Thoughts on the Liturgy: Psalm 92
Written by Rabbi Josh Levy — 20 May 2016
Liturgically, we have finally reached Shabbat. Kabbalat Shabbat, the six psalms with which the classical Friday night service begins, take us through the working week; they serve as the procession, leading Shabbat to our door. L’cha Dodi serves as the bridge, the music to which the bride of Shabbat enters. And now, we reach Shabbat itself.
And what is the first thing we do in our liturgical Shabbat? The first thing we do is to sing. Psalm 92 – “mizmor shir l’yom hashabbat” – a musical Psalm for Shabbat. In fact, a melody, we are told in verse 4, to be sung to the accompaniment of a stringed instrument… just like we do in our very traditional, old-school way!
In truth, Psalm 92 is a psalm for Shabbat that seems to have little obvious (in fact, nothing obvious) to do with the seventh day. Shabbat is explicitly mentioned only in its title. So why is it a psalm for Shabbat?
One clue is in verses 5 and 6 – “ki simachtani Adonai b’fo’olecha” – “Your creations, God, make me happy”; “ma gadlu ma’asecha Adonai” – “how great are Your works, Eternal”. This is a psalm celebrating, giving joyful thanks, for the world we inhabit. It is about stopping on Friday night, and looking back at the work of the week of creation we have just lived, and being grateful for that which we enjoy.
According to one tradition, it was first sung by Adam, naked in the Garden of Eden, on the first night of his existence: the very first Friday Night Service – Adam giving joyful appreciation for the world.
We have opened the door to Shabbat and allowed her in. Let us begin our day by appreciating the world we live in. With joy.