Rav Kook Torah

Psalm 100: Serving God in Joy

In this exuberant psalm of thanksgiving, Mizmor Le-todah, King David teaches us how to feel joy and happiness in our service of God:

“דְּעוּ כִּי ה’ הוּא אֱ-לֹהִים. הוּא-עָשָׂנוּ, ולא [וְלוֹ] אֲנַחְנוּ , עַמּוֹ וְצֹאן מַרְעִיתוֹ.” (תהילים ק:ג)

“Know that the Eternal is God. He created us and we are His — His people, and the sheep of His pasture.” (Psalm 100:3)

The first step toward serving God in joy is to recognize God’s infinite greatness, a grandeur that transcends all boundaries and limits. No law of nature can restrain the abundance of God’s kindness from spreading in the world.

Along with this recognition, we must be aware of our deep inner connection to God. Despite His incomparable loftiness, God relates to His creations with boundless care and concern.

The verse uses the Tetragrammaton, the ineffable name for God. This name indicates His eternal holiness, beyond limitations of time and place. However, recognition of God’s transcendent nature could cause one to mistakenly wonder: how can mortal man, so deeply immersed in ignorance and impurity, be connected to such incomparable holiness?

Therefore we stress “The Eternal is God [Elokim].” Despite His infinite transcendence, beyond human thought and understanding, He is nonetheless Elokim — God Who established the laws of nature and governs the universe. God relates to His finite creatures with great love and care.

Constant Connection

He created us.” It is not difficult to understand that creation ex nihilo logically requires a Creator. But a flawed spiritual perception can lead one to erroneously distinguish between one-time creation and an ongoing, continual creation. If we are unaware of God’s continual perpetuation of the universe, we will lack appreciation for our constant dependence on God’s kindness and our ongoing connection with Him. This unawareness will certainly dilute our joy in serving God.

Therefore we declare that not only “He created us,” but also “we are His.” God’s relationship with the universe did not end after its initial creation. The verse’s written form contributes an additional layer of meaning. The verse is read, “we are His,” but it is written, “we are not.” Were it not that “He created us,” were it not for God’s continuous creation at each moment, “we are not.” We would not exist if God did not constantly sustain the world.

Our connection to God is ingrained throughout the universe. This bond exists on many levels: all of creation, all of humanity, and for the special community of Israel — “His people.” The universal connection, however, does not detract from God’s particular care for each individual. We are “the sheep of His pasture” — members of the Shepherd’s flock, benefiting from His careful supervision.

With this awareness, our joy in serving God soars.

“Know that the Eternal is God. He created us [or else we are not]; and we are His — His people and the sheep of His pasture.”

(Adapted from Olat Re’iyah vol. I, pp. 221-222)

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