Adonai Malach (Ps 93)

On Shabbat, we mark the completion of Creation, and the establishment of God, not humanity, as the Ruler of Creation. Psalm 93 – beginning with the words Adonai malach – is one of many affirmations of this in traditional Shabbat liturgy. When we sing Psalm 93, with full voices (not half-heartedly!), especially as a call and response, I imagine we are the choir of Creation.

For many centuries, Jewish liturgy has been filled with a musical language called nusach – groups of musical motifs and shapes (sometimes called modes) for setting prayers and psalms. Traditions have grown up whereby different modes and shapes are used to distinguish between weekday and Shabbat prayer time, as well as the cycle of the liturgical year. Music affects us at an emotional level, often through our subconscious, so we do not need to be ‘musical’ or have any specialist knowledge to feel the shift of energy and meaning through the liturgical cycle as the musical soundscape changes. One of the important shifts happens on Friday evening, just before the Bar’chu, the call to prayer, with Psalm 93 (which recurs on Saturday morning). As a result the new musical mode used at this point in the week is called Adonai malach, and its positive, hopeful character permeates much Shabbat prayer. This setting of Psalm 93 uses the Adonai malach mode as its basis.

Translation

The Lord reigns, clothed in majesty; He is clothed and girded in strength. Truly, the world is firmly established, so it cannot be moved.
Your throne has been firm from ancient times; You are from forever.
The floods have lifted up, O God, have lifted up their voice; the floods lift up their roaring.
More than the sounds of many waters, of the mighty breaking waves of the sea, the Lord on high is mighty.
Your statutes are very faithful; holiness suits your house; the Lord is eternal.

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