[I found this interesting advice for a Rosh Kollel, at Life in Israel, interesting]
A couple of weeks ago, during a shiur, I was asked how King David could have said, “I have never seen a righteous person abandoned.” (Tehillim 37:25) It's a question I hear frequently; here are three approaches:
1. Radak seems to have been troubled by this question; he appended the word “entirely” to the sentence, in his commentary. In other words, King David meant that Gd doesn't entirely abandon a person - even if it seems that way.
2. Chief Rabbi Lord Jonathan Sacks, in his book, To Heal a Fractured World, offers another explanation:
“There is, however, a magnificent interpretation attributed to the late Rabbi Joseph Soloveitchik of blessed memory. He argued that the verb in the verse, raiti, "seen", should be understood as having the same meaning as it has in Esther 8:6... She says: "How can I see [raiti] disaster fall on my people? How can I see [raiti] the destruction of my kindred?" Here the verb means not simply to see but rather: to watch, to be a passive witness, to be a bystander.
“In this sense, said Rabbi Soloveitchik, the verse in Psalms should be read as: "When a righteous person was being forsaken or his children begging for bread, I never merely stood and watched." Understood thus, it has a similar meaning to the command (Vayyikra 19: 16), "Do not stand still when your neighbour’s life is in danger". As the Holocaust historian Yehudah Bauer put it: Thou shalt not be a bystander.
“Understood thus, the placing of the verse at the end of Birkat ha-mazon is beautifully symmetrical. Grace after meals begins by thanking G-d who feeds the hungry. It ends by urging us to do likewise. Having eaten and been satisfied and having blessed G-d, we now remind ourselves of those who do not have the blessing we have just enjoyed, who lack food - the righteous who are forsaken and the children forced to beg for bread. We commit ourselves, in King David’s words, not to stand silently and watch, but to act and bring them help. For we may not rest satisfied while others go hungry. We must heed their cry, as G-d heeds ours.“
3. To the words of Radak and Rabbi Sacks, I would add one more note: The book of Tehillim is neither a work of history nor a collection of prophecies. Rather, Tehillim is an archive of prayers.
Tehillim is King David’s monument to Faith, a record of his relationship with his Creator throughout the epic struggles of the most embattled figure in all of Jewish Scripture. From family strife to national upheaval to international conflict, from punishment and rejection and distance from Gd to cycles of sin and repentance and love and longing for the Divine, from public humiliation to the vision of a triumphant Temple built, King David expressed in words the extremes of human emotion he experienced through the numerous religious apices and nadirs of his seventy years of life.
Through that lens, the words, “I have never seen a righteous person abandoned,” may be more prayer than assertion. The king who had known dire circumstances—poverty, flight, life as a fugitive before King Shaul in the land of his foes, a son Avshalom who attempted to kill him in pursuit of his throne, another son Adoniyahu who staged a feast while his father lay on his deathbed in an attempt to claim the throne for himself—pledged fealty to Gd, saying, “Despite all of the suffering I have seen and experienced, I have faith that You would never truly abandon the righteous.”
We invoke this prayer at the close of our Birkat haMazon, as part of our own assertion of faith. “The man who trusts in Gd is blessed, for I believe Gd will not abandon a righteous person, or his descendants. Gd will give strength to His nation, and He will send them shalom.” This is King David’s prayer, and ours as well.
What is your answer to the question?