A beautiful book dealing with all the aspects of the
natural world in the Torah perspective of "How great are Your
works, Hashem," accompanied with poignant black-and-white
illustrations, Nature's Song is authoritative,
factual, poetic, profound, comprehensive, a brilliant work of
art-and- science. A book to have and to give, to read
repeatedly and to cherish.
A fitting review for our Shavuos edition, for this momentous
day in history when Creation, itself, was ultimately
vindicated through the giving of the Torah to the Jewish
nation. "Yom Hashishi -- say Chazal -- "the Sixth Day of
Sivan," when the Torah was given, amidst lightning and
Reviewed by Pennee Lauders
Many years ago, I was lent a tape about Perek Shirah.
The lecturer expounded at length on the fascinating, mystical
significance of the text, but I never had an opportunity to
look into Perek Shirah itself. Where was it? What was
This was, of course, partially due to my busy schedule,
raising five bouncy boys. Now that three of them are busy
bouncing elsewhere, I'm capable of perusing such formidable
tomes as R' Nosson Slifkin's handsome, informative, well-
written and thoroughly researched Nature's Song.
Delighted, I found Perek Shirah in Hebrew with English
translation to be featured as the first textual entry. It's
not that one can't plow laboriously through the Hebrew and
come up with a reasonable understanding by oneself. However,
a busy baalebusta must be careful to budget her time
wisely. The translation together with the Hebrew makes it
easier to move forward and get into the ideas. The really
serious learners can tackle original sources, as the
ambitious author of this lovely volume has so courageously
done. That he deigns to share his hard-earned knowledge and
his personal insights with the Targum-Feldheim readership is
a chessed of immense proportions.
One message of Perek Shirah, according to the author
and those whom he quotes, is to point out to man that the
good character traits which the Jew is commanded to acquire
can be found embodied in the various creatures which inhabit
the globe. As is quoted on page 39 of the introduction, "R'
Yochonon said: Had the Torah not been given, we would have
learned modesty from the cat, [the prohibition of] theft from
the ant, [the prohibition of] forbidden relationships from
the dove..." Not skipping a beat, Rabbi Slifkin brings a
footnote. "We may ask why there is a need to learn from
nature -- why not simply learn from the Torah?"
Indeed, the Talmud says that we would have learned these
lessons from the animals had the Torah not been given:
the apparent implication of this is that now that the Torah
has been given, we should be learning life's lessons from the
Torah! Kenaf Renanim, a major bibliographical source
for this work, explains that if one has reached the ideal of
being entirely immersed in Torah, then he should, indeed,
learn only from Torah. But if one is involved in the wider
world, he can study the Torah's ways from nature (page
Could R' Yochonon have known that at the end of days, there
would be such a crying dearth of the wisdom of the Torah's
mussar? That through teachers like R' Slifkin we
tinokos shenishbu would come to extract the Truth even
from the behavior of animals? In fact, this book proves that
we are so far from nature that we don't even have a working
relationship with many of the animals mentioned in Perek
Shirah. How then can we hope to obtain mussar at
all if we haven't yet acquired it through Torah, nor through
nature, which has been leached of its strength and nearly
bought to a grinding halt by the `civilized' masses whose
`progress' continually pushes nature further and further from
Anyone who picks up this 450-page book will soon realize that
the text is entertaining but thought-provoking at the same
time. One is compelled to engage in the gentle tug of Rabbi
Slifkin's contemplation. This in itself will hopefully lead
one to actually do something about those raw edges,
which keep one from finishing the work which Hashem has begun
[and has relegated to the purview of mankind]. We must tame
the raw nature in us in order to reveal our Divinely-ordained
Indeed, this a book for all seasons [and I may add, with all
seasons...]. Whoever acquires it will have the opportunity to
review the pleasant guidance of Torah Sages, who understand
that an objective look at the improvements which one should
undertake, is more easily digested than cold and hard rebuke.
R' Slifkin's book is a truly gentle reminder to all of us
that the Jewish path is one of loving-kindness.
And one quote, to give the reader something to savor:
"The Lightning Bolts are saying: `He causes the vapors to
ascend from the ends of the earth; He makes lightning for the
rain; He brings forth the wind from His storehouses' (Psalms
" . . . Lightning comes about due to an imbalance in the
electric charges between the ground and the thunderhead. The
lightning bolts instantly strike and redress the imbalance.
It's a sudden and striking way of doing so, but highly
"A similar imbalance of forces sometimes exists between man
and the Heavens. Man sometimes becomes lost in the material
world, forgetting about the spiritual. There, too, something
must be done.
"There is nothing more openly perceived as an act of G-d than
a bolt of lightning. Thunderstorms, with their terrifying
crashing sounds, startling flashes of light, and driving
rain, do not merely instill awe in a person -- they instill
"`Thunder was created only to straighten out the crookedness
of one's heart' (Berochos 59a)."
And later, in a box, this information:
ANALYZING A LIGHTNING BOLT
In a lightning bolt, a relatively low-powered `leader'
first shoots from a thundercloud to the earth in a series of
zigzag steps. When it is sixty to ninety feet from the
ground, it is met by an upward-seeking discharge of
electricity some two or three inches in diameter and
surrounded by a five-inch sleeve of superheated air. The
stroke packs 10,000 to 20,000 amperes and instantly cooks the
surrounding air to a temperature of 50,000 degrees Fahrenheit
or more, causing it to expand violently in a roar of thunder.
When the return stroke enters the cloud, another leader
descends and is, in turn, met by another rising charge. This
repeats from three to twenty-six times, but the bolts all
travel so fast, at about 93,000 miles per second, that we see
it as a single flash of lightning" (p. 149-152).
The reader will be treated to many more interesting quotes,
facts and insights. This book is a valuable addition to
May Rabbi Slifkin merit to reap great blessing as his
perspective is imbibed and incorporated into the daily
conduct of his uplifted readers.