Tachanun 2

In the last segment, we described how T’hilim, and this perek in particular, can be understood on three levels: David HaMelech writing about his own life, writing for klal Yisrael, and writing so that each individual could see himself in the p’sukim of T’hilim. This week and next week, we will see how pasuk 5 specifically can be understood on all three levels.

שׁוּבָה ה' חַלְּצָה נַפְשִׁי, הוֹשִׁיעֵנִי לְמַעַן חַסְדֶּךָ

Turn back, Hashem, from Your anger (and) free my soul (from my sickness); (even if I don’t deserve it), save me for the sake of Your kindness.

As we mentioned last week, David wrote these words (perek 6 of T’hilim) during his illness after the sin of Bas Sheva, where he acknowledged that he erred. This is referenced in the introductory pasuk that quotes David HaMelech as saying:

רַחוּם וְחַנּוּן חָטָֽאתִי לְפָנֶֽיךָ. ה' מָלֵא רַחֲמִים, רַחֵם עָלַי וְקַבֵּל תַּחֲנוּנָי

(Hashem) the Merciful One (Who has mercy on sinners to lessen their punishment) and Gracious One (Who grants requests even when we are undeserving), I have sinned before You. Hashem, Who is full of mercy, have mercy on me and accept my supplications.

He then begs for compassion and to be healed (p’sukim 2-4). Now, in pasuk 5, he asks Hashem: “Free my soul” and save me, not because I am deserving, but rather because of Your chesed, Hashem.

The general understanding of the word “חַלְּצָהchaltzah” in pasuk 5 is to free, to release, or to remove. David is asking Hashem to free him or release him from his illness. 

However, there is another understanding of the word “חַלְּצָהchaltzah.” Once a month, on the Shabbos preceding Rosh Chodesh, we say a tefilah that begins with “יהי רצוןY’hi Ratzon.” This tefilah actually comes from the tefilah that Rav used to say every day at the conclusion of his Shemoneh Esrei. Interestingly, there are different versions of the end of the Y’hi Ratzon that we say on this Shabbos. One of them is: We ask for the tefilah to be accepted בזכות תפלת רב (bi’zchus tefilas Rav) – in the merit of Rav’s prayer. While many may think that this means in the merit of the rav of the shul, it actually means in the merit of the early Amora Rav, who composed and regularly recited this tefilah.

One of the many requests we make in this Y’hi Ratzon is for “חִלּוּץ עֲצָמוֹתchilutz atzamos.” Here, the word “chilutz” means strong. We ask for strong bones, or good health. There are other instances in נ"ךNach (נביאים וכתוביםN’viim and K’suvim) where a similar form of the word also refers to strength. Therefore, here in our pasuk, we can also understand David to be asking Hashem to give his soul strength to withstand his pain and anguish. Taking both understandings together, David asks to be saved from his illness, while also asking for strength to endure for as long as he must suffer.

Up to this point, we have presented the first level, where we understand the p’sukim as they relate to the life of David.

As the p’sukim relate to klal Yisrael, we acknowledge that klal Yisrael has sinned. We ask for compassion and healing and to be freed/released from this long galus, not because we deserve it, but rather because of Hashem’s chesed. At the same time, we are asking Hashem to give us strength to endure for as long as the galus continues. These side-by-side requests are reflected in the words “חַלְּצָה נַפְשִׁיchaltzah nafshi” – to free/release/strengthen.

In the next segment, we will, b’ezras Hashem, discuss the application of the p’sukim to each and every one of us as they relate to our personal lives.

[The above is based on a shiur given by Rabbi Shmuel Silber, the rav since 2003 of the Suburban Orthodox Congregation in Baltimore, Maryland. Rabbi Silber’s shiurim are inspiring and uplifting, and they can be accessed at RabbiSilber.com.]