The Ark of the Covenant was not intended to rest in the innermost sanctum of the Temple as a mere ornament. The presence of the Tablets of Stone with the Ten Commandments and Moses' Torah scroll in the Ark on the holiest spot in the Temple came to demonstrate that the ultimate purpose of all of its services was to bind Israel to God's Torah and to the keeping of His commandments.

Before the Temple could be built, it was first necessary to bring the Ark up to Jerusalem . Having prepared a tent where the Ark would rest until the completion of the Temple (v 1), David ordered the Levites to carry the Ark up to Jerusalem in the presence of all Israel . This was an act of supreme holy boldness on the part of David since he had been deeply burned by the death of Uzza when he put forth his hand to steady the Ark the first time David tried to bring it to Jerusalem on a wagon (I Chron 13:10-11). A lesser figure would have been deterred from "tempting fate" again, but David was on the level where he could publicly admit that the mistake had been his in having the Ark transported on a wagon instead of on poles carried on the shoulders of the Levites as ordained by the Torah. David's confession of his error is contained in our present chapter in verse 13.

We can understand more of the nature of the true king of Israel when we consider the narrative in this chapter and the next telling how David himself directed the arrangements for bringing the Ark to Jerusalem and personally organized and led the priests and the Levites in the triumphant procession. For the essential goal of the Messianic kingship is to establish the Temple , with the Ark of the Covenant at its center, as the primary focus of Israel 's connection with God (see Rambam, Laws of Kings 11:4).

As the Levites carried the Ark up to Jerusalem on poles on their shoulders in the prescribed manner, David organized the Levite singers into a choir and orchestra to accompany it on its way (verses 16ff). David's organization of the Levite singers on this occasion became the prototype for the organization of the Temple choir and orchestra, and important clues about the Temple music are contained in our present chapter and the next.

The conceptual link between the Ark of the Covenant and the Temple music lies in the fact that through Israel 's observance of the Covenant, the outer KELIPAH-husk (ORLAH, the "foreskin") is peeled away from the world to reveal that behind every detail of creation, including even the seemingly implacable laws of nature, lies the detailed providence (HASHGACHAH PRATIS) of God. When this is revealed, all the separate details are seen to interconnect like the notes and words of a song, which links together separate details and makes them into a single whole. (The Hebrew word for a LINK in a chain is SHER, connected with the word SHIR, "song".) Thus the song that was sung when David brought the Ark to Jerusalem - in the next chapter vv 8-36 - is the song of God's providence, alluding to His miracles in bringing the Ark out of its captivity in the hands of the Philistines (see commentary on next chapter).

We can but yearn to hear what the Temple music actually sounded like. We know little about the actual nature of the various musical instruments that are mentioned in the present chapter. These include the NEVEL and KINOR (v 16), two kinds of string instruments differing mainly in the number of strings they had. Although KINOR in Modern Hebrew usually refers to a violin, it is not clear if the Temple KINOR was played with a bow or plucked. The METZILTHAYIM mentioned in our text (ibid.) was a pair of very loud brass cymbals which were used by the leading singers to direct the music (see v 19).

The ALAMOTH mentioned in verse 20 was a particular kind of instrument that was specifically used for those Psalms that are prefixed LA-MNATZEACH AL ALAMOTH (Psalms 46:1; see Rashi on v 20. ALAMOTH also has deeper allusions to the hidden mysteries of God's providence, see Targum on Psalms 46:1). Similarly the SHEMINIS mentioned in verse 21 was a particular kind of eight-stringed instrument used in singing those Psalms prefixed AL HA-SHEMINIS (Psalms 6:1, 12:1; Rashi on v 21). An eight-stringed instrument can produce a considerably wider range of octaves and chords than the contemporary six-stringed guitar! The concept of EIGHT (SHEMINI) is also bound up with that of the Covenant, which joins Malchus (this world) with Binah (the world to come): Binah is the eighth Sefirah up from Malchus, just as the top note of a scale is one octave above the bottom note.

