1. Happiness can be found in doing good; it essentially is meant to have a positive, even palliative effect on a pained and troubled soul. Easier said than done, no doubt, but who ever heard of moving forward without some pain and hard work? "A person's delight is in the pursuit of the Law." So wrote King David in the first psalm. And one whose pursuits are toward the ethical is the stabilizing reality of a society--"he shall be like a tree planted by streams of water, that brings forth its fruit in its season." As if to say that there is a natural order to be discerned in doing what is right. And the favor of that insight is returned: "The Eternal knows the ways of the righteous." Here the Eternal as the Source of Life, as All of Existence. As Everything that Ever Was, Is and Will Be. That kind of promise.
2. In these nutty times, with all sorts of wackos claiming to know the truth, I take comfort in David's words in the second psalm: "Why are the nations in an uproar? Why do the peoples utter in vain?" Don't they get it? It's them against the "anointed one," and in David's case, he's quite clear that it's us v them. This is challenging, even troubling thinking. And yet who hasn't thought that they're right and everyone else is wrong? That sure is a monkey on my back, I'll tell you that! It gets better, and with a bit of Divine sarcasm and humor, it greases the wheels to be sure. "God sits in heaven and laughs; the Eternal holds them in derision." As it should be! Who's proud that we executed a 41 year old yesterday? Who's proud of the respectable racism that we see in our land? Who's proud that fabricated fears and hatred have hijacked a nation from caring for its poor? Laughter and derision, besides fighting back, may be the only tools we have to fight some powerful forces that are unified in their desire for destruction. The psalmist gets graphic: "Break them with a rod of iron; dash them in pieces like a potter's vessel. But serve the Eternal with awe and fear; rejoice in your trembling." To translate your fear into service, your terror into rejoicing--oh, how that whets the presumed violent knife of self-defense into a determination to foil the forces of destruction with deeds of goodness and strength and determination. Or, as a teacher in rabbinical school once put it, "Don't let the bastards get you down."
3. Here the writer is aware of how others mockingly deride the notion of God. People tell me every day they don't believe in God. Some are guilty about it; others are humble; still others are arrogant and act like they've got it all figure out ("geniuses.") Ukh! David agrees. "How many are my adversaries become! Many are they that rise up against me! Many are they that say of my soul there is no salvation in God!" Many, many, many. In response, David goes to Nature and cries out and his experience was that God spoke to him "from His holy mountain, selah!" You know one of the most embarrassing things that happens to me as a rabbi is when people I know catch me talking to myself. I talk to myself when I walk the dog; when I run in the park; when I stop to capture the image and experience of a tree, a bird, the sky. I feel like those who give the knowing glance of "one who talks to Nature" are those of true faith, even if they don't have "faith." We know who we are. And that surety lifts the fear from our burdened shoulders. "I lay me down, and I sleep; I awake, for the Eternal sustains me." And, "salvation is in the Eternal, Your blessing upon Your people, selah!"
Of course, it begs the question: what is salvation? David doesn't answer it yet. There is no set theory, articulated in psalms one, two and three, of what that word actually means. Except to understand it by what it isn't. It isn't violence; it isn't fear; it isn't mockery; nor is it adversarial rebellion. It simply is. Everything that was, is and will be. Eternally.