It’s hard not to feel Nature singing God’s praises, whether in the vivid blue sky overhead this afternoon… or in the brilliant aurora, when the sun showers electromagnetic particles on Earth’s polar atmosphere to produce shimmering curtains of colored light. The medieval Jewish classic, Perek Shira, Chapter of Song, captures nature’s song, placing short biblical praises of God from across the Hebrew Bible into the “mouths” of stars and beetles and horses, among other wonders of the natural world. I have celebrated the birth of my first grandchild by creating an aleph-bet picture book that adapts Perek Shira into a celebration of the environment and its Creator for children of all ages, All the World Praises You! an illuminated aleph-bet book, appearing July 15. Honeybees for my name, and dahlias, for my little granddaughter lead you on a wild ride through our precious environment, replete with non-denominational Jewish spiritual joy and environmental ethics. This essay is the fifth in a series that I’ll post over the next few weeks, presenting art and ideas drawn from this celebration of nature in the Jewish soul.
The splendor of the natural world seemed to call to be represented directly in this celebration of the Creator, hence I’ve added the concept of Hod, splendor, to this work inspired by Perek Shira.The psalm from which this verse comes is a famous listing of God’s wondrous qualities, and constitutes most of the Ashrei prayer prominent in traditional Jewish liturgy. The italicized words in the phrase “the majestic glory of your splendor” are three terms that rise in a crescendo of ecstatic awe and love of God’s strength and beauty, emphasizing divine royalty and power. In Kabbalah, Hod is one of the sephirot, or emanations of God, through which divine energy flows toward the material world.
To me, few things express divine splendor as grandly as the gigantic natural light show of the Northern Lights, the Aurora Borealis. This brilliant play of color shimmering in the dark night sky is caused by the beating of the sun’s magnetic fields on the upper levels of Earth’s atmosphere. The aurora seems to symbolize perfectly the Jewish mystical idea of the shefa, the divine energy that flows from the highest, remotest core of the Divine to suffuse our physical world.
The poetry and painting lead us to muse about aspects of our own lives, our relationship with God, and how we relate to the natural world in both our mundane and our spiritual lives. What other natural phenomena display God’s splendor in our world for you? What special nuances of God’s providential care for our world do these phenomena reflect for you?
You will find the painting, and more information on All the World Praises You! on its webpage. Another version of this essay, suggestions for related reading, along with materials for elementary-school age and bar/bat mitzvah age readers, including rich discussions of the paintings’ meaning, the letter itself, explorations in environmental science, and even links to “citizen-science” programs, are available at Diving Deeper! Enrichment Materials for All the World Praises You! Enjoy! There’s more to come!
All the World Praises You! is available (shipping July 15) wherever books are sold in the USA, and through Amazon.com across the world. Please see www.AlltheWorldPraisesYou.com for more information. The notes above are adapted from Diving Deeper: Enrichment Materials for All the World Praises You: please click on the link above for more!
All the World Praises You! an illuminated aleph-bet book, by Debra Band, with new translations by Arnold J. Band. All materials herein copyright (c) Debra Band 2018. All rights reserved.