The following verses from a daily morning psalm convey a comforting message:
“The Builder of Jerusalem is Hashem; He will gather in the dispersed of Israel. He is the Healer of the brokenhearted, and the One Who binds up their sorrows.” (Psalm 147:2, 3)
“Who binds up their sorrows” – The Malbim, a noted biblical commentator of the 19th century, explains that this is referring to the sorrow within the heart, for in place of the sorrow, there will be joy and gladness.
When Hashem will fully rebuild Jerusalem through the ingathering of all our exiles, He will also heal our broken hearts, and the sorrow within our hearts will be replaced by joy and gladness. In the very next verse, the psalm reveals the secret of this healing process through an ancient biblical metaphor for our people – the stars:
“The One Who counts the number of the stars, to all of them He assigns names.” (Verse 4)
In order to begin to understand the healing and comforting message of this metaphor, we need to refer to a Divine promise to “Avraham Avinu” – Abraham, our father – regarding his chosen descendants who would inherit the Promised Land. Hashem told Avraham to gaze at the stars and then said to him:
“So shall your offspring be!” (Genesis 15:5)
The Malbim explains that this particular Divine promise which compares these descendants to the stars cannot just be referring to quantity, since Hashem already told Avraham that these descendants will be numerous like “the dust of the earth” (Genesis 13:16). According to the Malbim, the comparison to the stars is therefore emphasizing the “quality” of these descendants. The Malbim writes:
“Each one of them will be an important world as an individual, and will be counted as an individual, just as Hashem counts the stars, for each star is a world within itself.”
This explanation of the Malbim can help us to understand why David states that “the Healer of the brokenhearted, and the One Who binds up their sorrows” is also “the One Who counts the number of the stars, to all of them He assigns names.” The healing of our broken hearts will take place when the Healing One gives each of us the full and joyous awareness of the following truth:
Just as each star is a unique world with a name that expresses its unique purpose within creation, so too, each of us is a unique world with a name that expresses our unique purpose within the creation.
During the long exile, our hearts became broken as a result of the great suffering we experienced as a people and as individuals; moreover, this great suffering caused many of us to forget our true spiritual worth and greatness. In the age of the great ingathering in Jerusalem, the Healing One will help us to realize that each of us is a light-giving “star” with a unique purpose and name.
In the Torah portion which we will chant on the approaching Shabbos, we find the following statement which Moshe proclaimed to our people before we entered the Promised Land:
“Hashem, your God, has multiplied you, and you are now like the stars of heaven in multitude.” (Deuteronomy 1:10)
Rabbi Samson Raphael Hirsch finds in the above statement the following additional insight:
“It appears, however, that there is additional significance to Moshe’s comparison of the multitude of the people with the host of heaven. Thereby he intends to negate the erroneous notion that the ‘people’ in its totality is considered just a numberless mass in which the individual has no importance. Rather, the people’s multitudes are like the stars of heaven: Although they are countless, there is independent significance to each individual; each one is a ‘world unto himself,’ has his own value, and is under God’s providence.
Yosef Ben Shlomo Hakohen (See below)
1. A noted 19th century biblical commentator, known as KeSav V’HaKabbalah, states that the Divine promise to Avraham which compared his descendants to the stars is referring to “the quality of the stars that give light to the earth and its inhabitants.” This commentator cites the following verse as a source for this idea:
“The wise will shine like the radiance of the firmament, and those who teach righteousness to the multitudes like the stars, forever and ever.” (Daniel 12:3)
The above commentary is cited in Sha’arei Aharon – an anthology of commentaries on the Torah.
2. As we await the approaching redemption, we can find strength and comfort in the following verse from a psalm which we chant on Shabbos morning:
“Hashem is close to the brokenhearted; and those crushed in spirit, He saves.” (Psalm 34:19)