||Commentary on Psalms by R. Sussman Eliezer ben Mordecai Fischel Sofer (1830-1902). The commentary has been selected from the works of rishomim (early sages) ahronim (later sages), and the leading geonim. Yalkut Eliezer has an approbation from R. Hillel Lichtenstein, a preface and introduction, followed by the text, set in a single column in rabbinic letters.
The Sefer Tehillim (Book of Psalms) is among the most beloved books in the Bible. Psalms are read daily by countless numbers of Jews while others recite Psalms in times of need or stress. Jews It consists of 150 psalms divided into five books, as follows: book i. = Ps. i.-xli. ii. = Ps. xlii.-lxxii.; iii. = Ps. lxxiii.-lxxxix.; iv. = Ps. xc.-cvi.; v. = Ps. cvii.-cl., the divisions between these books being indicated by doxologies (Ps. xli. 14 [A. V. 13]; lxxii. 19 [18-19]; lxxxix. 53 ; cvi. 48). The conclusion of book ii. is still further marked by the gloss "The prayers of David, the son of Jesse, are ended." Of the 150 psalms 100 are ascribed, in their superscriptions, to various authors by name: one, Ps. xc., to Moses; seventy-three to David; two, lxxii. and cxxvii., to Solomon; twelve, 1. and lxxiii. to lxxxiii., to Asaph; one, lxxxviii., to Heman; one, lxxxix., to Ethan; ten to the sons of Korah (eleven if lxxxviii., attributed also to Heman, is assigned to them). In the Septuagint ten more psalms are credited to David. Sixteen psalms have other (mostly musical) headings. According to their contents, the Psalms may be grouped as follows: (1) hymns of praise, (2) elegies, and (3) didactic psalms.
These glorify G-d, His power, and His loving-kindness manifested in nature or shown to Israel, or they celebrate the Torah, Zion, and the Davidic kingdom. In this group are comprised the psalms of gratitude, expressing thankfulness for help extended and refuge found in times of danger and distress. The group embraces about one-third of the Psalter. These lend voice to feelings of grief at the spread of iniquity, the triumph of the wicked, the sufferings of the just, the "humble," or the "poor," and the abandonment of Israel. In this category are comprehended the psalms of supplication, the burden of which is fervent prayer for the amelioration of conditions, the restoration of Israel to grace, and the repentance of sinners. The line of demarcation between elegy and supplication is not sharply drawn. Lamentation often concludes with petition; and prayer, in turn, ends in lamentation. Perhaps some of this group ought to be considered as forming a distinct category by themselves, and to be designated as psalms of repentance or penitential hymns; for their key-note is open confession of sin and transgression prompted by ardent repentance, preluding the yearning for forgiveness. These aredistinct from the other elegies in so far as they are inspired by consciousness of guilt and not by the gnawing sense of unmerited affliction. These, of quieter mood, give advice concerning righteous conduct and speech, and caution against improper behavior and attitude. Of the same general character, though aimed at a specific class or set of persons, are the imprecatory psalms, in which, often in strong language, shortcomings are censured and their consequences expatiated upon, or their perpetrators are bitterly denounced. Most of the 150 psalms may, without straining the context and content of their language, be assigned to one or another of these three (or, with their subdivisions, seven) groups. Some scholars would add another class, viz., that of the king-psalms, e.g., Ps. ii., xviii., xx., xxi., xlv., lxi., lxxii., and others. Though in these king-psalms there is always allusion to a king, they as a rule will be found to be either hymns of praise, gratitude, or supplication, or didactic songs. Another principle of grouping is concerned with the character of the speaker. Is it the nation that pours out its feelings, or is it an individual who unburdens his soul? Thus the axis of cleavage runs between national and individual psalms.
In form the Psalms exhibit in a high degree of perfection charm of language and wealth of metaphor as well as rhythm of thought, i.e., all of the variety of parallelism. The prevailing scheme is the couplet of two corresponding lines. The triplet and quatrain occur also, though not frequently. The refrain may be said to constitute one of the salient verbal features of some of the psalms (comp. Ps. xlii. 5, 11; xliii. 5; xlvi. 7, 11; lxxx. 3, 7, 19; cvii. 8, 15, 21, 31; cxxxvi., every half-verse of which consists of "and his goodness endureth forever"). Several of the psalms are acrostic or alphabetic in their arrangement, the succession of the letters of the Hebrew alphabet occurring in various positions—the beginning of every verse, every hemistich, or every couplet; in the last-mentioned case the letters may occur in pairs, i.e., in each couplet the two lines may begin with the same letter. Ps. cix. has throughout eight verses beginning with the same letter. Occasionally the scheme is not completely carried out (Ps. ix.-x.), one letter appearing in the place of another (see also Ps. xxv., xxxvii., cxi., cxii.). The religious and ethical content of the Psalms may be summarized as a vivid consciousness of G-d's all-sustaining, guiding, supreme power. The verbal terms are often anthropomorphic; the similes, bold (e.g., G-d is seated in the heavens with the earth as His footstool; He causes the heavens to bow down; He scatters the enemies of His people; He spreads a table). G-d's justice and mercy are the dominant notes in the theology of the Psalms. His loving-kindness is the favorite theme of the psalmists. G-d is the Father who loves and pities His children. He lifts up the lowly and defeats the arrogant. His kingdom endures for ever. He is the Holy One. The heavens declare His glory: they are His handiwork. The religious interpretation of nature is the intention of many of these hymns of praise (notably Ps. viii., xix., xxix., lxv., xciii., civ.). Man's frailty, and withal his strength, his exceptional position in the sweep of creation, are other favorite themes.