English Basic Explanation - Chapter 82
Psalm 82 is an exhortation to the judges of Israel, urging them to approach their job with integrity and a sense of responsibility. Assaf, the author of this chapter, begins by noting that God "stands among the congregation of the Almighty," He resides among Am Yisrael to oversee its judicial system. The very first lesson the judges must learn is that they do not possess supreme authority; they are held accountable to the true Judge of the earth who assigned them to their role and demands that they adjudicate fairly and honestly.
Unfortunately, as this Psalm observes, the judges of Israel failed in their task, granting favor to the powerful and influential magnates of the nation, and leaving the widow and orphans to wallow in the despair caused by the abusive and manipulative upper class. Arguably the most trenchant verse in this chapter is verse 5, in which the Psalmist laments the judges' failure to recognize that "Yimotu Kol Mosede Aretz" – judicial corruption causes "the foundations of the earth" to collapse. Without a stable, honest judiciary, society cannot properly function. If wily, wealthy evildoers are able to use money and influence to manipulate the court, then there can be no hope for a peaceful, secure society.
Assaf concludes this Psalm by offering a prayer that God should himself arise to judge the earth (verse 8). Upon observing the greed and corruption of the human judges, Assaf finds hope only in the impeccable justice of the Almighty Himself, realizing that even if the mortal judges fail to maintain a fair, honest judiciary, at least God Himself can be trusted to judge all people and care for the plight of the poor and the downtrodden.
Psalm 82 is read each week as the "Shir Shel Yom" for Tuesday. The Gemara (Rosh Hashanah 31a) explains that on Tuesday God "prepared the earth for His congregation," meaning, He gathered together the waters to form dry land (Bereshit 1:9-10), preparing it for Am Yisrael. It is therefore appropriate to read on this day the chapter of Tehillim which begins, "God stands among the congregation of the Almighty." What this might mean is that just as God made the earth inhabitable on this day by separating the waters from land, so do the judges bear the responsibility to allow for peaceful existence on earth. The judges protect the innocent citizens from crime and injustice, which would otherwise "flood" the world much like the ocean waters did before God separated them from the land. On the day when God prepared the earth for habitation by removing the waters, we bring to mind the responsibility of human judges to make the world habitable by keeping away the "floodwaters" of corruption and greed.