Hallel: Psalm 115: A Commitment To Use My Life
This question was asked before Rabbi Tanchum of Neway: What about extinguishing a burning lamp for a sick man on the Sabbath? — Thereupon he commenced and spoke: You, Solomon, where is your wisdom and where is your understanding? It is not enough for you that your words contradict the words of your father David, but that they are self-contradictory! Your father David said, “The dead praise not the Lord (Psalms 115:7),” while you said, “Wherefore I praised the dead which are already dead (Ecclesiastes 4:2),” but yet again you said, “for a living dog is better than a dead lion (9:4).”
Yet there is no difficulty.
As to what David said: ‘The dead praise not the Lord,’ this is what he meant:
Let a man always engage in Torah and good deeds before he dies, for as soon as he dies he is restrained from the practice of Torah and good deeds, and the Holy One, blessed be He, finds nought to praise in him.
And thus Rabbi Yochanan said, What is meant by the verse, “Among the dead I am free (Psalms 88:6)?”
Once a man dies, he becomes free of the Torah and good deeds.
As to what Solomon said, ‘Wherefore I praised the dead that are already dead’ for when Israel sinned in the wilderness, Moses stood before the Holy One, blessed be He, and uttered many prayers and supplications before Him, but he was not answered. Yet when he exclaimed, ‘Remember Abraham, Isaac, and Israel, your servants (Exodus 32:13) !’ he was immediately answered. Did not then Solomon well say, “wherefore I praised the dead that are already dead?’
Another interpretation: In worldly affairs, when a prince of flesh and blood issues a decree, it is doubtful whether it will be obeyed or not; and even if you say that it is obeyed, it is obeyed during his lifetime but not after his death. Whereas Moses our Teacher decreed many decrees and enacted numerous enactments, and they endure for ever and unto all eternity. Did then not Solomon well say, ‘Wherefore I praise the dead, etc.’ (Shabbat 30a)
Kavanah: “The dead do nor praise God,” and therefore I will take advantage of every moment of life to study Torah and do Mitzvot.