פרק  שירה

Perek Shirah — “Chapter of Song” — a small  Hebrew text, first emerges, possibly in the 13th century, in the midrashic collection “Yalkut Shimoni;” parts of it might be much older.
                                                                                                                                                                   
Translated editions can be found in Jewish bookstores or online.
                                                                                                                                                                                    
Within it, in a kind of ascending order of complexity (winds, trees, animals, etc.), inanimate and animate facets of Creation praise G-d, usually with a verse from Tehilim (the Psalms).
                                                                                                                                                                                      
I first bought a copy of this small book some years ago, after reading enthusiastic comments about it. I opened it eagerly, but found it “lifeless.”
                                                                                                                                                                                    
Re-reading it later, though, it came alive to me: We’re surrounded by and immersed in an entire Creation that is always alive, aware and joyously praising G-d. This is as true of wind and water, as it is of mouse and lion.
                                                                                                                                                                                  
We are alive in the midst of ecstacy.
      
We, too, should be ecstatic. To be anything else is to be blind to what life is. 
       
There was a time when Perek Shirah was actually part of Jewish liturgy — part of the prayers that are said each day. Rabbi Yehudah ha-Nasi even said that anyone who thinks deeply about what Perek Shirah is saying, is saved from all suffering and merits “the World-to-Come.” Such is the power of joy.       
                                                                                                                                                                                 
But the book needn’t only be studied in deep contemplation. Merely reciting it, says Rabbi Joseph Albo, will guarantee you a place in “the World-to-Come,” too.  [1]
It’s divided into 6 sections, or chapters (despite the singular in the title). One section could easily be recited each weekday. This might also echo the 6 sections of the Mishnah. Or,  as with the Mishnah perhaps, the number “6” echoes the “6 days of work, followed by a 7th Sabbath day” — the 7th day representing fulfillment in the World-to-Come, or even receiving the Shechinah in this world.
                                                                                                                                                                                   
To face life with loving joy and gratitude is to join ourselves with an entire Creation that is doing the same.
                                                                                                                                                                                   
As Rabbi Henry Glazer writes on his excellent website, “The Grateful Rabbi,” “For me, a clear barometer that takes the pulse of my spiritual movement is my experience of gratefulness at any given moment of my life.” [2]

How similar to Dr. Albert Schweitzer’s teaching that we’re all “…life which wills to live…[existing] in the midst of life which wills to live’.”
[3]

How congruent with so much else that the rabbis teach!
                                                                                                                                                                             
“Perek Shirah” is a gift for us, giving words to a feeling most people find inexpressible.
                                                                                                                                                                             
When do you feel joy in just being alive? [4]
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(1) Bacher, Wilhelm; Judah David Eisenstein. “SHIRAH, PEREK (PIRKE)”. Jewish Encyclopedia “S”. http://www.jewishencyclopedia.com/view.jsp?artid=639&letter=S&search=perek shirah
(2) Glazer, Rabbi Henry; Gratefulness on the Eve of Rosh Hashanah (9/7/10); http://www.thegratefulrabbi.com
(3) Schweitzer, Albert; Civilization and Ethics;  ch. 21, p.253;  reprinted as A. Schweitzer, The Philosophy of Civilization, (Prometheus Books, Buffalo 1987), ch. 26.
(4) Pliskin, Rabbi Zelig; Gateway to Self-Knowledge; p. 328