How did King David spend his nights? Twice in chapter 119 of Psalms, he describes his nighttime meditations and prayers; however, these two descriptions appear to contradict one another:
קִדַּמְתִּי בַנֶּשֶׁף וָאֲשַׁוֵּעָה; לִדְבָרְךָ יִחָלְתִּי.
“I arose early in the evening and cried out; I hope for Your word.” (119:147)
חֲצוֹת-לַיְלָה אָקוּם, לְהוֹדוֹת לָךְ עַל מִשְׁפְּטֵי צִדְקֶךָ.
“I arise at midnight to praise You for Your just laws.” (119:62)
When did David arise? At the beginning of the night or at midnight?
The Sages suggested three ways to resolve this discrepancy:
According to Rav Kook, all three explanations share a common thread, as they contrast David’s conduct during the first and second halves of the night.
The first part of the night is a time for rest and recuperation. David would utilize those hours for his own spiritual growth. During the early hours of the night, he would study Torah and contemplate God’s word: “I arose early in the evening... I hope for Your word.”
At midnight, David would begin his public service. He dedicated his working hours to attend to the needs of the nation. During the second half of the night, his service took on a more universal character, and the “sweet singer of Israel” would compose psalms of praise and thanksgiving: “I arise at midnight to praise You.”
The difference between David’s personal spiritual labors and his public service was manifested in three aspects:
(Adapted from Ein Eyah vol. I, p. 8 on Berachot 3b)
Illustration image: ‘King David Playing the Harp’ (Gerard van Honthorst, 1622)