In Perek Shirah, the ancient Midrash that
lists the philosophical and ethical lessons to be learned
from the natural world, the first song is: "The heavens are
saying: `The heavens recount of G-d's glory, and the skies
tell of His handiwork' (Tehillim 19:2)."
The commentaries on Perek Shirah explain this as
follows. The prominence of a feature in nature is directly
proportional to the importance of the lesson that it
projects. The heavens are not only the largest feature of
nature (at some forty-eight billion light years across), but
they are also the most conspicuous feature in our lives.
Wherever we are, the heavens are above us and we see them
constantly. There is nothing in nature that is more
prominent. Thus, the lesson that they teach must be the most
important lesson of them all.
"The foundation of foundations and the pillar of all
knowledge is to know that there is a Primary Cause, and He
is the cause behind everything, and everything that exists
in the heavens, and on the earth, and in between, exists
only through His existence" (Rambam, Hilchos Yesodei
This cause is the G-d of the universe, the Master of all the
world. It is He Who guides the cosmos with infinite power,
with endless energy. For the cosmos moves constantly, and
this is impossible without there being a cause. And He
causes it without a hand or a body.
The cornerstone of Judaism is awareness of Hashem's
existence. This awareness is imparted to us by the heavens.
From time immemorial, man has gazed up at the skies and has
been awed at the vastness of space. He has wondered at the
movements of the cosmic bodies. From contemplation such as
this, man is reminded of his Creator. For how else was such
a spectacular system set into motion? If the earth were just
a little closer to the sun, we would all fry; a little
further away, and we would freeze. Vast stars, planets and
moons shine their light on us from distances so great that
by the time their light reaches us, they may already have
ceased to exist. This entire universe started somewhere and
sometime. But what caused this to happen? Science cannot
answer that question. For the cause lies outside the realm
of science. It was the Prime Cause -- Hashem.
"The heavens recount of Hashem's glory, and the skies tell
of His handiwork . . . There is no speech and there are no
words; their voice is heard without these" (Tehillim
This lesson accompanies us wherever we go. We need only look
upwards, and we are reminded of it: "Lift your eyes upon
high and see Who created these!" (Yeshayah 40:26). And we
are thereby constantly taught: "I shall consider Hashem to
be in front of me at all times" (Tehillim 16:8).
@Big Let Body=If we analyze the song of the Heavens in more
detail, we see that there are two sections to it, which
differ in three important ways. The first part mentions "the
heavens," i.e., outer space; it states that they "recount"
(mesaperim); and their message is "the glory of
Hashem." The second part of the verse discusses "the skies,"
or the earth's atmosphere (roki'a); it states that
they "tell" (maggid); and that the subject of their
message is "Hashem's handiwork." These distinctions signify
two profoundly different concepts.
The heavens, as discussed, point to a Creator. The vastness
of space together with the dramatic movements of the
celestial bodies inform us that Hashem created the universe;
this is the glory of Hashem. But it only "recounts" this
knowledge, sippur; the information only touches us in
a detached sort of way.
Much of the world's population acknowledges that the
universe was created and has faith that there is a Hashem.
But this knowledge alone does not necessarily change a
person's lifestyle. Certain heretical philosophers went as
far as to state that, after creating the universe, Hashem
"retired," and no longer takes an active interest in man.
Thus, the second part of the verse states that the
atmosphere tells of His handiwork. The atmosphere is the
region in which non-deterministic phenomena such as rain,
storms and snow are formed. These are things totally out of
the realm of science which are of great significance to
agriculture and therefore to man. "You are eternally mighty,
Hashem, the Resuscitator of the dead are You, abundantly
able to save, making the wind blow and the rain descend"
The Vilna Gaon (Aderes Eliyahu, Vezos HaBerochoh)
explains that weather patterns and the resurrection of the
dead are grouped together as examples of G-d's might as both
are beyond the predictive abilities of science.
The elements of the atmosphere demonstrate that Hashem is
still actively involved in man's affairs, granting him rain
when he deserves it and withholding rain or inflicting harsh
storms when man is unworthy. They tell, maggid, this
information. "Telling" refers to communicating information
that is directly relevant to the listener; the word
haggadah is based on the word gad, connection.
The atmosphere and its workings tell us that Hashem is
closely involved in a relationship with us, His special
handiwork, and that we should be faithful to Him and perform
Rabbi Nosson Slifkin teaches at Yeshivas Ohr Somayach in
Jerusalem. He is currently preparing an English elucidation
of Perek Shirah entitled Nature's Song for