Perek Shira, “chapter of song,” is a beautiful Midrash. Attaching an appropriate verse to the elements of Creation, it recounts how everything in the world sings: the lion sings, and the stars, and the trees. The medieval Christian spiritualist Thomas à Kempis beautifully wrote: “If you cannot sing like the nightingale and the lark, then sing like the crows and the frog, which sing as God meant them to.” This is the lesson of Perek Shira — all of Creation bears a song.
Moses had trouble speaking, but at the sea, “So sang Moses and the children of Israel.” His impediment did not block his song. There is even a Talmudic tradition that the worthy King Hezekiah might have proved himself the Messiah, but when the time came to sing to God, he could not sing. Redemption itself requires a song.
Shira in Hebrew means both poetry and song; so each day there is a shir shel yom, a Psalm of the day, or we might say, a song of the day. In the Temple the Psalms were accompanied by music. We sing just like Creation, a tribute to the Creator of all. As Shir Hakavod put it a thousand years ago: “I sing hymns and weave songs because my soul yearns for You.”
Rabbi David Wolpe is spiritual leader of Sinai Temple in Los Angeles. Follow his teachings at www.facebook.com/RabbiWolpe.
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