Perek Shira: The Song of the Crane
by Rabbi Shmuel Kraines
The Crane says: “Thank Hashem with a harp, make music for Him with a ten-stringed lyre.” (Tehillim 33:2)
The beautiful crane is the tallest and one of the highest flying of all birds, and its calls can be heard kilometers away. It is highly vocal and capable of emitting a wide variety of sounds, sometimes as part of an intricate group dance. It sings to laud Hashem with every aspect of His praise, like a multiple stringed harp and lyre. The harp is a relatively straightforward instrument to play, symbolizing the masses who praise Him on a basic level. On the other hand, the complex ten-stringed lyre is the tool of individuals, who rise above their brethren in their song to the Creator. The ten strings represent a Jewish congregation, which is comprised of a minimum of ten Jewish men. Hashem’s Presence descends to each Jewish prayer hall to hear their expressions of praise.
Hashem created the entire universe for His glory, and He desires the praise of His beloved nation above all. When we enjoy His kindnesses, we thank Him. When we experience His wonders, we laud Him. Suffering leads to submission. Neediness calls for prayer. Victory over our base inclinations is a declaration of Hashem’s kingship Recognition of failure of such, arouses repentance. All are forms of Hashem’s praise. Jewish life is filled with a rich variety of meaning. We experience vibrancy and enjoyment in all we do, soaring and singing like the crane.
Note: This is the song of the agur, a bird of uncertain identity. We have translated as “crane,” following the commentary of Rashi (Kiddushin 44a) and Mahari Kara(Yirmiyahu 8:7). (Compare “agur” with “gru/ grua” — “crane” in Spanish/Italian, and similarly in Greek.) Another significant opinion translates it as “swallow” (Targum to Yirmiyahu 8:7, Aruch, and others). Although the swallow is mentioned later in Perek Shira (the senunis), there are apparently two different types of swallow, each with its own song (Yaavetz). It would seem that the agur swallow omits a wide range of sweet harp-like sounds, and hence its song: “Thank Hashem with a harp, with a ten-stringed lyre make music for Him.” Another possible translation of agur is “parrot” (as in Radak to Yirmiyahu).
- Additional sources: Beis Elokim; Yirmiyah 43:7 and 21; Wikipedia
*In loving memory of Harav Zeev Shlomo ben Zecharia Leib