“From the rising of the sun until its setting …” (113:3)
In the ancient world, astronomical phenomena were unpredictable and thus were signs of Divine favor or displeasure. An eclipse was a portent of disaster. A comet was a sign of good tidings. The regular cycles of the sun and moon told people when to sow, when to reap, and when to celebrate. Stars and planets were and are objects of wonder. Someday, humanity might take steps to populate another world, but today, the distances and difficulties of travel are insurmountable. From our miraculous perch on the arm of a galaxy we call the Milky Way, we sit and observe and perhaps wait to be contacted.
“In utero, I was dependent on You.” (71:6)
The Grand Canyon and the Himalayas may be majestic and breathtaking, but there is no greater miracle than that of the creation of life. Science can describe the way a zygote becomes an embryo and grows into a child, but that doesn’t take away the gratitude for the baby’s birth, as we watch the child, so long dependent on the mother for everything, take the first step towards becoming an independent person.
Note: There is no contradiction between this verse and the Jewish teachings permitting abortion under a wide range of circumstances to protect the life or the physical or mental health of the mother.
“The righteous will see and be awestruck; they will laugh at him. (52:8)
The righteous person sees the downfall of the wicked and is struck with awe. Others laugh at him, assuming that his awe is generated by surprise, implying that a truly righteous person would have had a matter-of-fact attitude towards an expected event, rather than being nonplussed by God’s power. How sad to lose the ability to be astonished by an expected event. The sun rises or the tide comes in or the dandelions bloom or a turkey stands in the middle of a busy street — what a wonderful mindset it is to be struck by awe at the physical world.