Photo Credit: Mosaica Press

Title: Exploring Perek Shirah
By Shoshana Tugendhaft
Mosaica Press, 536 pages

 

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As someone who loves nature in all its aesthetic and scientific richness, I was drawn to Perek Shirah as soon as I learned of its existence. In high school, I had just begun discovering meaning in Torah for myself. Though I knew Judaism talked about creation, my impression was that its focus on creation was usually limited to theology and a general appreciation of the natural world. So, when I picked up an Artscroll Perek Shirah, read about its mysterious, ancient origins, and saw how each one of its 85 characters had a song to teach humanity, I was in love.

Today, Perek Shirah has experienced a quiet renaissance. Having previously been relegated to the appendices of some siddurim, Perek Shirah is now published with classic and new commentaries –in glossy full color, as coffee-table editions, and whispered in mystical devotion by lonely souls seeking their other half. Now, Rebbetzin Shoshana Tugendhaft has given Hashem and the English-speaking Torah world a luxurious gift of a book, in gratitude for the miracle of her granddaughter’s life.

In Exploring Perek Shirah, Rebbetzin Tugendhaft masterfully and eclectically weaves Torah sources into practical lessons for growth and avodah. We are guided through songs of stars, dogs, trees, and even Gehinnom, learning to make sense of their riddles and poetry. We find perspective on the precious world around us, our own observance, and the vicissitudes of human experience. We get introductions exploring different approaches to the text and the meaning of “song,” as well as full, Hebrew source texts in the footnotes and appendix. These, together with Mosaica Press’s elegant matte emerald-and-gold cover art and clean, modern formatting makes the book a treasure to own. Any true student of Torah should familiarize him/herself with Perek Shirah, and with this book, as we’ve just been given a new window into its depth.

One day, the entire Jewish people and all of humanity will know Hashem through His unfathomably beautiful universe, and Rebbetzin Tugendhaft has brought us one step closer. We have to use this opportunity to rethink our relationship with Creation; how we think about it, how we imagine it, and how we treat it. Yes, Perek Shirah is a midrash distinctly its own, but it is also part of a much larger discipline of Torah concerned with deepening and elevating our relationship with this physical reality. There is a lot of work ahead of us in this area of Judaism and a lot to understand about the universe, but today we are beginning to learn how to feel the music, and perchance, to sing it ourselves.

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Eli Berger is a financial representative living in Denver, Colorado, with his wife and two children. He enjoys various art forms, Chassidus, and coziness.