Rav Kook Torah

Psalm 26: Connected to the Klal

In this chapter, the psalmist expresses his confidence that his path is straight and pure. The psalm concludes,

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“My leg stands on a straight path. I will bless God in assemblies.” (Ps. 26:12)

Why does he speak of a single leg? Would it not be better to have both feet planted firmly on the ground?

Spiritual Legs

Physically, we advance by means of our legs. So too spiritually, we advance using two ’spiritual legs.’ The first leg is the merit of our good deeds. And the second leg is our connection to the klal, the community and the nation. Together, these two ‘legs’ enable us to maintain our ethical balance and to progress spiritually.

Which leg is more crucial? True growth, of course, requires one to be accomplished both in good deeds and in one’s connection to the klal. But if we need to chose, which quality is more important?

Torah On One Leg

This question was posed to Hillel some two thousand years ago. A potential convert challenged the first-century scholar to teach him the entire Torah while standing ‘on one leg.’ Once again, we find the metaphor of a single leg.

The gentile was not just trying to be iritating. He wanted to know: What is the single most fundamental quality of the Torah? Hillel responded, “What is hateful to you, do not do to your neighbor” (Shabbat 31a). In other words, the Torah is based on correct interpersonal relations. The Torah is upheld by one’s connection to society. By being part of the klal, one is rooted within the framework of a faith-community.

Out of modesty, King David spoke of a single leg: “My leg stands on a straight path.” He did not claim complete mastery in good works. Only one of my spiritual legs is complete, David declared, and that is my connection to the klal. With all my heart, I cleave to the nation. I have unbounded love for each and every Jew. My second leg, my reserve of good deeds, may be lacking; but since my first leg is sturdy, I am able to stand firmly in the straight path.

Now we can understand the connection to the second half of the verse, which describes the spiritual benefit of belonging to a community — “I will bless God in assemblies.

This idea appears to be a major theme of the chapter. The psalmist’s confidence in his path is based on avoiding the negative influences of dishonest people and ‘gatherings of evildoers.’ Instead, he chose to take inspiration from “the dwelling of Your house and the residence of Your glory.” Thus King David merited to publicly “bless God in assemblies.

(Adapted from Midbar Shur, p. 73.)

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