English Basic Explanation - Chapter 123
This Psalm expresses a prayer to God for assistance against the enemies of Israel who ridicule and torment the Jewish people, comparing ourselves to servants appealing to their master.
This analogy is understood by the commentators in a number of different ways. Some explain that we are entirely dependent upon the Almighty for our most basic needs just as a servant relies on his master. In this prayer we thus humbly acknowledge that our very survival is dependent upon the Almighty's grace and kindness, and we plead to Him for mercy and compassion. According to others, we appeal for God's protection just as a servant begs his master for protection against those who seek to cause him harm. Servants are generally helpless and vulnerable without the help of their master; similarly, we are powerless against our enemies without God's assistance. Finally, this analogy has been understood as referring to a servant who has betrayed his master and thus faces the prospect of harsh punishment. His only recourse is to plead for mercy and compassion. He openly confesses his guilt, and begs his angry master to spare him punishment nonetheless for no other reason than pity and sympathy. We, too, acknowledge that we have acted wrongly and are thus deserving of the humiliation to which we are subjected by our foes. But we nevertheless lift our eyes with both shame and hope to the Almighty and plead for forgiveness and assistance, asking that He grant us His protection even if we are unworthy of His kindness.