Psalms 119:11 in the Koren Jerusalem Tanakh appears (in English) to say: "Thy word have I hid in my heart, that I might not sin against Thee".

‎‎‎‏‏‎ ‎‏‏‎ ‎‏‏‎ ‎‏‏‎ ‎‏‏‎ ‎‏‏‎ ‎‏‏‎ ‎‏‏‎ ‎‏‏‎ ‎I was writing this beautiful verse down in my notepad, when I had to switch lines at the last two words. ‎‏‏‎Since the last thing I was writing at the bottom of the page(s) was just the last two words, and those words where "against thee", ‎‏‏‎ ‎‏‏‎‏‏‎I had to stop writing because it's common for someone to end the last line of a statement they wrote by writing their name, and it was as if I was signing off as "against thee"... So I immediately wondered why does it even say "against thee"? ‎‏‏‎Every sin is a sin against God (directly or indirectly), right?

‏‏‎ ‎‏‏‎ ‎‏‏‎ ‎‏‏‎ ‎‏‏‎ ‎‏‏‎ ‎‏‏‎ ‎‏‏‎ ‎‏‏‎ ‎We know Chazal extrapolate incredible truths from Tanach once they find a verse that says something seeming to be superfluous. Thinking about them and writing this verse makes me wonder... ‎‏‏‎Is it necessary to end psalm 119:11 with the words "against thee" when it could have just simply said: "Thy word I have hid in my heart that I might not sin"‎‏‏‎...

...what is the (extra) meaning of the words "against thee"? enter image description here

3 Answers 3


Many quotations in the book of Psalms use characteristic poetic styles to convey its messages. The psalm you mention uses the Synthetic Parallelism in which the psalmist parallels words/themes/ideas in the first clause with other words/themes/ideas in the second clause, also completing and adding an intended effect of an existed cause in the previous clause.

a) "Your word I have hidden in my heart," (cause)

b) "That I might not sin against Thee." (effect)

Note that, in this sense, the expression "Thy word" (God's word= His Torah) parallels with "against Thee" (God, the One who gave the Torah). It appears that whitout "against Thee" the psalmist wouldn't be able to convey two major things:

1) to be coherent with the poetic style (Synthetic Parallelism) in which he design this and others of his psalms and

2) to express the idea that the his sins which he is talking about is notedly against God (of Whom he mentions on both clauses). Otherwise, withouth these last words would give the impression of talking about the sins in general, as the ones bein adam lechavero.

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    i believe this answer gives a more certified answer to which Tom already answered. Interesting it still matches up 100% with his answer so I'm not justified to switch answers... but this response certainly clarifies the matter and both answers together should be considered the answer. Thank you everyone.
    – OB7DEV
    Jun 2, 2020 at 5:05

Not being a learned man, I cannot refer to any sources, but I will speculate that these words are polemical and stem from the psalmist’s desire to differentiate himself from surrounding peoples and persons who would affirm - and presumably serve - ‘other gods’. I don’t know much about paganism, but I imagine all the false deities of the world were believed to have placed some demands on their devotees, making possible the idea of sinning against ‘another’ god. I think, in other words, that the psalmist is simply saying that it is Hashem’s Torah, and that alone, that he heeds, rather than any instruction that was said, by those around him, to have come from ‘another’ god. As I say, I am not especially learned, so welcome correction if anyone has better ideas.

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    I guess sins against another person can be solved by making things up (repent and ask for forgiveness etc.), working on our relations, putting effort in not committing those sins, but there is something in our nature we can’t really fix namely the yetzer harah, although we can learn to control it, we need G-ds Torah to become our nature (written upon our hearts) as an antidote to get completely rid of it so that we don’t sin against G-d at any level. So maybe the writer is asking for something he can’t solve on his own, thus stating ‘against thee’, because he needs G-ds help with it.
    – Levi
    May 29, 2020 at 13:54
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    P.s. every sin is against G-d, a sin against another person is considered as if one sinned against G-d (says Rabbi Sacks).
    – Levi
    May 29, 2020 at 13:55
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    I think the writer is seperating because of what he can and can’t fix without G-d.
    – Levi
    May 29, 2020 at 13:57
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    thnk u @TomW, good answer
    – OB7DEV
    May 30, 2020 at 6:27
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    @OB7DEV - your welcome - shavua tov :)
    – Tom W
    May 31, 2020 at 12:22

Besides the poetic aspect mentioned above, there's an additional implication of the words "against thee."

The basic concept of sin is "distancing oneself from G-d." This is expressed clearly in how do teshuva/repent for sins.

It's not enough to stop doing the act, regret it and resolve not to repeat the bad act. We must verbally confess our sins. What's the text for the confession?

[How does one confess?] He states: ‘I implore You, G‑d, I sinned, I transgressed, I committed iniquity before You by doing the following. Behold, I regret and am embarrassed by my deeds. I promise never to repeat this act again.’”1 (laws of teshuva 1:1)

Likewise, on Yom Kippur, we repeatedly confess our sins and ask for forgiveness. One of the central confessions consists of a list of 42 sins. Each line starts off by saying על חטא שחטאנו לפניך... "For the sin that we have sinned before You… Some of the commentators explain (see the artscroll Yom Kippur machzor, in the back in their interlineated explanation, among other sources) that we don't just confess our sins. We emphasize that it was "before You." That recognition is very important.

Why? Because Judaism doesn't just view people by their actions; their intention counts as well.

A person who doesn't believe in G-d, but lights candles every Friday night because it's romantic, doesn't fulfill the mitzvah of lighting Shabbos candles!

The same is true for negative commandments. A person who doesn't steal only because he's afraid of being caught is not fulfilling the mitzvah of not stealing. It's still good not to steal; the person is not doing a negative action of stealing, with all the ramifications involved. But it's not the same as fulfilling the mitzvah of not stealing.

(This is related to the concept of "mitzvos tzrichos kavana" a person needs to intend to fulfill a mitzvah while performing it. See here for more) details.

Therefore, Dovid HaMelech was not just being poetic in the verse. He wants to keep- not a torah, but Your Torah- in his heart. This will prevent him from sinning- not just doing a bad deed, but doing it so "in front of Hashem."

This is really the essence of all the Torah- to build a connection with Hashem through doing the mitzvos. See the first chapter of Mesilas Yesharim for more about this.

  • beautifull and accurate explanation. I wish I could choose more than one answer. Thank you Binyomin.
    – OB7DEV
    Jun 8, 2020 at 0:56

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