Listen to this chapter in Hebrew:
1A psalm of Asaf. Hashem is truly good to Yisrael, to those whose heart is pure.
miz-MOR l'-a-SAF AKH TOV l'-yis-ra-AYL e-lo-HEEM l'-va-RAY lay-VAV
אמִזְמוֹר לְאָסָף אַךְ טוֹב לְיִשְׂרָאֵל אֱלֹהִים לְבָרֵי לֵבָב׃
73:1 A Psalm of Asaf
Asaf is mentioned in Sefer Divrei Hayamim I (15:16-17) as one of the Leviim whom David appointed to sing in the Beit Hamikdash, and he is the author of the next ten psalms. In this psalm, he contrasts the suffering of the righteous in this world with the success of the wicked, and notes that the wicked are “at ease” (verse 3) though he experiences difficult times. The way Asaf begins the psalm, however, is most significant. He speaks of Hashem’s greatness and his belief that God rewards His servants with good: “Hashem is truly good to Yisrael, to those whose heart is pure.” The question of theodicy is as old as time. Though Asaf struggles with the fact that his enemies rejoice, relax and persevere while he has been “constantly afflicted” (verse 14), he nevertheless begins with an acknowledgment that ultimately, what the Lord does to His faithful servants is good, even if the benefit is not immediately obvious. In the meantime, Asaf concludes that although he suffers, just being close to the Lord is good, as he states “nearness to Hashem is good” (verse 28).
2As for me, my feet had almost strayed, my steps were nearly led off course,
בוַאֲנִי כִּמְעַט נטוי [נָטָיוּ] רַגְלָי כְּאַיִן שפכה [שֻׁפְּכוּ] אֲשֻׁרָי׃
3for I envied the wanton; I saw the wicked at ease.
גכִּי־קִנֵּאתִי בַּהוֹלְלִים שְׁלוֹם רְשָׁעִים אֶרְאֶה׃
4Death has no pangs for them; their body is healthy.
דכִּי אֵין חַרְצֻבּוֹת לְמוֹתָם וּבָרִיא אוּלָם׃
5They have no part in the travail of men; they are not afflicted like the rest of mankind.
הבַּעֲמַל אֱנוֹשׁ אֵינֵמוֹ וְעִם־אָדָם לֹא יְנֻגָּעוּ׃
6So pride adorns their necks, lawlessness enwraps them as a mantle.
ולָכֵן עֲנָקַתְמוֹ גַאֲוָה יַעֲטָף־שִׁית חָמָס לָמוֹ׃
7Fat shuts out their eyes; their fancies are extravagant.
זיָצָא מֵחֵלֶב עֵינֵמוֹ עָבְרוּ מַשְׂכִּיּוֹת לֵבָב׃
8They scoff and plan evil; from their eminence they plan wrongdoing.
חיָמִיקוּ וִידַבְּרוּ בְרָע עֹשֶׁק מִמָּרוֹם יְדַבֵּרוּ׃
9They set their mouths against heaven, and their tongues range over the earth.
טשַׁתּוּ בַשָּׁמַיִם פִּיהֶם וּלְשׁוֹנָם תִּהֲלַךְ בָּאָרֶץ׃
10So they pound His people again and again, until they are drained of their very last tear.
ילָכֵן ישיב [יָשׁוּב] עַמּוֹ הֲלֹם וּמֵי מָלֵא יִמָּצוּ לָמוֹ׃
11Then they say, “How could Hashem know? Is there knowledge with the Most High?”
יאוְאָמְרוּ אֵיכָה יָדַע־אֵל וְיֵשׁ דֵּעָה בְעֶלְיוֹן׃
12Such are the wicked; ever tranquil, they amass wealth.
יבהִנֵּה־אֵלֶּה רְשָׁעִים וְשַׁלְוֵי עוֹלָם הִשְׂגּוּ־חָיִל׃
13It was for nothing that I kept my heart pure and washed my hands in innocence,
יגאַךְ־רִיק זִכִּיתִי לְבָבִי וָאֶרְחַץ בְּנִקָּיוֹן כַּפָּי׃
14seeing that I have been constantly afflicted, that each morning brings new punishments.
ידוָאֱהִי נָגוּעַ כָּל־הַיּוֹם וְתוֹכַחְתִּי לַבְּקָרִים׃
15Had I decided to say these things, I should have been false to the circle of Your disciples.
טואִם־אָמַרְתִּי אֲסַפְּרָה כְמוֹ הִנֵּה דוֹר בָּנֶיךָ בָגָדְתִּי׃
16So I applied myself to understand this, but it seemed a hopeless task
טזוָאֲחַשְּׁבָה לָדַעַת זֹאת עָמָל היא [הוּא] בְעֵינָי׃
17till I entered Hashem's sanctuary and reflected on their fate.
יזעַד־אָבוֹא אֶל־מִקְדְּשֵׁי־אֵל אָבִינָה לְאַחֲרִיתָם׃
18You surround them with flattery; You make them fall through blandishments.
יחאַךְ בַּחֲלָקוֹת תָּשִׁית לָמוֹ הִפַּלְתָּם לְמַשּׁוּאוֹת׃
19How suddenly are they ruined, wholly swept away by terrors.
יטאֵיךְ הָיוּ לְשַׁמָּה כְרָגַע סָפוּ תַמּוּ מִן־בַּלָּהוֹת׃
20When You are aroused You despise their image, as one does a dream after waking, O Hashem.
ככַּחֲלוֹם מֵהָקִיץ אֲדֹנָי בָּעִיר צַלְמָם תִּבְזֶה׃
21My mind was stripped of its reason, my feelings were numbed.
כאכִּי יִתְחַמֵּץ לְבָבִי וְכִלְיוֹתַי אֶשְׁתּוֹנָן׃
22I was a dolt, without knowledge; I was brutish toward You.
כבוַאֲנִי־בַעַר וְלֹא אֵדָע בְּהֵמוֹת הָיִיתִי עִמָּךְ׃
23Yet I was always with You, You held my right hand;
כגוַאֲנִי תָמִיד עִמָּךְ אָחַזְתָּ בְּיַד־יְמִינִי׃
24You guided me by Your counsel and led me toward honor.
כדבַּעֲצָתְךָ תַנְחֵנִי וְאַחַר כָּבוֹד תִּקָּחֵנִי׃
25Whom else have I in heaven? And having You, I want no one on earth.
כהמִי־לִי בַשָּׁמָיִם וְעִמְּךָ לֹא־חָפַצְתִּי בָאָרֶץ׃
26My body and mind fail; but Hashem is the stay of my mind, my portion forever.
כוכָּלָה שְׁאֵרִי וּלְבָבִי צוּר־לְבָבִי וְחֶלְקִי אֱלֹהִים לְעוֹלָם׃
27Those who keep far from You perish; You annihilate all who are untrue to You.
כזכִּי־הִנֵּה רְחֵקֶיךָ יֹאבֵדוּ הִצְמַתָּה כָּל־זוֹנֶה מִמֶּךָּ׃
28As for me, nearness to Hashem is good; I have made Hashem my refuge, that I may recount all Your works.
כחוַאֲנִי קִרֲבַת אֱלֹהִים לִי־טוֹב שַׁתִּי בַּאדֹנָי יְהֹוִה מַחְסִי לְסַפֵּר כָּל־מַלְאֲכוֹתֶיךָ׃