Perek Shira: The Song of the Rooster
by Rabbi Shmuel Kraines
The Rooster says: “At the time that Hashem enters to be with the righteous in Gan Eden, all trees of Gan Eden emit aromatic spices and sing and praise, and then the rooster too awakens and praises. In the first call it says: Raise, gates, your heads, and let the eternal entrances be raised, and let the King of glory enter. Who is the King of glory? Hashem, strong and mighty, Hashem the mighty warrior. In the second call it says: Raise, gates, your heads, and raise, eternal entrances, and let the King of glory enter. Who is He, the King of glory? Hashem, L-rd of hosts, He is the King of glory, Selah! (Tehillim 24:7-10). In the third call it says: Rise, righteous ones, and engage in Torah study in order that your reward will be doubled in the World to Come. In the fourth call it says: For Your salvation I yearn, Hashem! (Ber. 49:18). In the fifth call it says: Until when shall you lie down, lazy man, when will you rise from your sleep? (Mishlei 6:19). In the sixth call it says: Do not love sleep, lest you become impoverished. Open your eyes, be satiated with bread (ibid. 20:13). In the seventh call it says: It is a time to act for the sake of Hashem; they have annulled Your Torah (Tehillim 119:126).
This song speaks of a Heavenly rooster that crows every hour from midnight to daybreak, which is a period of particular Divine favor. It also speaks of the roosters on earth that join in its crowing. They call with increasing urgency for Torah scholars to rise and engage in Torah study in these hours. With the first calls, it directs the Heavenly gates to rise for Hashem to enter the Beit HaMikdash of earth, and with the second, for Him to enter the Beit HaMikdash of Heaven. At the third hour it calls, “Rise, righteous ones, and involve yourselves in Torah study,” since it is with the onset of the third part of the night that Divine favor increases. Their reward is doubled because they engage in Torah study day and night equally. The fourth call takes place three hours before daybreak. It calls out that in the merit of Torah study at night we will be redeemed from this exile. Similarly, the final Messianic war will take place during the three hours before dawn on Hoshanah Rabbah.
The fifth call, two hours before daybreak, heralds the preparation for prayer, which will commence in one more hour. The sixth hour is the time to don the tallit and tefillin and set out for prayer, and it calls that excessive sleep in the morning impoverishes a person and removes him from the world. The seventh call is “It is a time to act for the sake of Hashem; they have annulled Your Torah,” because the time of Divine favor has ended and the time for the performance of mitzvahs has begun.
In our urban societies we no longer rise to the call of the rooster, and yet its song shall not be silenced. It calls for us to engage in Torah study that delights the Creator before our day becomes filled with matters of temporal, earthly value. Its very existence is a daily reminder to awaken and to waken others, to rise and live alive.
- Sources: Perek B’shir (Rav Chaim Kanievsky); Zohar Vol. 3 171b; Zer Zahav 1:9; Beis Elokim
*In loving memory of Harav Zeev Shlomo ben Zecharia Leib