From the ends of the earth I call to you,
I call as my heart grows faint;
lead me to the rock that is higher than I. — Psalm 61:2
According to Jewish tradition, King David owed his life to Adam, the first man. From the beginning, Adam was meant to live forever. Humanity was intended to live in paradise forever and death was not even supposed to be a possibility. But we all know what happened next: Adam ate from the forbidden Tree of Knowledge and death was introduced into the world. This was the great fall. It was the end of Eden and the beginning of the imperfect world as we know it.
From that moment on, it was determined that every person would die, including Adam. But Adam was given 1,000 years to live, along with the ability to foresee all future generations and all future kings of Israel. Therefore, Adam was able to see the soul of King David and also that he was missing “years” of life. Adam “donated” 70 years from his own life so that David could make his profound impact on the world. The Jewish sages explain that this is what was meant in Psalm 61:6 when it says, “Increase the days of the king’s life, his years for many generations.” David was well aware that his years were increased, and indeed made possible, by Adam’s contribution.
Now here’s the interesting part and the lesson: From man’s greatest fall came man’s greatest contribution. When Adam became mortal, it was a huge blow to humanity. However, he chose to turn the catastrophe into something good. He used his mortal years to help bring about the birth of David, the greatest king Israel had ever known and the ancestor of the messiah. Through David’s son Solomon the Holy Temple in Jerusalem would be built, and because of King David, we have the book of Psalms. The most significant contribution to humanity came from our greatest failure.
Earlier in this psalm, David wrote, “From the ends of the earth I call to you, I call as my heart grows faint . . .” Sometimes it feels like we are at the “ends of the earth” – the farthest place from God. We may have sinned, made a huge mistake, or did something we deeply regret. We feel so far from God, so lost that our “heart grows faint.”
And yet, from that place, David prayed, “. . . lead me to the rock that is higher than I.” It was as if David was saying, “Even from these great depths, lead me, God, to a place that is higher than I have ever been before. Through my descent, lead me to a great ascent.”
Friends, when we make mistakes, as we humans tend to do, don’t give into despair. Instead do as Adam did and pray as David prayed: use your failure to grow and to become even greater than before.
With prayers for shalom, peace,
Rabbi Yechiel Eckstein
Founder and President