As the sea throws up its refuse on its shores, so have the wicked their filthiness upon their mouths.--Mid. Psalms 2.
As the billows of the sea, when rushing towards the shores in their violence and fury, threaten to swamp the whole shore, yet when they near the shore their fury and violence are lessened, and at last they meekly spend themselves; so also with those who persecute Israel (likened to the sand on the shore of the sea) and threaten to overwhelm them; they are eventually constrained to lessen their violence and fury.--Mid. Psalms 2.
The wicked try to improve on one another in their acts of wickedness. Cain killed Abel. Esau sought to improve on Cain, who killed his brother whilst Adam was yet alive to beget another son instead of Abel; he would wait till his father died, then he would kill his brother, so that he alone might inherit everything. Pharaoh thought Esau's scheme did not go far enough, because whilst Esau was waiting he allowed Jacob to raise up a family of his own; therefore his design was an improvement on Esau's: better kill the Israelites' males at their very birth; the women would then be intermixed with the Egyptians, and thus Israel would be entirely obliterated. Haman criticised Pharaoh's wisdom, and decided upon the policy of making a clean sweep of all the Jews without distinction of sex. Gog and Magog ridiculed all their predecessors in iniquity, and taking into account that the Jews had a Protector in their Heavenly Father, thought of attacking God Himself.--Mid. Psalms 2.
All the prophets started with admonitions and ended with words of comfort. Jeremiah alone had no words of comfort to offer.--Mid. Psalms 4.
That the mere mechanical application to the Throne of Mercy is not efficacious is plainly seen from the words of King David, who says God is nigh to all that call upon Him, and, as it were, as a condition, he adds the important words, 'to those who call upon Him in truth.'--Mid. Psalms 4.
The last words of Rabbi Zivry b. Leves were: 'For this let every saint pray to Thee.' Those of Rabbi José b. Pinehas were: 'Better one day in thy court'; and those of Rabbi Joshua b. Levi were: 'How great is thy goodness which Thou hast reserved for those who revere Thee.'--Mid. Psalms 5.
A man is bound to pay the same respect to his wife's father as he would to his own father.--Mid. Psalms 7.
With regard to the conduct of life, men may be said to be divided into three sections. There are men who are thoroughly good, practising righteousness for righteousness' sake. They are thankful to their Maker for having brought them to this life and endowed them with intellect to view the works of creation; they expect and ask for no reward. There is another sect who, when doing any commendable deed, book it, as it were, to their credit and expect recompense in the future life. But there is, alas! a worse section, who neither have nor seek to have any merits of their own, but look for favours to the merits of their ancestors.--Mid. Psalms 8.
If one tells you definitely when the Messiah will come, believe him not.--Mid. Psalms 9.
The following Rabbis were martyrs: Rabbi Simeon b. Gamaliel, Rabbi Ishmael b. Elisha, Jeshbab the scribe, Chuzpas the translator, José Judah b. Baba, Judah Nachtom, Simon b. Azai, Chanina b. Tradyon, and Rabbi Akiba.--Mid. Psalms 9.
David's words clearly show that righteous non-Jews
will inherit future bliss. He says: 'The wicked shall go to 'Sheol' and all the nations that forget God' (Ps. 9. 18), i.e. those of the nations that forget God, but not those who worship God.--Mid. Psalms 9. 1
A certain philosopher asked Rabbi Elisha:--'Your prophet predicts about us "They shall build, but I will throw down" (Mal. 1. 4). Now look at Alexandria built by Alexander; at Constantinople, built by Constantine; or Antiochia, raised up by Antiochus; at Seleucia, built by Seleucus; or at our Roman empire. The founders and builders themselves are gone, yet their works stand as a monument to their might and wisdom.' 'What the prophet means,' answered the sage, 'is not the structures of brick and mortar, but your designs against us, in which you will not prevail, but which our God will throw down.' 'If it is that,' confessed the Roman philosopher, 'to which your prophet alludes, then I must admit the truth of it, because I well know what weapons are forged every year, in our councils, for your destruction; and somehow each time some one comes and frustrates our designs.'--Mid. Psalms 9.
There would be a serious discrepancy in two parts of Scripture were it not that we know, traditionally, the explanation. In the second Book of Samuel 47. 25) mention is made of 'Ithra an Israelite.' In the first of Chronicles (2. 18) the same person is mentioned as 'Ithra the Ishmaelite.' The fact is that this man was originally an Ishmaelite who used to frequent the Jewish seminary, when he heard Jesse hold forth on the text in Isaiah (45. 23) 'Look unto Me and be ye saved, all the ends of the earth; for I am God and there is none else.' So impressed was this Ithra with the expounding of this text that he became a convert to Judaism, married Jesse's daughter, and was henceforth known as Ithra the Israelite.--Mid. Psalms 9.
