The Bible introduces us to many fascinating and inspiring personalities, righteous men and women whose example of piety continue to guide and uplift us to this very day. There are some, however, to whom we can relate in an especially powerful way and whom we can truly strive to emulate.
One such righteous figure is David HaMelech, someone who has left a direct, profound impact on all of us.
One reason King David is a figure with whom we closely identify is his famous work – the Book of Tehillim. We all shed tears reciting the beautiful words of Tehillim, praying for ourselves and others and connecting to Hashem through the prayers of King David, in his merit.
The Book of Tehillim is so holy that, as our sages teach, when one reads the entire book he is considered as having read the entire Torah.
Throughout the generations, people have always turned to Tehillim to find the words with which to come before Hashem. And Hashem loves to hear these prayers. Our rabbis teach us that Hashem regarded one day of David HaMelech’s prayers as greater than all the sacrifices brought in the Bet HaMikdash.
King David excelled in many areas, surpassing even other righteous people. He suffered for much of his life, being forced to flee for several years from King Shaul, and even enduring a revolt against him by his own son Avshalom. But throughout all these ordeals, rather than question God’s justice, King David remained firm in his faith and devotion to God – and, as we see in Tehillim, constantly expressed his gratitude to Hashem for his blessings in life.
Through his constant praise of Hashem, David HaMelech reached lofty spiritual levels that no other righteous person achieved (Baba Batra 17a). When we read the beautiful praises of Tehillim, we can gain inspiration from David’s ability to feel grateful even during times of hardship. This should help us put our own problems in perspective and be appreciative of what we have even during the more difficult periods of our lives.
This message is reinforced by the Gemara’s famous account (Pesachim 119b) of the great “Feast of the Leviathan” that will take place in the messianic era. Our righteous forefathers will sit to enjoy the special meat of the Leviathan, and when the time comes to recite the blessing on the cup of wine they will initially hand it to Avraham to grant him the honor of reciting the berachah. Avraham will refuse, noting that he had fathered a sinful son (Yishmael) and thus does not deserve the honor. The cup will then be passed to Yitzchak, but he, too, will refuse, because he had a wicked son (Eisav). Next will be Yaakov, who will also decline, due to his marriage to two sisters, which the Torah forbade.
Moshe Rabbeinu will then be approached, and he will say, “I do not have the merit, since I was not worthy to enter into the Holy Land.” Finally, David HaMelech will take the cup and make the blessing.
The rabbis ask, what special merit does David possess that the others do not? After all, like Avraham and Yitzchak, he also had sinful children. So why will he be given the privilege of reciting the berachah?
The Midrash answers that, as mentioned, David HaMelech was always praising Hashem, even when confronting difficult situations. As expressed through the praises of Tehillim, David believed with complete faith and conviction that everything Hashem does is for the best, and he therefore responded to all events – good and “bad” – with songs of praise to Hashem. This special quality rendered him singularly worthy from among all the great tzaddikim to recite the blessing.
David HaMelech spent his days immersed in Torah study and prayer. The Gemara states that David would never sleep more than sixty “horse breaths,” preferring to devote all his time to the service of Hashem. And this passionate engagement in Torah continued even until his final day.
The Gemara relates that King David knew he would die on Shabbat, though he did not know on which Shabbat. He therefore made sure to spend every moment of Shabbat engrossed in learning, since the angel of death cannot seize a person’s soul as he studies Torah.