English Basic Explanation - Chapter 23
Chapter 23 is arguably the most famous of all the Psalms. David beautifully likens the Almighty to a devoted shepherd who leads his flock to lush pastures and streams of refreshing water to ensure the sheep's sustenance and well-being. Seeing himself as a sheep in God's flock, David has no reason to fear harm even as he finds himself in a "Gei Tzalmavet," a "valley of the shadow of death" (4). Just as a sheep places its trust in the loyal shepherd, so does David feel secure under the Almighty's care, even in the most trying of situations. He concludes by offering a prayer that "goodness and kindness" should "pursue" him throughout his life, that he may be provided with his needs without any effort, so that he may "reside in the House of God" forever.
Rashi (verse 2) cites the Rabbinic tradition that David composed this Psalm upon arriving in the Charet Forest during his flight from King Shaul (Shemuel I 22:5). This was a particularly arid and barren region, which offered David no hope at all for survival. According to tradition, God miraculously provided David with "the goodness of the world to come" to sustain him during his stay in the otherwise uninhabitable forest. David responds by giving praise to God for His ability to provide a person's needs under even the harshest conditions.
Indeed, this chapter is generally viewed as a brief but powerful exposition of the Jewish perspective on Parnasa, livelihood. The Mishna Berura (170:1) advises reciting this chapter at every meal, as a prayer that God continue providing him with his needs. A person who feels anxious about his livelihood is encouraged to regularly recite, study and ponder this beautiful image of a shepherd tenderly caring for his flock. Just as a shepherd spares no efforts to ensure that the sheep are given adequate food and water, so does David call upon us in this Psalm to trust in the Almighty's ability to provide all our needs. He bids us to draw inspiration from his own experiences in the forest of Charet, and feel secure even in situations of "Gei Tzalmavet," when there appears to be little hope. This perspective allows us to petition God to bless us with "goodness and kindness" throughout our lives, so that we can spend our days in the "House of God" with serenity and peace of mind, without any need for worry or concern about our livelihood.