Of all the good men who are designed to see God, those that were upright in their lives here stand in the first rank.--Mid. Psalms 11.
Moses' prayer for his people was, 'O that there were such a heart in them,' etc. (Deut. 5.), and when his disciple Joshua suggested to him to prohibit any but himself to prophesy, this meek and unselfish man burst out in the prayer, 'Would that all the Lord's people were prophets, that the Lord would put his Spirit upon them' (Numb. 11.). Such a prayer from such a man cannot be left unanswered, though we must leave it to God's own good time, when these prayers will be brought into fulfilment. By the prophet Ezekiel God's people are promised a new heart (Ezkl. 36.), and through his prophet Joel God promises to pour out his Spirit upon all flesh, and they shall prophesy (Joel 2.).--Mid. Psalms 14.
Most of the blessings that God bestows upon his people proceed from Zion. The Torah, as it is said in Isaiah (2. 3). Blessings in general (Ps. 134.). The blessing of brightness (Ps. 52.), that of support (Ps. 20.), of life (Ps. 133.), of greatness (Ps. 98.), and of salvation (Ps. 14.).--Mid. Psalms 14.
David enumerates eleven attributes which will render a man fit to abide in the Tabernacle of the Lord (Ps. 15.). One of these is, 'he that putteth not his money out to usury.' And this applies equally to non-Jews. One is not allowed to take usury from either.--Mid. Psalms 17.
Hillel and Shammai declined to accept remuneration for the instruction they gave to their pupils, and truly can we say of them 'they have not put their money out to usury.'--Mid. Psalms 15.
He who hears himself abused (or cursed) and does not retaliate may be called a saintly man.--Mid. Psalms 16.
The six hundred and thirteen commandments which were handed over to the Israelites were reduced by King David to eleven (Ps. 15.). Isaiah further reduced
all the commandments to six (Isa. 33. 15, 16). Micah made a further reduction of them to three (Micah 6. 8). Habakkuk reduced the whole to one, that of faith (Hab. 2-4).--Mid. Psalms 17.
Rabbi Joshua b. Levi mentions a tradition to the effect that when Jacob and Esau met for the purpose of burying their father Isaac (Gen. 35.), Esau at last attempted to carry his long cherished desire for vengeance on his brother into effect, and took up a threatening attitude towards Jacob; but when Judah--who with his brothers was present at the burial of Isaac--saw that Esau's enmity towards Jacob was still smouldering, he prevented any untoward event by killing Esau.--Mid. Psalms 18.
It is much more difficult to cope with a Jewish enemy than with a non-Jewish enemy.--Mid. Psalms 18.
Good men are meek and humble, and style themselves servants, and they are registered in the book of God's army as servants. Abraham called himself servant (Gen. 18.) and God refers to him as his servant (Gen. 18.); Jacob pronounced himself servant (Gen. 32.), and God calls him his servant (Isa. 44.); Moses refers to himself as servant (Dent. 3.), and God declares him his servant (Numb. 12.); David describes himself as servant (Ps. 116.), and God calls him his servant (2 Saml. 3.). And there are two individuals who had not taken the opportunity of pronouncing themselves servants, but God declares them to be his servants, viz. Isaac (Exod. 32)., and Joshua (Josh. 24.).--Mid. Psalms 18.
A father and his son being on a long journey, the son said that he would like to know when they would arrive at the end of it. The older man replied that when they saw a cemetery they might hope to arrive at the town soon. Similarly our Heavenly Father indicates to us that when heavy persecution and sorrow meet us we may hope to be brought to Him, to a haven of rest and shelter.--Mid. Psalms 20.
The whole of our history tends to show that, when
distress was at its greatest, God was nearest. Even when we well deserved God's punishment, as for the making of the golden calf for which our destruction was threatened, yet we find soon after, 'And the Lord repented of the evil which He thought to do unto his people' (Exod. 32.). When in darkness the Lord hath become our light (Micah 7.). In his anger God yet grants us his mercy (Hab. 2.). The very time of trouble is transposed into a time of joy and help (Jer. 30.), the estrangement to a bringing near (Hosea 2.), the threat of annihilation into exaltation (Esther 4).--Mid. Psalms 21.
Trust in God delivers us from impending peril.--Mid. Psalms 22.
