Credit:Deepak Sethi

Psalm 1:1–2: Blessed is the man who does not walk in the counsel of the wicked or stand in the way of sinners nor sit in the seat of scoffers, but his delight in the law of the LORD and on his law, he meditates day and night.

The adjective ‘fortunate’ (esher) indicates more of inner happiness, contentment, and felicity than material prosperity or success or the state of being well spoken of.

It is more than the religious rite of sacrifice (i.e., blood offering) or kneeling and praising a deity. Esher indicates the result of a morally straightforward lifestyle.

The Indian noun ‘āśīrvāda’ helps to better understand the Hebrew ‘esher’: wealth in civil life (śīr) consists of both material fortune and an excellent social reputation achieved through consistent negotiations and dispute resolutions (vāda) and lifestyle.

Śīr refers to the evenness of life that manages joys and sorrows, fame, and failures calmly.

A life śīr fosters better health and productivity because it prevents psychosomatic illnesses such as physical and emotional fatigue, high blood pressure, breathlessness, indigestion, muscle pain, headache, and the like.

Therefore, esher can be understood as a life of equilibrium. This Psalm understands blessedness in terms of walking, standing, and sitting. Walking (‘hālakh,’ ‘to walk’) symbolizes the process and manner of life, in which a person is never static.

The person comes, goes, and moves around. Walking includes individual steps or the journey of a person in a particular direction towards a predetermined goal.

A fortunate person does not walk in the counsel of the wicked, i.e., with those who are guilty of any sin or a crime or guilt.

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The second imagery of standing (‘āmad,’ ‘to stand, tarry, abide’) illustrates one’s social position. A fortunate person avoids the company of sinners, i.e., those who have incurred upon themselves social and moral condemnation and punishment.

The third image of sitting (‘yāshav,’ ‘to remain, dwell’) refers to habitual engagement with scoffers, who are arrogant and boastful, who mock and scorn others.

By contrast, the fortunate person delights in and meditates on the law (‘torah,’ salvific ‘instruction, direction’) of the LORD (YHWH): the law has layers of meaning.

Narrowly, the law is the Decalogue or Ten Commandments. Secondly, it involves the first five books (Pentateuch) of the Hebrew Bible; thirdly, it stands for the entirety of the Hebrew Bible known as Tanakh (Torah, Prophets, and Writings).

The Lord Jesus Christ summarized the law as active love towards God and active love towards fellow humans (Matthew 22:37–40).

The verb “delights” connotes disciplined longing for and taking pleasure in the law of the LORD. Likewise, the verb “meditates” (‘hāgāh,’ ‘to moan, mutter, speak’) does not mean an intense silent reflection on abstract things; instead, it implies conscious recital of select Torah passages and internalising them.

The phrase “day and night” is a Hebrew manner of expressing always. Figuratively, it stands for good and bright times as well as for gloomy and dark times of life.

The Word of the LORD remains the constant companion of the fortunate person, who has learnt to maintain a life of equilibrium.

Prof. Dr. Daniel Jeyaraj is an accomplished church historian and currently serves as the Academic Dean at Oxford Center for Religion and Public Life.