English Basic Explanation - Chapter 42
Psalm 42 begins a series of Psalms ascribed to "the sons of Korah." Rashi interprets this literally, as a reference to the actual children of Korah, who led a revolt against Moshe's authority in the wilderness (Bamidbar 16) and was ultimately devoured by the ground together with his family and property (Bamidbar 16:32). Korah's sons repented and were given a safe refuge underground, where they composed these Psalms. Rashi adds that Korah's sons were endowed with a degree of prophecy, and foresaw the Davidic dynasty, the Bet Ha'mikdash, and Israel's exiles – the major themes of these Psalms.
Others, however, identify "the sons of Korah" as descendants of Korah who, in the capacity of their job as Levi'im, sung songs of praise to God in the Bet Ha'mikdash. The Radak suggests that David composed these Psalms to be sung by Korah's descendants to accompany the sacrificial offerings in the Temple.
Chapter 42 is a stirring, emotional description of the grief sensed by the Jewish people in exile, as they long for the restoration of the Bet Ha'mikdash. They cry, "When shall I be seen in the presence of God?" (verse 3), a reference to Aliya L'regel, the pilgrimage that Benei Yisrael would make to the Temple on Pesah, Shavuot and Sukkot. The Psalmist attempts to assuage his pain and anguish over the loss of the Temple by advising his soul to pray to God for redemption, rather than just wallowing in grief (verse 6). But the memories of the Temple's glory, and the tribulations the nation endures in exile, continue to torment him (verses 7-8, 10-11). The chapter concludes with yet another attempt by the Psalmist to focus his attention on prayer, on beseeching God to rebuild the Mikdash, rather then engaging in torturous reminiscing of the joy and glory that our nation once knew.
It is generally difficult for us today to feel pained over the absence of the Bet Ha'mikdash, to appreciate what we have lost. The emotion expressed in this Psalm, the author's passionate yearning for the Temple's restoration, perhaps offers us a glimpse into the joy and exuberance our ancestors experienced when they frequented the Bet Ha'mikdash. Any celebration and festivity we enjoy today pales in comparison to the euphoria of visiting the Mikdash, and we thus indeed have reason to feel pained over the Temple's destruction and to beg the Almighty to soon rebuild it.