The more good men are exalted the meeker they become. Abraham declared himself dust and ashes (Gen. 18). Moses and Aaron disclaimed all greatness (Exod. 16.). David styled himself a worm and not a man (Ps. 22.). Saul called himself but a child of a Benjaminite (1 Saml. 9.). Gideon said he was the humblest in Manasseh (Jud. 6.). Not so with the heathen in his brief authority. Pharaoh said, 'Who is the Lord that I should obey his voice?' (Exod. 5.). Goliath defied the armies of Israel (1 Saml. 17.). Sennacherib boasted, 'Who are they among all the gods that have delivered their country out of my hands?' (2 Kings 18.). Nebuchadnezzar asked, 'Who is that god that shall deliver you out of my hands?' (Dan. 3.). Belshazzar was rebuked by Daniel for having lifted himself up against 'the Lord of heaven' (Danl. 5.). Hiram too received a sharp rebuke for having set his heart as the heart of God (Ezkl. 28.).--Mid. Psalms 22.
Woe to any man when death approaches him, to the strong man when he becomes weak, or to him who loses his sight; but woe to the whole generation which is ruled by a woman.--Mid. Psalms 22.
An officiating Priest once scorned a woman who
brought a handful of flour as an offering, and, in a vision which he had immediately afterwards, he received a very severe rebuke.--Mid. Psalms 22.
Haman's property was divided as follows: One-third went to Mordecai and Esther, another went to those who separated themselves from the outer world and devoted themselves to study and religion, and one-third towards the building of the Temple.--Mid, Psalms 22.
The Holy Spirit sometimes rested on King David before he commenced singing and playing hymns, and he was in fact prompted to the hymns by the Holy Spirit that rested upon him. At other times the Holy Spirit kept away from him, but came upon him as soon as he gave himself up to hymns and praises.--Mid. Psalms 24.
We Jews surely give practical proof of our faith in God's promises. No resurrection has yet taken place, yet the established ritual throughout Jewry contains the prayers to be said, 'Blessed art Thou, O Lord, who quickenest the dead.' Our last (chief) redemption has not yet been brought about, but we proclaim twice every day, 'Blessed art Thou, O God, the Redeemer of Israel.' --Mid. Psalms 31.
If all your life is given up to the pursuit of earthly things, it is quite consistent for you to look downwards; but if you pursue the higher life, look upwards.--Mid. Psalms 32.
He that feels as though his heart is torn within him on account of his sin may well hope for God's forgiveness. Yet whilst continually thinking of his grievous sin, man must not make a habit of sinning and rely on his sorrow and confession for the expiation of his sin.--Mid. Psalms 32.
The wicked are, as a rule, brought to judgment when all fear of judgment has left them.--Mid. Psalms 36.
Jerusalem is destined to become the Metropolis of the world.--Mid. Psalms 36.
Israel was in the darkness of slavery in Egypt, and Moses and Aaron were the means of bringing them to the light of freedom. They were in captivity in Babylon; Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah were the messengers of their freedom. They were oppressed at the hands of the Greeks, and deliverance was brought by Mattathias Hashmonai and his sons. When again brought under the yoke of Edom (Rome) Israel wishes no longer any human agency for his rescue, but looks direct to God to be his light of deliverance (Ps. 118). So one enveloped in darkness endeavours to get artificial light time after time, but each time the light becomes extinguished, and he at last resolves to abandon all further attempts to procure light, and to wait for sunrise to bring him natural light.--Mid. Psalms 36.
How flexible is the tongue, and how great is its power! It is related of a Persian king that his physicians ordered him to drink the milk of a lioness, and one of his servants offered to procure the rare medicine. Taking with him some sheep with which to lure the beast, he actually succeeded in obtaining milk from a lioness.
On his journey homewards, being fatigued, he fell into a deep slumber, during which the various members of his body commenced disputing as to which of them had contributed most towards the success of their owner in obtaining so rare a thing as milk from a lioness.
Said the feet: 'There can be no doubt that we are the only factors in this successful undertaking. Without us there could have been no setting out on this dangerous venture.' 'Not so,' said the hands, 'the facility you offered would have been of no avail had our power not been called into requisition; it is the service we rendered that enabled our owner to procure milk from the lioness.' 'Neither of you could have rendered any service,' exclaimed the eyes, 'without the sight which we supplied.' 'And yet,' interrupted the heart, 'had not I
inspired the idea, no steps would have been taken to bring any of your powers into exercise.' At last the tongue put in her claim, and was utterly ridiculed by the unanimous opinions of all the other contending members of the body.