In verse 21, the SHEMINIS is described as being LE-NATZEYACH, "to overcome". Rashi (on Psalms 4:1) explains that Psalms prefixed with LA-M'NATZEYACH "were instituted by David to be chanted by the Levites who ASSERTIVELY sing the melodies of their songs from the Duchan ('platform'). The root NITZU'ACH applies to the strength and assertiveness one puts into one's work".

V 22: "And Khenanyahu, chief of the Levites, was over the song: he was master in the song, because he was UNDERSTANDING." The Hebrew word that is here rendered as "he was master" is YASSOR, which literally means "he chastised". "He would chastise and rebuke them over the way they were carrying the melody to bring out the beauty of the song whether through raising their voices or lowering them" (Rashi ad loc.) In other words, he was the CONDUCTOR of the Temple choir and orchestra, and for this he had to possess understanding, BINAH, for BINAH takes things piece by piece and puts them all together.

V 24: ".the priests blowing on the trumpets." The trumpets had a special place in the Temple services and it was the Torah-given right of the priests to sound them (Numbers 10:8).

V 27: "And David was clothed in a robe of fine linen and all the Levites.. And David had on him an ephod of linen." David was singing just as were the Levites and accordingly he wore the same ceremonial garments that they wore (see Rashi on v 27).

V 29: The description of King David's whirling dancing and Michal's contemptuous view of it as contained in our chapter is considerably less detailed than in the parallel account in II Samuel chapter 6. Rashi (on verse 29 in our present chapter) explains that since DIVREY HAYAMIM was written in honor of King David, Michal's words to David were not written here since they were disparaging to him.


After the Ark had been successfully brought up to Jerusalem, David concluded the national celebration by distributing a loaf of bread, a good piece of meat (ESHPAR) and a cake (ASHISHAH) to every man and woman. The ESHPAR was "one sixth of an ox" (Pesachim 36b; Rashi on our chapter, v 3) while the ASHISHAH was "one sixth of a HIN-measure" (Rashi ibid.) Perhaps this alludes to the fact that the Sefirah of YESOD (=BRIS, the Covenant) is "one sixth" - i.e. the sixth and last of the "Six Directions" (SHESH KETZAVOS, Chessed-Gevurah-Tiferet-Netzach-Hod-Yesod) and contains the concentrated power of all six.

The Ark was in Jerusalem , but the Temple was not yet built and the daily sacrificial rites were still being conducted by the priests at the great Altar (BAMAH) in Giv'on, as we find in v 39 of our present chapter. (After the sacking of Shilo, the Sanctuary had moved to the city of Nov , but when Saul killed the priests of Nov for supporting David, it moved to Giv'on, where Solomon continued to sacrifice until he built the Temple in Jerusalem .)

For the duration of the time until the Temple would be built, David instituted two separate orders. One consisted mainly of Levites, who were to minister before the Ark of the Covenant in Jerusalem "to invoke and to thank and praise HaShem the God of Israel" (v 4) together with two priests to sound the trumpets there. This order is described in vv 4-7 and 37-38 of our present chapter, while the song of the Levites before the Ark is given in vv 8-36. There was no need for many Cohen-priests before the Ark in Jerusalem since their primary function was to conduct the sacrificial rites. In the absence of the Temple , the place for these was not before the Ark but at the Sanctuary in Giv'on. Accordingly, the second order which David now instituted was that of Cohen-priests to offer all the daily and other Torah-ordained sacrifices in Giv'on together with some Levites to sing there during the sacrificial services (vv 39-42).

