The God Squad: The short Psalms for summer study: Psalm 15

Rabbi Marc Gellman, Tribune Content Agency on

1 Lord, who shall abide in thy tabernacle? who shall dwell in thy holy hill?

2 He that walketh uprightly, and worketh righteousness, and speaketh the truth in his heart.

3 He that backbiteth not with his tongue, nor doeth evil to his neighbour, nor taketh up a reproach against his neighbour.

4 In whose eyes a vile person is contemned; but he honoureth them that fear the Lord. He that sweareth to his own hurt, and changeth not.

5 He that putteth not out his money to usury, nor taketh reward against the innocent. He that doeth these things shall never be moved. (KJV)

What is Psalm 15 about? This is an entry psalm that was probably chanted as the pilgrims entered the Temple of Solomon in Jerusalem during the Passover, Sukkot and Shavuot holidays bringing sacrificial offerings. However, since it is a psalm of David it predates the construction of the Temple in Jerusalem and is referring to the portable tabernacle and ark that was carried by the people from Mt. Sinai, through the desert wanderings and finally into Jerusalem. On the broadest and deepest spiritual level, we spend way too much time telling God what we want from God and way to little time reflecting upon what God wants from us. Psalm 15 is a rectification of that spiritual imbalance.


What is interesting to me is that nothing God wants from us is purely ritual. Everything God wants from us is purely ethical. Lighting candles is a ritual act that can be done by an evil person. Being kind to those in need is an ethical act that can only be performed by a good person. It is really that simple. Only good people, kind people, loving people, compassionate people, just people are worthy of coming close to God. The highest truth is that such people do not do good things and then come close to God. They are already close to God when they do good things.

Each verse of Psalm 15 gives us a list of good things to do. Here is the list in my own translation/commentary.

2. Be just and be innocent and speak the truth.

3. Do not gossip and watch what you say so that it does not cause harm to others.


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Paul Szep Bob Englehart Andy Capp Bill Bramhall Dave Whamond Dave Granlund