Perek Shirah

Folks, I’ve just discovered Perek Shirah and I’m already so thrilled although I don’t know much about it. Perek Shirah is an ancient, sacred work that has become increasingly popular in recent years. Some sources ascribe it to King David, who was inspired to compose it after being told by a frog, as it were, that its “song” to God was loftier than David’s own Book of Psalms. Others credit its authorship to King Solomon, whose wisdom was so all-encompassing that he understood the “speech” of all the components of the world — animal, vegetable, and mineral. Still others suggest that it was compiled by the great sages of the Mishnah: Rabbi Yishmael, Rabbi Akiva, Rabbi Nechunia ben Hakanah, and Rabbi Eliezer ben Hurkenos. Whoever its author, Perek Shirah has a place of honor in Jewish liturgy, and many people recited it every day. The Sages promise abundant blessing to those who do so.

There are three opinions regarding who or what actually “sings” the 85 songs in Perek Shirah. Some say that each creature literally sings its own song. Human beings cannot hear them, of course, just as there are many sounds in nature that human senses cannot detect, but are there nonetheless. A second opinion is that the singing is done by angels. The third opinion is that the songs are not actually spoken; they are implicit in the existence of the creatures and their roles in the universe. So it makes sense that one who understands the function of the sun, the ocean, the cat or dog would understand what we should learn from it, and that is its song.

Here is the first song that I myself discovered in Perek Shirah, and I can not deny its meaning for me:

The Eagle says:

“And You, Hashem, God, Master of Legions, God of Israel, arouse Yourself to
remember all the nations, do not show favor to any faithless men of violence,
Selah” (Psalms 59:6)

One of the interpretations is the majestic, high-flying eagle is the king of the bird kingdom. A good king is merciful to those that depend on him — especially the young — but he cannot tolerate evil and violence. The message is that man should be judacious in dispensing generosity. Those who deserve it, must receive it — but it is cruel to show mercy to those who destroy the tranquility of the world.

I love Hashem.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *