A symphony of praise brings Psalms to a crescendo. In Psalm 148, praise will emerge from the highest heavens and the brightest stars to the lowest depths of the sea and its sea-monsters; from fire and hail and fruit trees and cedars, young men and maidens to elders and youths. All sing praises to the Source of Creation.
The Psalm opens (verses 1-6) with praise from the heavens and states, “[God] stood them up forever and ever; [God] has made a decree that will not be crossed.” This phrase for some of our sages points to fixed laws of nature, the foundation of science. Radak (Rabbi David Kimchi of France, 1160-1235) commented that the nature of the heavenly bodies is to have a fixed order. Malbim (Meir Leibush Wisser, Ukraine 1809-1879) would add that on the earthly plane living beings have choice, but the laws are unchanging for the behavior of the heavens. For Maimonides (Moshe ben Maimon, Spain-Egypt, 1135-1204) understanding the natural order of creation evokes love of God and when science, such as astronomical calculations, conflict with rabbinic commentaries on the Bible, the Bible needs reinterpretation (https://www.myjewishlearning.
The final line of the Psalm proclaims the special relationship of the Jewish people to God, “May God raise a horn for… the children of Israel.” The horn in antiquity is a symbol of strength and glory. Cynthia Ozick, the contemporary writer, says that the image of the shofar conveys the Jewish people’s mission: a universal calling to praise God. She points out that if we put our lips to the larger aperture and blow we get no sound. Rather, to enable the blast, we must place our lips on the small opening and channel the air (soul-breath). Through the particularity of Jewish belonging, we may more impactfully engage the universal.
Join me for the symphony of universal celebration of Psalm 148.
Our study is dedicated to my wife, Dr. Linda Kaplan Spitz.