Wednesday, December 7, 2016

A Song of Nature

According to the introduction of Perek Shirah (A Chapter of Song), after King David finished composing the Book of Psalms, he cried out to God: “Is there any creature that You have created in Your world that says more songs or praises than I do?”  He received his response from a frog, who responded that he recited more songs and praises than David. While the introduction does not say it, one can imagine that King David was thus humbled and set his spiritual ear to nature and composed the 85 sections of Perek Shirah quoting nature praising God. (Many of the verses attributed to nature are from Psalms.)

The different clusters of verses are each attributed to a specific aspect of nature. The first chapter expressed the feelings of the heavens, earth, gehinom, etc. Chapter two quotes day and night, sun and moon, winds and rain, etc. The third chapter focuses on things that grow - trees and produce. Chapters four and five are filled with the praises of animals. Here are two examples:

The Seas say: "More than the voices of many waters, mightier than the breakers of the sea, God is mighty on high" (Psalms 93:4).

The Snake says: "God supports the fallen and straightens the bent over" (Psalms 145:14).

Perek Shirah was printed early in the printing revolution, around 1576, when it was included in the liturgy.* There are references to it as far back as the 10th century. Many rabbis attribute great merit to reciting Perek Shirah, and some believe that reciting it for 4 consecutive days can help change a negative decree into a positive one.

*It is not generally included in the liturgy anymore.

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