“There shall be a great cry of anguish throughout all Egypt…. But among the Israelites, no dog shall howl for man or beast.” (Exodus 11:6, 7) This passage is read from the Torah scroll on Shabbat, February 4, 2017.
In Egyptian mythology, the Dog God Anubis gains its powers from the howling of dogs at death to raise the soul to eternal afterlife. When the dogs did not howl, the plague of the death of the first-born caused double anguish since eternal afterlife was denied. The awesome quiet of the dogs at the freeing the Israelites from slavery gives dogs an honored place in Judaism.
See how my wife Miriam and I link this Torah portion (Bo/Come) to our life in Israel through photographs and Torah Tweet texts at Bible Blog Your life and in my book Photograph God: Creating a Spiritual Blog of Your Life.
THE SONG OF THE DOG
Dogs are not known for their silence. The song of the dog is presented as the climax of the small book Perek Shira (Chapter of Song) that gives voice to each animal’s role in praising God in a global symphony of biodiversity. In Perek Shira, the song of the dog is: “Come! Let us bow in humility and adoration, let us kneel before God our Maker.” (Psalm 95:6). The loyalty of a dog to his master provides a model for human gratitude to God for everything in life.
Our son Ron’s studies of the kabalistic underpinnings of Perek Shira encouraged him to seriously study music with prominent Israeli composers. After a few years of music studies that paralleled his emersion in Jewish studies at Merkaz Harav, the flagship Zionist rabbinic college in Jerusalem, he realized that God doesn’t write the Symphony of Creation on a five-line staff. God writes the distinctive song of each species on the rungs of DNA spiral ladders, the chromosomes in every cell of every plant and animal. Ron then switched from his music studies to studying biology. He earned his M.Sc. in genetics at Ben Gurion University where he is now completing his Ph.D. As both rabbi and biologist, Ron teaches interrelationships between Torah and science.
GLOBAL SYMPHONY OF BIODIVERSITY
Perek Shira presents biblical and rabbinic verses representing the songs of 64 other species of animals and plants in addition to the song of the dog. Every species of living organism on our planet sings its distinctive praise of their Creator. According to estimates made by biologists, over eight million species of animals live on planet Earth. Each species sings its special song in harmony with all the others to create a grand symphony of biodiversity.
The information for all forms of life from the amoeba to the giant redwoods, from roses to elephants, from bacteria to whales, and from onions to human beings, is written with an alphabet of only four letters like the biblical Tetragrammaton YHVH. They are A for adenine, T for thymine, C for cytosine, and G for guanine. These letters spell four words: A-T, T-A, C-G, G-C. Each rung of the DNA spiral ladder is written with one of these words.
Human beings have 46 chromosomes. The sequence and number of these words determines whether you have blue eyes or brown, whether you will be short or tall, and whether you will be a genius or mentally retarded. During my first career as a science teacher, I asked my students what would happen if they had 16 chromosomes instead of 46. When I told them that they’d be onions, they understood that all life forms are written with the same four letters.
Here are some plants and animals with their verses from Perek Shira in the order they appear in the book with their chromosome numbers:
The trees of the forest like the oak tree with 24 chromosomes, says: “Then all the trees of the forest will sing with joy, before god – for He will have come to judge the earth.” (1 Chronicles 16:32)
The date palm with 26 chromosomes says: “A righteous man will flourish like a date palm, like a cedar in the Lebanon he will grow.” (Psalms 92:13)
The sheaf of wheat with 42 chromosomes says: “A song of ascents. From the depths I called you, God” (Psalms 130:1)
The grasses with 55 chromosomes say: “May the glory of God endure forever, let God rejoice in His works.” (Psalms 104:21)
The crane with 74 chromosomes says: “Give thanks to Hashem with a harp, with a ten-stringed lyre make music to Him.” (Psalms 33:2)
The swallow with 70 chromosomes says: “So that my soul might sing to You and not be stilled, my God, forever I will thank you.” (Psalms 30:13)
The domestic goose with 80 chromosomes says: “Give thanks to God, declare His Name make His acts known among the peoples. Sing to Him, speak of all His wonders.” (Psalm 105:1-2)
The spider says: “Praise Him with clanging cymbals; praise Him with resonant trumpets.” (Psalms 150:5) (There are tens of thousands of spider species that differ in chromosome number.)
The cow with 60 chromosomes says: “Sing joyously to the God of our strength, call out to the God of Judah.” (Psalms 81:2)
The donkey with 62 chromosomes says: “Yours, God, is the greatness, the strength, the splendor, the triumph, and the glory, even everything in heaven and earth.” (1 Chronicles 29:11).
The deer with 70 chromosomes says: “I will sing of Your might, and rejoice towards morning in Your kindness.” (Psalms 59:17)
The elephant with 56 chromosomes says: “How great are Your deeds, God, exceedingly profound Your thoughts.” (Psalms 92:6)
The bear with 74 chromosomes says: “The wilderness and its cities will lift their voices; …those who dwell on bedrock will sing out.” (Isaiah 42:11)
The snake with 72 chromosomes says: “God supports all the fallen ones and straightens all the bent.” (Psalms 145:14)
The ant with 40 chromosomes says: “Go to the ant, you sluggard; see its ways and grow wise” (Proverbs 6:6)
The weasel with 44 chromosomes says: “Let all souls praise God, Halleluyah!” (Psalms 150:6)
The dog with 78 chromosomes says: “Come! Let us bow in humility and adoration, let us kneel before God our Maker.” (Psalm 95:6).
The Talmud teaches: “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, and the proper method of conjugal relations from fowl.” (Tractate Eruvin 100b)
“He teaches us from the animals of the land, and from the birds of the heavens He makes us wise.” (Job 35:11)
ORIGIN OF SPECIES
Each species sings its unique song in harmony with eight million other members of the global orchestra to create a grand symphony of biodiversity. The Symphony of Creation is elegantly described in the last lines of Charles Darwin’s Origin of Species:
“It is interesting to contemplate a tangled bank, clothed with many plants of many kinds, with birds singing in the bushes, with various insects flitting about, and with worms crawling through the damp earth, and to reflect that these elaborately constructed forms, so different from each other, and dependent upon each other in so complex a manner, have been produced by laws acting around us.”