The Secrets of Tehillim:
אשרי האיש אשר לא הלך בעצת רשעים, “Praiseworthy is the Man that does not go with the counsel of the wicked.” King David gracefully opens up his classical work of Tehillim with a quote for the ages, something that would prove to be a symbol of all the Torah stands for: expressions of “Praiseworthy”, and the concept of. When we look within the Torah, the words of Moshe Rabbeinu, and within King David’s Tehillim, we find a coherent theme: from the closing of Devarim and onwards into Tehillim, we are confronted with “אשר” on many angles. Perforce then, we must assume and ascribe proper Gadlus to this overlooked yet massive conceptual theme, and begin to fathom, “what is Praiseworthy-ness.”
To quote “Midrash Tehillim”: “Moshe gave to Israel five Books of Torah, and corresponding to these five books, King David gave us his five books of Tehillim.”
Moshe Blessed Israel, “באשריך” / “Fortunate” are You O’ Israel, Who is Like You!
And King David Blessed Israel with “אשרי” / “Praiseworthy” is the Man that does not go with the counsel of the Wicked.
Finally, there is a famous Devar Torah, that says when one combines the “Beis” of “Bereishit” with the “Lamed” of “Yisrael”, the first and last letters of the Sacred Torah, they combine to form the word,
“לב”/ “Heart”, suggesting that the Torah comes from the Heart of the Divine. The Gematria of this “Heart” is 32, the same as the word, “כבוד” / “Honor –Glory”, corresponding to the 32 Glorious Pathways of Wisdom within the Torah. However, when we combine the letters that the first and last words have in common, we find a subtle surprise, in that the word, “אשרי” is formed, expressing the Torah’s ultimate message of Moshe Rabbeinu and King David: The definition and stressing of being Praiseworthy. To quote the Midrash Shocher Tov, “Moshe was the Rav, and his student was David.” How fitting it is, to see the symmetry to the Torah’s proclamation, within the simple context that the Torah closes with; from Moshe Rabbeinu’s last words to King David’s introduction to his World, should we be surprised to see that King David is the true disciple of Moshe Rabbeinu? No longer should this be a staple of our long tested Emunah, rather with a keen eye, we can see the Torah’s Truth before us, as it’s been since King David first began to continue Moshe Rabbeinu’s legacy in Torah.
When we open up a Sefer Tehillim, we instantly are acquainted with at least four direct references to “Ashrei”:
1) “Ashrei”…Ashrei / Praiseworthy is the Man that does not go with the counsel of the Wicked.
Here, King David opens up Tehilim literally with Ashrei. [Much like Hashem opens the Torah with “ב” of “Bereishit” for a reason, and there are numerous secrets in the Torah to explain why with a Beis rather than an obvious Alef] King David, with our earlier quote from the Midrash, begins in a way that will continue the legacy that Moshe Rabbeinu left off with. It is worth noting that King David began where Hashem
“left off”, as he took the liberty to begin with that famed “Alef”, and continues to define for us that Ashrei: is a Man that does not walk with the counsel of the Wicked.
One interesting point to note, is that the commentary of the Radak notes, the word Ashrei is in the plural. This subtle distinction can help us understand King David’s intention much clearer, especially when we relate this work with Mishlei, of King Shlomo. As it should be noted, Mishlei is immediately found in Tanach after Tehillim, and begins with, “משלי שלמה בן דוד מלך ישראל”,and the simplest way to grasp King Shlomo’s message, is to use the same definition as Ashrei in the plural, so to Mishlei in the plural. Thus from Shlomo’s words, we can see how he came to explain his father’s monumental work Tehillim with intention; Mishlei in plural makes it easier to understand Ashrei in plural: for Mishlei suggests, that King Shlomo “Composed many Mushlim (Proverbs)”, and King David implies, “The Man that did not walk with the Wicked’s counsel, knows the PATHS of Praiseworthiness.” The usage in plural makes us adjust the order of the words, to realize that a righteous Man will know ALL that is Praiseworthy, the more he avoids counsel of the Wicked.
2) The second location of King David’s Ashrei definition, comes from the double connotation of the term Ashrei. Just as Hashem makes use of double language when he began the Torah, “בראשית ברא”, two usages of “ב” one after the other, King David begins with Ashrei (Ha-Ish) Asher…It should be noted that the word “Asher” (אשר), one of the Tribes of Israel, is directly named this because the women surrounding his birth found him to be Praiseworthy.” Thus King David effectively began Tehillim with a double dose of “Praiseworthy”, following the protocol of Torah established within Bereishit. One item of note, when Moshe was told, “Yasher Ko-ach” (way to go!) in his breaking the First Luchos by Hashem, as the Bible Commentator Rashi points out, that the word, “That” (אשר), is used in conjunction with Praise from Hashem! Hashem says “THAT”, as if he is pointing his finger, THAT (Breaking of the Luchos) which you did was Great! It should be noted here the two words employed are “Asher” and
Yasher [Ko-ach]- “Praiseworthy” and “way to go!”, in the words of Rashi. King David fittingly so opens with “Ashrei”, and if we look at the first 3 end letters of the first three words, it promptly
spells, “ישר” / “Yasher”, as in “Yasher Ko-ach” / Way to go!
