Shoah is the word used for the Holocaust in modern Hebrew. The word is widely translated as “darkness,” “destruction,” or “devastation.” It is a rare word in Hebrew Scripture, appearing only 13 times, reflecting its extreme nature. The word appears three times in this Psalm.
The Psalmist describes the evil of unprovoked enemies who mocked him and sought his destruction. He had acted with great care toward his neighbors, praying for them when they were ill and mourning for them as if family. And those same people, when he limped verbally mocked him and set traps for his destruction.The sinister mocking is described with a rare word that also appears three times in this Psalm: Ha’hach, which I translate as “Hah”.
The enemies’ threat in this case appears like a legal proceeding, as if the enemy is using the tools of State and lies. Apparently, the threat is an accusation of a capital offense as the Psalter looks to the day of his acquittal and the downfall of his false accusers.
Rabbi Richard Levy, a rabbi that I admire, in his commentary to this Psalm points to a Job-like quality of suffering with no self-blame. I am untroubled by this focus on the evil of the enemy. For this Psalm evokes the image of the Nazi soldiers as they cut the beards of Jews or rip their Torahs. This is a Psalm that acknowledges a longing for friendship and normalcy that is rejected in the most vicious, contemptuous way. This Psalm conveys the essential need to recognize evil as evil.