'You,' they scornfully replied, 'you who have not the free power of action which is possessed by all and each of us, you who are imprisoned in the narrow space of the human mouth,--you dare to put in a claim to have contributed to this success! 'In the midst of this contention the man woke up, and prosecuted his journey homewards. Being brought before the king with the much desired milk, the man, by a slip of the tongue, said, 'Here I have brought your Majesty the dog's milk.' The savage king becoming incensed by this insulting remark, there and then ordered the man to be put to death. On the man's way to execution, all the members of his body, heart, eyes, feet, and hands trembled and were terribly afraid. 'Did I not tell you,' said the tongue, I that my power is above all the united powers you possess? and you ridiculed me for my trouble. What think you of my power now? Are you now prepared to acknowledge my power to be greater than all yours?'
When all the members of the body consented to the tongue's proposition, the tongue requested and obtained a short reprieve, so that it could make a last appeal for the king's clemency. When the man was brought to the king his tongue started in all its eloquence. 'Is this the reward,' it began, 'great and just king, to be meted out to the only one of your majesty's servants who was glad of the opportunity to offer his life to fulfil his king's desire, who gladly carried his life in his hand to obtain for his august master what scarcely ever was obtained by mortal man?' 'But,' replied the king, 'your own statement was that you brought me dog's milk instead of the lioness' milk which you undertook to procure.' 'Not so, O gracious king,' replied the tongue, 'I brought
the identical milk that your majesty required; it was merely by an unfortunate mistake in my speech that I changed the name; and in fact there is a similarity, as the word כליא may mean either lioness or dog. My words will be verified if your majesty will condescend to make use of the milk I procured, for it will effect the cure your majesty desires.' The milk was submitted to the test, and was found to be that of a lioness; and so the tongue triumphantly demonstrated its great power for good or for evil.--Mid. Psalms 39.
View David's career, and you will see both the necessity and the efficacy of repentance.--Mid. Psalms 40.
He that is satiated with tears cannot be expected to have appetite for food.--Mid. Psalms 42.
In futurity the righteous will feast on the splendour of the Shechinah.--Mid. Psalms 45:
To Israel's question 'O Lord, when wilt Thou redeem us?' God's answer is, 'When you have fallen to your lowest depth.'--Mid. Psalms 45.
He that puts his sin wilfully away from his eyes has no right to expect or hope for pardon. 'My sin,' says David, 'is continually before me.' David was like the patient to whom the physician said, 'I am very sorry for you, your illness is a very serious one.' 'No,' said the patient, 'the reason of my illness is that there may be a reward for curing me.' Thus David prayed to God to cure him (to pardon his sins), so that God's great power, his mercy and lovingkindness, might be known, since He had pardoned such great and grievous sin.--Mid. Psalms 51.
He that is deeply sensible of his sin, is in terror of it, confesses it, and is in communion with God concerning this burden of uncleanliness, may hope for forgiveness.--Mid. Psalms 51.
If you intend to put man to rights, put yourself to rights first.--Mid. Psalms 53.
As there is no limit to the evils of a bad wife, so
there is no limit to the good that is caused by a good wife.--Mid. Psalms 53.
Men who do not marry deprive themselves of (1) God's blessing, for it was only after Adam became possessed of Eve that God blessed them (Gen. 28.). (2) Life, as King Solomon has it, 'Live joyfully with the wife,' etc. (Eccles. 9.). (3) Joy, as it is said, 'Rejoice with the wife of thy youth' (Prov. 5.). (4) Help, 'I will make a helpmate for him' (Gen. 2.). (5) Good, 'Whoso findeth a wife findeth a good thing' (Prov. 18.).--Mid. Psalms 59.
If a man should intend committing an evil act, but has not carried out his intention, the Merciful One will forbear punishing him. On the other hand, if a man intends doing a religious deed, and is somehow prevented from carrying it into effect, he will receive his reward as though he had carried out his intention. We find that David was looked upon almost as the builder of the Temple, and the Consecration Psalm (30.) is called 'the dedication of the house of David.'--Mid. Psalms 62.
'I am that I am,' said God to Moses, by which He intimated that He created the world in mercy, and will always rule the world in mercy.--Mid. Psalms 72.
The great faith manifested by the tribe of Judah entitles it to the dignified position it has attained, that of being the Royal House of Israel. On the banks of the Red Sea the people hesitated to plunge into the water, until the tribe of Judah, exclaiming that there can be no hesitation where one has God's promise of protection, like one man took the initiative and jumped into the sea; then their example was followed by all the other tribes.--Mid. Psalms 76.
