Perek Shira: The Song of the Sparrow
by Rabbi Shmuel Kraines
The sparrow says: “Even the sparrow found a home and the free bird a nest for herself; she placed her chicks upon Your altars, Hashem Lord of Legions, my King and my God.” (Tehillim 84:4)
The sparrow chooses a nest far away from predators, lays there its eggs, and sings incessantly. This verse metaphorically describes the Jewish people’s building of the Beis HaMikdash in the same way. Like a bird, which dwells primarily in the air but must feed on the ground, we are a primarily spiritual people who live in an earthly world. We escaped from Egypt and built the Beis HaMikdash, “the House of our Lives,” on the top of a mountain. There we would lay our “eggs,” our offerings, upon Hashem’s altars, the Levites would sing to the Creator every day.
Whenever the sparrows chirp, from wherever they choose to nest, they are echoing our song. They remind us to gather in our own Shuls, each which is miniature Beis HaMikdash, a nest in exile, and to sing Hashem’s praises there. And in those prayers, we express our yearning to return to our true nest and home, where our song will join the earth to the Heavens, and will not cease evermore.
Sources: This is the song of the “tzippor.” Depending on its context, this term may refer specifically to the sparrow, or to all song-birds, or to all birds, as is its general usage (see Midrash Shocher Tov and Radak ad loc., Shemos Rabbah 20:6, and Ramban to Vayikra 14:4). For our commentary, we have translated as “sparrow,” as is apparent from its position in Perek Shirah and its singular form, “tzippor.” As one of the most common birds, its cheerful chirp is a standard feature in the background music of our world. Its song certainly applies to other birds as well, but to a lesser extent.