For the week ending 4 February 2023 / 13 Shvat 5783

Perek Shira: The Song of Sheep and Goats

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Small Kosher Domestic Animals say:

“Who is like You among the mighty, Hashem! Who is like You, immense in holiness, too awesome for praise, Who does wonder!” (Shemot 15:11)

Sheep and goats are small and vulnerable, and they are easy prey when left unprotected. They are entirely submissive to their masters, who make use of their milk and fleece, or slaughter them for their meat and hides.

Observing the phenomenon of the survival of the Jewish People scattered in exile among all the nations of the world, the Caesar Adrianus remarked to Rabbi Akiva, “Great is the sheep that stands amongst seventy wolves!” Rabbi Akiva replied, “Great is the Shepherd Who saves it and protects it!”

Thus, sheep and goats sing the song of the miraculous survival of “Hashem’s flock.” They sing, “Who is like You among the mighty (‘eilim’).” The word “eilim” can also be interpreted to mean “the mute.” This signifies that silence is the greatest sign of might. For example, when Hashem allowed the nations to conquer us and even sacrilegiously destroy His holy abode, the Beit HaMikdash, this silence was an expression of His confidence that nobody can truly harm Him or entirely destroy the eternal nation under His custody. He watches carefully, and when He sees the time has come for Him to gather His scattered flock at the day’s end, none will stop Him.

We should humbly realize that we are as vulnerable as sheep, and that there is little we can do to control our lives except to keep as near as possible to the Shepherd. We should feel tranquil in Hashem’s hand, focusing our energies on accomplishing our life goals. With our silence and calmness, we sing of the unrivaled might of our Shepherd.

  • Sources: Gittin 56b; Yaavetz; Kol Rinah; Perek B’Shir; Tanchuma, Toldos §5

*In loving memory of Harav Zeev Shlomo ben Zecharia Leib

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