א מִזְמוֹר לְדָוִד בִּהְיוֹתוֹ בְּמִדְבַּר יְהוּדָה׃
63:1 Wilderness of Yehuda
Fleeing from Shaul, David goes south to the wilderness of Yehuda, where he quickly needs to contend with a scarcity of water. The Judean desert is unique due to its proximity to the Jerusalem mountains which receive ample rainfall; within a few kilometers, the amount of rain decreases dramatically as a result of a geological phenomenon called a “rain shadow desert.” The clouds drifting westward across Eretz Yisrael from the Mediterranean Sea rise and cool, bringing rain over the Judean Hills and Yerushalayim. Then, as they continue east over the Judean desert, the clouds dissipate due to the extreme drop of almost a thousand meters within a short distance, condensing again and beginning to give significant rain only when they reach the mountains of Jordan. This psalm, therefore, begins with a focus on thirst. He experiences physical desire for water in “a parched and thirsty land,” but more significantly, a spiritual yearning for Hashem’s presence, which he describes with the phrase, “my soul thirsts for You” (verse 2). David recognizes the threat of scarcity of water, but says it pales in comparison to the absence of God’s presence.