Author: Rabbi Natan Slifkin
An elucidation of Perek Shirah, the ancient Midrash that lists the philosophical and ethical lessons of the Natural World.
Perek Shirah, literally “A Chapter Of Song,” is an ancient text that is at least a thousand years old; some ancient commentaries even attribute its authorship to King David! It takes the form of a list of eighty-four elements of the natural world, including elements of the sky and of the earth, plants, birds, animals, and insects, attaching a verse from the Bible to each. The concept behind Perek Shirah is that everything in the natural world teaches us a lesson in philosophy or ethics, and the verse gives a clue as to what that lesson is. The result is the “song” of the natural world, the tapestry of lessons for life that the natural world is telling us. Perek Shirah, a work of tremendous historic value, is itself extremely mysterious and cryptic. However, various commentaries have been written on it over the last five hundred years, which give an insight into what the verse is telling us to learn from the creature.
Thus, for example, Perek Shirah states that “The lion is saying, ‘God shall go out as a mighty man, he shall arouse zeal, he shall cry, even roar; he shall prevail over his enemies (Isaiah 42:13).” The lion teaches us of the importance of might and power. This does not mean physical strength; true power is power over oneself. All big cats are aggressive predators and therefore cannot get along even with each other; it is only the lion that is able to somehow control its aggression and live in groups. The lion teaches us of the greatest power, that of self-control.
Nature’s Song is the first English explanation of Perek Shirah . It makes use of rare ancient commentaries on Perek Shirah , as well as contemporary insights from the fields of meteorology, zoology and so on. The result is a Biblical encyclopedia of the natural world, synthesizing the ancient with the modern, that enables one to perceive new depths of insight into the natural world that surrounds us.
It has changed me for the better...
Dear Rabbi Slifkin, I purchased your book Nature’s Song to help me with Perek Shira. It is such an amazing work because it really helps one to be “osek” in the Perek Shira and to really keep Hashem in one’s life. I don’t think I could ever thank you enough for working so hard to put out such a wonderful book. It has changed me for the better and hopefully will continue to do so. May Hashem bless you with many long healthy years to enable you to continue teaching so many about Him and His wonderful creations.
The lessons I learned will remain with me for many years...
Dear R’ Nosson, I just read Nature’s Song and wanted to thank you for a wonderful work. Although it probably took you several years to write and I read it several hours, the lessons I learned will remain with me for many years. May Hashem bless you with the menuchas hanefesh and siyata dishmaya to continue spreading Torah throughout the world. – DR, Jerusalem
What a delight it is to read such a beautifully written work...
Dear Rabbi Slifkin, I recently purchased your book, “Nature’s Song”. It has been a pleasure and inspiration to read. Besides being beautifully written, obviously well researched and considered, it also demonstrates a deep knowledge of and love for Torah. What a delight it is to read such a beautifully written work. May Hashem bless you with strength to continue your work and much success. All the best. – F.M., Melbourne, Australia
It was what I needed...
Dear Rav Slifkin, It says in Masechas Sanhedrin (37a) that “one who saves one Jewish person, it’s as if he saves an entire world.” Due to my lack of Torah knowledge I am not sure if this is in regards to physically or if it is also regarding spirituality. Let’s say for now that it is in regards to both. Before I arrived to yeshiva, I had not learned a word of Torah for almost two years. I did not care for it and wanted absolutely nothing to do with it. It was about four months into yeshiva and I had one foot out the door. I was miserable there. I hated the learning and felt that I was wasting my time. In a shiur with one of the rebbeim, Perek Shira was mentioned. To me, that sounded somewhat interesting. So I began to look into it. I searched a little and was told about your book, Nature’s Song. So I decided to learn it. I must tell you, that it was what I needed to help me. I was very enthusiastic about the Sefer and did not stop learning it. My copy at home is completely covered in highlights and notes. Not only that but I have a family member who was quite sick. She was arrested for drug possession and was in drug re-hab for 9 1/2 months for being addicted to Cocaine. I used to visit her once every two weeks. She once told me that she would take walks through the mountains where the re-hab was and loved looking at Nature. I decided to buy her a copy of Nature’s Song and Baruch Hashem, she had recovered and is frum. She told me that the book helped immensely. Two lives were saved which means two worlds were saved. If nothing else, just know that all my future endeavors, the type of girl I will marry, my children and everything I do in life, will be because of you. There must be a starting point in everyone’s life. I am not a huge masmid, nor am I a talmid chacham, but what I am is a Jewish man who learns at least once every day because of someone who was able to touch my soul when nothing else was working. Whether Nature’s Song opening my eyes to Hashem everywhere I look at every moment in the day, or The Science of Torah giving me a new outlook, or even Mysterious Creatures giving me a new insight to a very new and different aspect of Torah, every one of the books has helped me grow into the person I am today. I wanted to let you know Rav Slifkin that you have helped me more than any Rebbeim I have had in all my years. The amount of hakaras ha-tov that I owe you is immeasurable. No amount of thanks or gratitude can be given. Thank you from the bottom of my heart for saving my life from a life off the Derech Hashem.