For the past several Friday nights, Psalm 93 has stopped me in my tracks. At the end of Kabbalat Shabbat, following Lekha Dodi we recite one final Psalm before turning to Ma’ariv.
The Lord is King, crowned with splendor;
The Lord reigns, robed in strength.
He set the earth on a sure foundation.
He created a world that stands firm.
His kingdom stands from earliest time.
He is eternal.
The rivers may rise and rage,
The waters may pound and roar,
The floods may spread and storm;
Above the crash of the sea and its breakers,
Awesome is Adonai our God.
Your decrees, O Lord, never fail.
Holiness befits your house for eternity.
Safe and warm in the embrace of our community, it was sobering to recite the verses that vividly brought to mind swollen rivers, pounding surf and the devastating floods anticipated with foreboding and then witnessed with horror.
Hours earlier, in the safety and warmth of the mikveh at Beth El Congregation, we welcomed a new member to our faith community. We said amen to her berahot, listened to her speak of her sense of coming home to Judaism, and heard the splashing as she immersed in the mikveh and emerged a Jew. One of the rabbis on the Beit Din (rabbinical court of three) remarked how rewarding it was to be reminded of the positive life-giving and transformational powers of water at the end of a week in which water had been so destructive. Profound indeed.
The Psalms of the Friday evening service are filled with images of water — from Psalm 29 and its picture of God’s glory thundering over rushing waters, to Psalm 98 and its glorious vision of the rivers bursting into applause as God comes to sustain the earth. The glory of water was harder to see this week in the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy. But at the mikveh, its awesomeness was in some measure restored.