Psalm 92

“It is good to give thanks to Adonai” is sung in Hebrew on Friday night in our synagogue and recited on Shabbat morning. This opening line of Psalm 92 replays in my mind even after Shabbat, because I both love the melody and the message. This Psalm is entitled “A Psalm-Song for the day of Shabbat” and is the only Psalm explicitly linked to a day. And yet, the Psalm does not mention Shabbat again. So, in what ways does this Psalm reflect the holy day of rest?

The key themes presented are gratitude, the splendor of creation, and God’s uniqueness and dedication to justice. Some commentators say that those themes fit the image of the Great Sabbath, the time of a Messianic harmony. And yet, each Shabbat invites us to sample the Great Shabbat. For only with those tastes do we have reason in difficult times to believe that the world can progress toward a far greater goodness.

Psalm 92 describes a variety of musical instruments to accompany the praise of God, which raises a question of Jewish Law: Are you permitted to play musical instruments on Shabbat? During my tenure on the Conservative Movement’s Law Committee, I wrote a teshuvah, a legal responsa, with my teacher and friend, Rabbi Elliot Dorff. I share it here if you are curious about the topic of musical instruments and Shabbat. Click here to read the responsa.

This Wednesday’s learning is dedicated to Carl Cedar, with whom I regularly share Friday nights on the bimah and whose singing endures for me throughout Shabbat and beyond.