Psalm 104

Each morning in daily traditional prayer, we celebrate God as Creator: “Who renews creation each day.” The next line quotes, Psalm 104:24, “How many are your works, Adonai. All of them, You have made with wisdom; full is the earth of Your creations.” The Psalmist sees renewal in each day and an order both in the celestial realm and on earth. For instance, the lions hunt at night and with the rise of the sun go to lie in their lair as humans arise to go out to work (verses 21-23). God provides for the whole of creation and yet, the described gifts to humans (verse 15)- wine, oil and bread- each demand partnership with God. The Psalm closes with the recognition that humans distinctly also have the power to disrupt this blessing of order with sin.

Psalm 104 is the Psalm for Rosh Hodesh, a new moon, both because it references the moon (verse 19) and because of its repeated theme of renewal. There are some lines in the Psalm that are an integral part of traditional Jewish life. The blessing at the start of a meal, “who brings forth bread from the earth” is a quote of verse 14. And when we don a tallit, a prayer shawl, we quote the opening lines, including the image of God, “Who enwraps with light.”

Professor Robert Alter of Cal-Berkeley, who recently completed a twenty-five-year project of translating and commenting on the Bible, has said that of the 150 Psalms his favorites are Psalm 8 and 104.

This Psalm is dedicated to Howard Haas.