One is not to think lightly of a parable or a simile: indeed one is to look upon them in the same sense as psalms, hymns, or prophecy.
Hath not the Lord sent his prophet Ezekiel to put forth a riddle and speak a parable unto the house of Israel (Ezkl. 17.)? and hath not the Psalmist said,
'I will open my mouth in a parable' (Ps. 78.)?-Mid. Psalms 79.
It seems strange that, out of all the Patriarchs, the Temple should only be called by the name of Jacob (Isa. 2. 3, and Jer. 30. 18). Yet it is but proper that the Temple is styled 'the house of the God of Jacob.' A king once intimated to three of his friends his intention of building a palace, and showed them the spot upon which that palace was to be erected. The first friend remarked slightingly, 'there was a mountain on this spot before.' The second friend made the disparaging remark, 'This is an open field.' The third friend said, 'This is the place for a palace.' Abraham, being on the spot where the Temple was destined to be erected, called it the mountain of God (Gen. 22.). Isaac alluded to the spot as a field that God blessed (Gen. 27.). It was left to Jacob to call the place by the proper name when he said, on waking up from his vision, 'This is no other than the house of God, and this is the gate of heaven' (Gen. 28.). Therefore the Temple was called by his name.--Mid. Psalms 81.
A generation is twenty years.--Mid. Psalms 90.
The coats, or covers, with which God clothed Adam and Eve after their fall were made of the serpent's skin.--Mid. Psalms 92.
Moses and Isaiah alone of all the prophets knew what they were prophesying; all the other prophets, including Elijah and Samuel, uttered their prophecies mechanically.--Mid. Psalms 90.
If you bear in mind that your prayers are directed to the God above, then they will be a blending of joy and awe.--Mid. Psalms 100.
Sing praises unto the Eternal whether you worship Him as a God of judgment or as a God of mercy.--Mid. Psalms 101.
God asks neither for burnt offerings nor for other sacrifices. He asks for earnest prayer.--Mid. Psalms 102.
Rabbi Gamaliel was asked by a heathen to define the residence of God. When the sage stated his inability to do so, the questioner retorted: 'and yet you pray to Him daily without even knowing where He is. Surely our position is a more rational one; we know and we see the god that we worship.' 'Now,' said Rabbi Gamaliel, 'you ask of me a thing as difficult to comply with as though you had asked me to walk for five hundred years: I will, in return, ask you something by no means so difficult to answer. In which part of your body does your soul reside?' 'I do not know,' answered R. Gamaliel's friend. 'Well then,' observed the sage, 'hath David said "Bless the Lord, O my soul," for in certain attributes the soul resembles its giver. As God filleth the whole world so the human soul filleth the whole body. God is unique, and the soul is unique. God neither eats nor drinks, neither does the soul. As God is pure, so is the soul (his spark) pure. As God cannot be seen, so the soul cannot be seen.'--Mid. Psalms 103.
Prayer is not to be offered in the midst of frivolity or laughter, but with humility and bowed head.--Mid. Psalms 108.
At the redemption of Israel, the nations amongst which they have been scattered, and out of which they will be redeemed, will sing praises to God.--Mid. Psalms 117.
The wicked walk in darkness, but those who have the light of God, the Torah, as their guide are restricted from committing sin even when they have a passing desire to do so.--Mid. Psalms 119.
The fact that special mention is made of the affair of Zimri (Numb. 24. 14) tends to show that the Israelites, in those days, were very chaste, as such conduct seems to have come as a surprise to the whole camp.--Mid. Psalms 122.
Every man gets the wife he deserves.--Mid. Psalms 125.
Repentance is of no avail in a matter of wronging your fellow-man, without first rectifying the wrong done.--Mid. Psalms 125.
Whether in season or out of season, it is a good omen to see white grapes in a dream. With black grapes there is a difference: in their season it is favourable, but if they are seen when they are not in season it is exceedingly unfavourable, and the dreamer should pray for God's mercy.--Mid. Psalms 128.
Water, milk and wine should never be left uncovered.--Mid. Psalms 136.
No one has a right to expect success in his mundane affairs unless he works for it. Moses blessed the works of the hands and all of man's doings (Deut. 14. 29).Mid. Psalms 136.
Let no man say 'My father was a righteous man; I shall be all right for his sake,' or 'My brother was a righteous man, and I shall reap the benefit of his merits.' Abraham could not save Ishmael, and Jacob could not save Esau. Each man must work out his own salvation.--Mid. Psalms 146.
200:1 See also Tosephta Sanhedrin.