing (Verse 4)
David’s “one thing,” achat, , ah-KHAT in Hebrew, should be ours as well. His desire, the one thing that his heart yearned for, had nothing to do with defeating his enemies or being hailed as a brave warrior. It says in the Talmud that David was desiring a “higher form of royalty.” He was already king. He desired to be “enveloped by the Holy Spirit,” since true royalty involves sharing in the spiritual sovereignty of God.
Isn’t that what we have in the Messiah? We are called a royal priesthood in the Brit Hadasha, God’s own special people, a people called out of darkness into His marvelous light (1 Peter 2:9). God is our light and our salvation. We are not only enveloped by the Holy Spirit. He dwells within us, the token of our inheritance, the witness of our salvation from the penalty of sin.
After David saw God deliver him from his enemies, and acknowledged His protection (verse 2), he simply wanted to seek the LORD—and behold His beauty (“delight” in the Hebrew)—which might include the idea of studying the Torah (based on Prov. 3:17). To dwell in the house of the Lord, and inquire (meditate) in His temple, includes the idea of continually dwelling in the presence of the Lord. There was a recent example of this transition from warfare to seeking God in His temple during the Gaza war in Israel (Operation Protective Edge). When the God of Israel becomes real to a person, he is drawn to “One thing.”
A Soldier’s Testimony
A head of a Yeshiva in Jaffa posted this message: One of my students who I haven’t heard from in many years contacted me today to ask where I study Torah. I was surprised by his question, since I know for sure that he is not observing Torah and mitzvot. So, I asked him why he wanted to know, and this was his response received back (I am not allowed to give his name):
“I observed the hand of Gd today with my own eyes. Now I know FOR SURE that there is a God!! No one told it to me…I didn’t hear it from someone else…I saw this happen with my own eyes. I am an integral part of the iron dome operation. What we do here is an exact science and I cannot give many details of what we do. The other day we knew that a missile was headed directly for Tel Aviv…aimed at one of the 3 big towers, a shopping center in the middle of the city. We sent up one missile to intercept it, and we missed. We sent a second one, and we missed. We sent a third one to intercept…and we missed. Something even remotely like this has only happened one other time ever that I am aware of. We are very exact and very good at what we do. We do not miss. So to miss 3 times is not possible. By this time, disaster was eminent. We alerted all of the emergency crews within and around Tel Aviv to evacuate, but by this time there was little that could be done. Their missile was only minutes from detonation. We began the procedure of sending off one final missile to try and intercept it just before it came down, but we knew that casualties would still be imminent. Now, you must understand, our calculations based on physics and aerodynamics and weather (wind, atmosphere, humidity) are complete…there is NOTHING we don’t take into account. This is how it is able to work so precisely. But all of a sudden, as we were scrambling to do anything and everything we could to save Tel Aviv, all of a sudden OUT OF NOWHERE came up a huge wind…one that was not on the radar…one that DID NOT EXIST before…and blew the missile from over Tel Aviv all the way into the Sea and dropped it off exactly safely into the water where no one was injured!!! You must understand…there was NO WIND…and then there was A HUGE WIND. This is not a couple of inches of a “move” that any gentle breeze could influence… this is MILES. It was nothing other than the hand of Gd!! I saw it with my very own eyes!!! The wind was not there before and it was not there after. It didn’t come from somewhere, it came from NOWHERE. And after it moved the missile to the sea, it disappeared! So, after seeing this, I can no longer deny the existence of Gd. I put tefillin on right after this, and I took upon myself to keep Shabbat. Yesterday was my first Shabbat to keep and it was the best Shabbat of my life.”