V 4: ".to invoke and to thank and praise HaShem". These are different aspects of prayer and song. Rashi explains that the Levites were "to invoke" the name of HaShem by reciting the Psalms that are prefixed "A song of David LE-HAZKEER, to make mention" - i.e. Psalm 38, which is one of deep introspection in face of God's chastisement. "To thank" means to recite "Give thanks to HaShem, call upon His Name" (Psalm 105:1) while "to praise" (LE-HALLEL) means to recite those Psalms that begin with Halleluiah (see Rashi on v 4).

The text of David's song celebrating the bringing of the Ark to Jerusalem (vv 8-36) is familiar to all regular Daveners since it is recited daily at the start of the P'SUKEY D'ZIMRAH ("verses of song") that constitute the second of the four rungs of the morning service. This follows the first rung, the recital of the 18 Morning Blessings, and is in turn followed by the third rung, Shema with its blessings and the fourth rung, the silent Amidah prayer. David's song, HODOO LA'SHEM, KIR'OO BI-SHMO. is recited either BEFORE the blessing BARUCH SHE-AMAR introducing P'sukey D'Zimrah (Nusach Sefard) or immediately afterwards (Nusach Ashkenaz). Either way, David's song of HODOO facilitates the transition from the world of the Morning Blessings (ASIYAH) to the world of Song (YETZIRAH). The transition from one level to another is always accomplished primarily through the yearning of MALCHUS (the davener) to reach out to and join with YESOD (the source of the higher spiritual influence). [CHOCHMAH-BINAH-DAAS, the highest Sefirot of the lower level, which is MALCHUS in relation to the level above it, seek to "clothe" the lowest Sefirot of the upper level, NETZACH-HOD-YESOD.] Since David's song of HODOO alludes to the miracles through which God returned the Ark of the Covenant (YESOD) from captivity, it is the vehicle through which MALCHUS (David) connects with YESOD (the Ark ).

V 7: "On that day David put it into the hand of Asaph to be the head in giving thanks to HaShem, and his brothers." Rashi explains that David hereby instituted the Temple custom that the leader of the singers would begin the chant and then all his brother Levites would answer after him.

V 8: "Call on His Name" - "Call out HaShem! Let HaShem help His Ark" (Rashi). "Make known His deeds among the nations" - "these are the acts of might and miracles that He performed for the Ark " (ibid.) Rashi is alluding to the way that God sent the plague of mice and other troubles to the Philistines after they captured the Ark, and to the miraculous way in which they sent it back on a wagon drawn by nursing cows (I Samuel ch's 5-6). These miracles show how God carries out His inscrutable purposes with or against the consent of men. The Ark protects itself!

V 11: "Search out (DEERSHOO) HaShem and His strength! Seek out His face constantly" His "strength" (OOZO) is the Torah. We seek out His face by constantly studying and darshening His Torah, thereby enhancing the prayers with which we entreat His inner presence.

V 18: "Saying, To you (singular) will I give the Land of Canaan , the lot of your inheritance." God promised the land of Israel to each of the patriarchs individually, despite the fact that at the time they were mere nomads and sojourners and the future residence of their descendants there may have then seemed entirely improbable (see Rashi ad loc.).

The history of the people of Israel illustrates the survival of a tiny nation against all the odds, through God's providence alone (vv 19-22).

Verses 8-22 of David's song celebrating the coming of the Ark to Jerusalem are parallel to Psalm 105 vv 1-15. This was sung during the morning Temple service. The ensuing passage in David's song, vv 23-33, which is parallel to Psalm 96 vv 1-12, was sung in the afternoon Temple service (see Rashi on v 35). In this second section, David moves from telling of God's PAST miracles on behalf of Israel to telling of His FUTURE redemption and the ingathering of the exiles (see Rashi and RaDaK on Psalms 96:1), which are also miraculous wonders bespeaking His loving providence. The Midrash (Bereishis Rabbah 54:4) states that these were the two songs that the cows sang as they drew the wagon with the Ark of the Covenant up from the Philistines to Beit Shemesh (I Samuel 6:12).



By Rabbi Avraham Yehoshua Greenbaum
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