Nature’s Song of Thanks – Perek Shira
Who cares what frogs, rats or vegetables say when they speak to G-d? Does it really matter? Perek Shira - "Nature's Song" - is more than what meets the eye...
A little while ago, I had the privilege of seeing Rabbi Lazer Brody in action, when he came to give a talk in my village. If you've never seen Rabbi Brody live, it's well worth the effort. Every time I'm starting to feel overwhelmed by life, I try very hard to come into Jerusalem for his Wednesday night class, and by the end, I always feel like I've been brought back to life.
This time, Rabbi Brody was talking about 'Perek Shira', which is a collection of verses culled from Psalms and other sources, where all of creation is praising G-d.
There's a known 'segula', or beneficial practice, that when you say Perek Shira for 40 days in a row, you see big miracles. Seven years ago, when we were in the middle of all our trials and tribulations connected to going bankrupt and having to sell our first house in Israel, I said Perek Shira for 40 days in a row, on the advice of one of my Haredi friends in the know.
"You'll see big miracles!" she told me. "But you have to tell everyone about the salvations you get, so that more people will be encouraged to do it!"
I have to say, it was really tough going. I said it in English, as I had non-existent Hebrew at the time, and it seemed to be one of the most tedious half hours I ever spent in my life.
Who cared, really, what frogs were saying, or what rats were saying, or what vegetables were saying to G-d? (This was right at the beginning of my 'emuna' stage, when I was quite jaded and cynical about pretty much everything connected to prayer.)
To try and help myself 'get into it', I bought a book to explain what was going on a bit more, and more of the deeper ideas behind it. It was a nice book, and it definitely helped. But it was still a struggle to say it every day. I kept going, because I was asking G-d for a massive financial miracle, and that was enough to keep me reading Perek Shira for a month and a half.
On day 39, we got an email from the people buying our house, telling us they were exercising their 'option' to ask us to leave earlier than we'd agreed, as they'd just managed to sell their house. At the time of agreeing that option, we had no where to go to ourselves, so we were happy to be flexible. Six months later, we'd signed on a different house that was only going to be ready in another four months – and in the meantime, we now had a month to get out.
I have to say, I was quite perplexed by the 'miracle' that G-d had done for us… I was thinking about a lottery win, or a great job offer, or a miraculous financial turnaround, not a premature exit from our house to who-knows-where. So I didn't exactly 'publicize' the miracle.
With hindsight, of course, it was clear that G-d knew exactly what He was doing. The very next day, we found an apartment in a completely different part of Israel, near to Jerusalem, for exactly the amount of time we needed. The rent on that apartment was a third of the mortgage we were paying.
But that's not all: within six weeks of moving, my husband was offered a great job in Jerusalem, after he'd been looking for something suitable for months and months.
But that's not all: we liked the new place so much, we decided to sell the other house that we'd bought – before we even lived in it – and to stay in our new location. After a year and a half, G-d found us a steal of a house for a bargain price, even though the local property market was already starting to heat up all around us.
But that's not all: for the three years we stayed in that place, I went from being a flamboyantly wasteful 'big spender' to having a much simpler, cheaper lifestyle. (If I'm honest, it went a bit too far in the other direction, but that's a story for another day.)
When we finally left, my spending habits and attitude to money had transformed completely. We still had debts (but much fewer than before), but now, we also had a lot more emuna that G-d was going to help us to get our finances sorted out, and gratitude for the money and stuff we actually already had.
It took three years for me to really see the miracles that were sparked off by that Perek Shira, and another three years to really start to appreciate them. When Rabbi Brody explained that saying Perek Shira gets all these heavenly angels behind your prayer request, and that's why it's such an effective 'segula' for all sorts of things, especially making a living, I realized it was time to do it again.
This time around, I'm doing it in Hebrew; this time around, it's taking me fifteen minutes, not half an hour; and this time around, I'm actually quite enjoying it. Who knows what miracles it will spark off, I certainly don't. But one thing I do know: even when I said it in English, with very little belief in G-d, and very little good will, it transformed my life.
So when (not if…) the miracle occurs this time around, I'll hopefully do a much better job of publicizing the miracle without having to wait seven years.
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Check out Rivka Levy's new book The Happy Workshop based on the teachings of Rabbi Shalom Arush