He Shall Hide me (Verse 5)
The Hebrew translation would more correctly be, “He will treasure me in His Shelter,” “yitzpaneni b’sukkah.” The verb that is used indicates concealment or hiding, but it is never used in connection with something trivial. It is only used to denote the storage of something very precious, especially a spiritual treasure. This makes perfect sense to us since we learned long ago that of the many Hebrew words for “treasure,” all involve the idea of “hidden.” David is saying that, in the time of trouble, God hides His precious spiritual treasure (us!) in His sukkah! See also Col. 3:3 for an interesting thought: Yeshua is our salvation, and our sukkah. Our lives are hidden in Him.
Our response to God’s protection should be sacrifices of joy, praise and thanksgiving. The Hebrew word teruah (teh-RU-ah) is used in verse 6, linking Psalm 27 once more with the High Holy Days since teruah is one of the names of the shofar sounds heard during the entire Feast season.
Your Face, Lord, I will Seek (Verse 8)
God asks us to seek His presence by fervent and faithful prayer. His Face, mentioned three times in verses eight and nine means His Presence ( פנים panim pah-NEEM in Hebrew). It is the Lord’s desire that we seek Him, but note that He reaches out to us first. God is always speaking. Are we listening? He longs to make personal contact with us—to have mercy on us. We are His and He is ours (not just during Elul, but every month of the year!)
We do not need to worry that God will leave nor forsake us (verse 9), since Yeshua, our salvation, has said to us, “I will never leave you nor forsake you” (Heb. 13:5). Forsaking in Hebrew עזבני (az-BE-ni), indicates a complete severing of all ties, and is far more serious than abandonment, which is only partial estrangement. We do not have to worry about either! We are secure in our Messiah’s unconditional love—the complete fulfillment of Ps. 27:1.
Deliverance from the Violent (Verse 12)
The false witnesses who breathe out violence ( חמס ) hamas in Hebrew, are very real in Israel today. Hamas accuses Israel of inciting war, and shedding innocent blood when the truth is just the opposite. The tunnels which Hamas has been building for the past eight years, were supposed to be used for a massive terror attack on Sept. 24, 2014—this Yom Teruah. God foiled the attack, by allowing the war of missiles to escalate and the tunnels to be discovered! Otherwise, you would be reading this newsletter while the nation of Israel was being overrun by terrorists.
Confidence and Courage (Verse 13)
Psalm 27 ends with an exhortation to wait on the LORD and place confidence in Him. When we do this, He gives us courage and “makes our heart strong.” The Hebrew word used for “strengthen yourself” is chazak ( חזק —kha-ZHAK), which means to be of good courage. It is the same word used in Joshua 1:9, “Have I not commanded you? Be strong and of good courage; do not be afraid, nor be dismayed, for the LORD your God is with you wherever you go.”
Chazak Chazak—God’s word for us this High Holy Day season. Take heart. We shall see the goodness of the LORD in the land of the living!
A Closing Word from God via a Traditional Rabbi
“Hear your Father, your King, the Creator and Sustainer of the entire universe, saying to you: Let your awareness of My love for you help you transform feelings of discouragement into feelings of hope, courage, and empowerment. If you ever feel discouraged, realize that I have the ability to change a situation around in a moment. If it is in your total best interests, I can save you in the twinkling of an eye. So have hope, My beloved child.
In the beginning of the Torah, you will find the words, ‘yehi ohr,’ let there be light. This is to teach you that with just two words, total darkness can be transformed into light. Let the light of the world serve as a reminder that even in the darkest moments there can be a hope which shines forth. Let the light of the world give you inner strength.
Even if it appears to you that all is lost, even if everyone has already given up hope, even if you feel totally disheartened and discouraged, do not give up. Hope creates an inner power. Allow yourself to feel that inner power right now.
Especially when it comes to learning Torah, doing a good deed, or working on a positive trait, never give up hope. Your effort has immense value regardless of the outcome. Hear My words of encouragement and let feelings of energy and empowerment permeate your entire being. Hear Me telling you, ‘Keep on going with renewed strength.’ It is easier to have courage when someone believes in you. I believe in you.”
(From My Father My King by Rabbi Zelig Pliskin)
Love in Yeshua, our Salvation,