Psalm 145 is known as the “Ashrei” (ie Happy) since its first word is “Ashrei”; it is recited three times a day – twice during Shacharit and once during Minchah. One accrues great merit if it is said with concentration and intention – merit so great that the balance could be tipped such that one might merit a place in the world to come. This is no small matter for a Psalm – the 145th no less.
The prayer is an acrostic except that the first letter “aleph” gets three verses and the letter “nun “ gets none. Strange that a verse is “missing”. The reason? According to the Rabbis this is because the Hebrew word for “fall”, nafal, begins with this letter (“nun”) and it isn’t good to use a word that could point to the downfall of one’s enemies. And then we learn that the word “enemies” is really a euphemism for one’s own people and that what is really being said is that one should not draw excessive attention to one’s own fallen state …. And so we learn indirectly that one must honor the tragedy (namley the destruction of The Temple) but not dwell on it too much.
And yet the people and the Rabbis continue to struggle with coming to grips with this tragedy of tragedies. With the destruction of God’s House they don’t know where to find God.
The only solution that seems to appear for these people is to seek to come even closer to God even as God seems to be going further and further away. How to do this? With words! Words are what they have. Some words are better than others. Which words should be said? And when? And so we circle back to our initial question as to when we to recite the evening Sh’ma. And if the answers can be found, will the king be able to get a good night’s sleep? [More details in the daf itself about royal insomniacs!]
And if so will he arise refreshed and be able to say with a whole heart “Ashrei yoshvei vaytecha” (Happy is the one who sits in Your house), refreshed enough to see that no Temple can hold God, no House can contain God. The true God is the One with no end, the One who cannot be held in a place, and the One who can be found in everyplace if only one can figure out how to look.
This quest (figuring out how to look) is at the heart of the Daf Yomi enterprise where we bind ourselves to a seven and a half year enterprise – the Jewish version of climbing Mt Everest. Why do we do this? Because it’s there! And here we are! And it’s good to climb. And it might make us happy, happy, happy.