3) Next, if we take this finding of the word, “ישר”, one step further, we find yet another two definitions of “Ashrei.” First of all, Yasher, means straight or “Just.” One need not struggle with his intellect much to fathom how or why the word “Just” could be synonymous with Praiseworthy, as Just is the opposite of the counsel of the Wicked. Yet if we extend ourselves a bit further, a wonderful secret is revealed to us, when we look at the end letters of the first four words. The final Yud of Ashrei, Shin of Ha-Ish, Reish of Asher, and the Alef of Lo, promptly spell out for us, “אשרי.” The Hints are endless at this point, as we can understand Ashrei within the context of the additional word added to י''ש''ר, “Lo” / לא", used to
spell, “אשרי.” The word , “לא” can be rearranged (from left to right) to spell God’s name, “אל,” as King David is compared to Malki Tzedek in Tehillim 110 (You shall be a Minister forever by
my word, Malki Tzedek), who he himself in Parashas Lech Lecha, is called a Priest To God (אל) Above, upon which Yaakov Avinu is called a Minister to אל Tachton (Below) in the Midrash Rabbah. Another hint is a reference to the Beginning of Tehillim with an Alef, as “לא” can be looked at
as, “ל''א”, “to the Alef”, standing for Ashrei, and fittingly making it possible to spell out the word Ashrei properly. And finally, Ashrei can be looked at as איש / ר. Just as the Torah employs the Letter Reish, so does Tehillim: Torah can be seen as תהו / Chaos, yet restored with a strength in the Reish /ר, for the Reish can be seen as a strength when used as a “Power of Tohu”, where one letter can be used on a root level. Thus this “Chaos / תהו” becomes infused with a Reish, to make “תורה.” This Reish is even hinted at in Tehillim: “Yasher”, is the same letters as Reish (ישר = ריש). And when applied to Tehillim, a real Man (איש), when he is completed, and nullified before Hashem (as Reish is spelled with, “ר-יש”, suggesting, “Yesh!”/There is) reducing the Reish to just ר without the implication of self, or “yesh”, the Reish is joined with the Man (איש+ר=אשרי), making the Man Praiseworthy!
4) And lastly, when we look at the very essence of what makes a Man not Praiseworthy, is when he walks with the counsel of the Wicked, as King David closes with this stipulation. When we look closely at the beginning and end letters of, “With counsel of the Wicked” / בעצת רשעים,” again we find hints of, “אשרי.” The ב in the atbash system, where each letter is replaced with its opposite, becomes a Shin / ש, the Tav becomes an א /Alef, the ם becomes a י /Yud, and again, as a power of strength infused into the
word, the ר /Reish remains unchanged, and we are pleasantly surprised to find encoded here is, אשרי.
[This principle of keeping the Reish and putting it in the company of other letters through change, or a strength, is what is termed the powers of Tohu (Raw spiritual strength) cultivated and expressed within Tikkun (vessels to contain the Light), creating a Redemptive Light; an example of this is the Kosher letter Beis found in the white parchment of a Kosher letter Peh in a Sefer Torah written with black ink, expressing two degrees of letters, white fire and black fire; or the infusion of the five final letters merged into the normative 22 letter alphabet, where the five final letters can function as a higher intellect, as seen in Navi, where a Final Mem can come at the beginning of a word – thus the Reish has a similar effect, as we have seen with תהו+ר=תורה,and other places in Tanach that have this nuance.]
With this last Ashrei, King David has shown us yet another level of Praiseworthy – to avoid the counsel of the Wicked. And in closing, King David finishes his first pussuk with, “And with the way of sinners do not stand!” The end letters reveal to us the word, “כאדם”, “Like Adam.” As the Torah explains
in Vayikra 18:5: “You shall observe My decrees and My laws, which Man shall carry out and by which he shall Live – I am Hashem”; The Talmud points out here, the usage of the word, “אדם” as
opposed to “איש”, pointing out that “אדם” relates to all Mankind, for even if a Noahide learns Torah, he shares in the title of Adam the same as a Kohen Gadol, upon which Chazal learn that a Noahide who learns his share of Torah is compared to a Kohen Gadol. Hence the term “Adam” (Man), and the obvious omission of the term “איש” (connotation of “Jewish” Man) from the Torah, leads to an amazing discovery within King David’s Tehillim, and his conclusion of, “Like Adam”; For the depth we have been graced with, in one simple Verse from the Poetic Hands of David, one could say with Honor, he is indeed, a Praiseworthy Man, by definition.
May We Be Called Praiseworthy In Hashem's Eyes