“Light is sown for the righteous and for the upright in heart, joy” is widely sung in Hebrew (see and hear a variety of those tunes below) with a feeling of celebration of a better future. This phrase of Psalm 97 conveys that like a seed- yet unseen, but much anticipated- is a blossoming of potential. As God created a good world that creation is still unfolding. In the future, the destiny of righteousness will become more fully manifest and will lead to rejoicing with acclaim for God. Rabbi Menachem Mendel Schneerson commented that the image of a seed conveys the need for the outer, protective layer- equated to ego- to fall away to fully experience God’s presence.
This Psalm is sung every Friday night as the third Psalm of Kabbalat Shabbat, linked to the third day of creation. The third day is when the earth was formed and plants and trees emerged.
The rabbis identify this as a Psalm of the promised Messianic era: when the world will exist in fullness of harmony. In this Psalm verb tenses are mixed. As we approach Shabbat we sing of the future in the present and past tense for so real is our anticipated rest- both immediate and ultimate- that we experience the fullness of goodness now.
Dedicated to Rabbi Shalom and Dalia Podwol
The following are variations of Psalm 97:11:
Aronson melody sung by “Beth Israel Alumni Choir”: Click here to listen.
Nava Tehilla of Tel Aviv, melody and performance: Click here to listen.
Rick Recht, sung by BBYO teens: Click here to listen.
Shir Yaakov: Click here to listen.
Cantor Phil Baron, Valley Beth Shalom, Encino, CA: “traditional:”
Click here to listen.