Monday, January 24, 2011

Perek Shirah, The Song of Creation

"This is my Father's world,
and to my listening ears,
all nature sings and round me rings
the music of the spheres."

This old Protestant hymn, which I learned in Scout camp many years ago, expresses the same consciousness as an ancient Jewish text called Perek Shirah, "The Song of Creation" a mystical hymn that even today is found in many traditional Jewish prayer books.  It portrays all living creatures singing their individual songs in praise of the Creator. The universe is filled with hymns as cows, camels, horses, mules, roosters, chickens, doves, eagles, cats, mice, locusts, spiders, flies, sea creatures, fish, frogs, and many more offer Biblical verses as songs of praise to God.

 A number of years ago, I had an amazing experience; I actually heard a small part of the mystical Song of Creation.  It was on a warm summer day, and I was walking through a field of blooming alfalfa. The air around me was filled with hundreds of little orange and yellow butterflies, the ones known as "alfalfas" or "sulfurs," flitting from flower to flower. Suddenly I experienced an expansion of consciousness in which those butterflies were actually singing! Of course, it wasn’t a song in the way we usually think of a song, there weren’t any words per se. It was more like a joyous energy that I experienced as an inner sound, in which those butterflies were expressing a level of absolute joy. I had, for a moment, touched a higher level of awareness about how nishmat kol chai, "the soul of every living thing," is praising God.

Perek Shirah doesn’t mention butterflies specifically (they are apparently lumped in with insects in general), but they are part of Creation’s song, too.  And if I were to assign a biblical verse to the song of those butterflies, it would be ivdu et HaShem b’simchah, "serve the Creator with joy." (Psalm 100:2)  Most butterflies only live for a week or so in the adult stage, but judging from what I heard that day, they make the most of every joyous moment while they are here.

And this is why Rebbe Nachman of Breslov told his followers to spend an hour a day praying alone in woods and fields. He even said that the grasses and trees would join in the prayers. I take that quite literally.  Every living thing has a consciousness, even the rocks and clouds are sustained by  the "holy sparks" (netzotzot) and emanations of God's energy.  Sometimes, if we are very quiet and patient, we can tune in to their mystical songs.

Garden spider in my yard 2007


rbarenblat said...

Beautiful, beautiful, beautiful.

Dalia said...

Thanks for sharing a beautiful song!!!

Rabbi Gershom said...

You are both welcome! Keep enjoying God's creation :)

Patricia Lichen said...

Lovely post!
And I remember that song from my Protestant childhood--haven't thought of it in many years.