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Tehillim Tools: Psalms 1:1-2: Toledot Yaakov Yosef

“Ever-expanding is the man who has not walked in the counsel of the wicked, and has not stood in the way of the sinful, nor has he sat in the session of the scornful. For his only desire is in the Torah of God, and he meditates day and night in his Torah (Psalms 1:1-2).”


These verses speak of the good people of Israel, who can be divided in two groups: The first group includes those, whose, “only desire is in the Torah of God,” and are not involved at all in physical concerns. He is “ever-expanding,” in that he does not need to battle his Evil Inclination, and can still derive pleasure from this world.

The second group contains those who are involved in the mundane, but strive to focus all their efforts for the sake of Heaven. Such as person is not me-ushar (as in Ashrei) because he constantly finds himself in a state of war with his Evil Inclination, struggling to overpower and subjugate his desires, and cannot rest even for a moment.

Ashrei is the man who has not walked in the counsel of the wicked,” meaning in the path of those who are involved in the constant battle with evil, who cannot achieve the state of Ashrei.

“Not so (for) the wicked, who are as chaff, which is (so easily) driven away by the wind (Verse 4).” Of them, King David does not even want to speak.

(Toledot Yaakov Yosef: Emor)

This is an unusual reading of these verses, especially in the demands they imply; “His only desire is in the Torah of God,” suggests that he is totally removed from the mundane. However, Rav Yaakov Yosef is teaching us that we can strive for a state of Ashrei, in which we no longer experience a constant battle with the Yetzer haRah. We can apply this to the Ashrei we recite in prayer: “Ashrei are those who dwell in Your house,” can be read that as long as we are sitting in “Your house,” the synagogue (See Likkutei Halachot; Beit haKenesset 5:5 on the verse we recite each morning, “As for me, it is only through Your abundant kindness I can come into Your house [Psalms 5:8]). I believe that we are considered to be sitting in “Your house” every time we sit down to study Torah, participate in a Shabbat Seudah, or any gathering for a Mitzvah.

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