Tuesday, June 4, 2013
Perek Shirah and the Day/Year Connection
"Time must be guarded. It is urgent to 'accept the yoke of Torah.' Every bit of time, every day that passes, is not just a day but a life's concern. Days go by; as the Talmud says (Yerushalmi Berachot 1:1), 'A day enters and a day departs, a week enters etc.,... a month etc.,... a year etc.,...' My father quoted the Alter Rebbe: A summer day and a winter night are a year." (Hayom Yom, 17th of Cheshvan)
The following is from the Book's Appendices:
Perek Shirah also has a connection to the day itself. If we divide the day into 52 parts, in a typical winter day, each animal listed in Perek Shirah sings for approximately 20 minutes, from sunrise until midnight. Thus, the day begins with the rooster's crow at sunrise; the donkey’s (33rd animal) song is during sunset; and the dogs ends their song at midnight.
Interestingly, the donkey and the dog are specifically mentioned in the Talmud, in the tractate of Brachot, as determinants of time (the braying of the donkey takes place during the first watch of the night while the dogs bark at midnight). The rooster is also mentioned in several places in the Torah as a marker of time, announcing the beginning of the day, as we say every day in the morning blessings: "Blessed are you G-d our Lord King of the Universe who gives the rooster understanding to distinguish between day and night."
Each kind of animal is also connected with a different time for the daily prayers. The birds sing from sunrise (first allowable time for Shacharit, the morning prayer) until noon (the last permissible time). The insects and the water animals sing from Minchah Gedolah (first time for Minchah, the afternoon prayer) to before Minchah Ketanah (the second time for this prayer). The farm animals sing from Minchah Ketanah until sunset (the latest time for the afternoon prayer). The wild animals, and all those remaining sing from nightfall (the first allowable time for Ma’ariv, the prayer of the night) until midnight (the last allowable time). (See Table I below for details on the schedules attached to each type of animal)
It is also incredible to think that the day itself reflects the year. We rise in the morning with the crow of the rooster, just as we spiritually arise with the blowing of the shofar on Rosh Hashanah, acknowledging G-d as our King, from the very moment we awake, reciting Modeh Ani Lefanechah Melech…, “I acknowledge/give thanks before you Living and Eternal King, for You have mercifully restored my soul, great is Your faithfulness.” Soon after, in the morning prayers, we recognize all the material and spiritual blessings that G-d has given us, from the very crow of the rooster, to the clothes we wear, and the opportunities given to perform mitzvot.
Soon after, comes the morning prayers (Shacharit), which are normally done while one is still fasting, like on Yom Kippur. Some have the custom to eat a bit in order to better focus on prayer, just as it is a mitzvah to eat on the eve of this sacred day. As on Yom Kippur, in the morning prayers we focus purely on our spiritual side.
Afterwards, we study Torah and eat breakfast in a state of joy, just as on Sukkot. Soon we go out and start our day by bringing the joy of being Jewish and being connected to the Torah to all, just as on Hoshanah Rabbah, Shemini Atzeret and Simchat Torah.
After completing our morning spiritual activities, we start our physical labor of elevating the world around us, just such as Rosh Chodesh Cheshvan and the rest of that month. Once we distance ourselves a bit from the beginning of our day and start becoming fully immersed in our worldly affairs, we might begin to forget some of the sanctity with which we started the day. At this point, it is important to have gevurah and also make sure to include some moments of light, such as in Chanukah.
The parallels between the day and the year continue until bedtime, when we make a spiritual inventory of our entire day, returning to G-d and preparing for the next day, just as in the month of Elul.
Finally, we lie down to go to sleep, bowing like on Rosh Hashanah, accepting G-d as our King, understanding that against our will we were born and against our will we will die. In the morning, we are like new creations.
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