Finding My Father's Song
What if you're lost, but being found just makes you feel lost again?
Rina Brown is a young professional with a hidden talent for music who’s in love with her successful fiancé, Troy Ash.
But when she reveals that she wants to eventually have children, despite having promised him she wouldn’t, he dumps her.
Losing Troy causes Rina to lose everything else—their home, her friends, the winter cabin in the mountains—plunging Rina into despair.
Combined with the recent death of the mother who never really loved her and bitterness toward the father who abandoned her as a child, Rina makes her way to the winter cabin she once shared with Troy, determined to end her life by freezing to death outside on a snowy night.
Yet bears awakening from hibernation chase Rina into the lonely cabin, where she discovers music CDs and equipment that enable Rina to upload her songs of heartbreak, eventually creating an Internet sensation.
But when Rina’s past won’t leave her alone, Rina finds herself spiraling once again into despair.
Will Rina be able to grasp onto those reaching out to her from her past?
Can she find the lifeline she needs in an ancient Jewish book said to be the key to unlocking a secret chamber in Heaven?
Or will she finally lose herself forever to her own despair and self-destruction?
Perek Shira & The Secret Chamber of Melody
This new book focuses on Rina Brown, a Jewish girl so assimilated, she barely realizes she's Jewish.
As she tries to make her way around heartbreak, Internet fame, suicide attempts, unsettling childhood memories, and unexpected meetings with people from her past, Rina discovers the existence of a short ancient Jewish book said to be compiled by King David himself called Perek Shirah—Chapter of Song.
Note: Much of the following is excerpted from the Author's Note of Finding My Father's Song.
Well-known today among Orthodox Jews, but practically unheard of in other circles, Perek Shirah/Chapter of Song is a compilation of 84 verses inaudibly sung by different species of mammals, insects, birds, fish, and other parts of nature.
Most of the verses derive from the Jewish Bible, the Talmud, and the Zohar, although one is a paraphrase of a verse from the Jewish Confession (Vidui).
King David is credited with compiling Perek Shirah after he finished writing and arranging the Book of Psalms.
Perek Shirah is available in English with variations in translation due to the multi-layered meaning of most of the verses and the struggle to accurately identify a couple of the animals mentioned. For example, the retzifi (who “sings” Isaiah 40:1) is often translated as “bat,” but my Hebrew version features a photo of an owl (both are nocturnal winged predators, albeit from totally different species). But this word isn’t found in the Jewish Bible or the Talmud, so its translation isn’t clear. However, God knows what you mean. (You can also just call it “retzifi” instead of the uncertain translation, but recite the rest of the verse in English.)
Rabbi Chanoch Zundel Luria (a rabbinical sage who lived in Poland during the early 1800s) compared Chapter of Song to a symphony of musical instruments, each with its own sound, which blends together under the guidance of a conductor.
Many of the verses contain expressions of joyful gratitude to the Creator along with other inspirational messages, including verses containing ethical metaphors encouraging the reader to overcome laziness, avoid theft, and live a meaningful life.
The deeper secret behind Perek Shirah is the Jewish tradition that there is a special place in Heaven (and is not a physical 3-dimensional location like, say, Jamaica) that contains a great spiritual treasure under lock and bolt (again, not a physical iron lock and bolt).
Only certain angels can entire this chamber, which is called Niggun (pronounced nee-goon, it means “Melody”). Perek Shirah is the key that opens this chamber. Needless to say, to really access the beautiful holy power of Perek Shirah, it needs to be said from your heart as sincerely and joyfully as you can.
(This doesn’t mean you need to be laughing and hooting as you say it. Again, it’s the heart that counts, so the main idea is to cultivate a happy heart.)
If you can put the words to some kind of melody, it’s even more effective.
Several holy Jewish sages throughout history have emphasized the power of Perek Shirah to provide protection and healing. In light of this, there is a popular Jewish custom to recite it for 40 consecutive days as a prayer for the fulfillment of a specific request. Many Jews have seen blessing and even miracles from following this custom.
Here is a downloadable PDF of one English translation:
Perek Shirah in English
As you’ll see, there are different spellings of Perek Shirah. Sometimes perek is spelled pereq and sometimes shirah is spelled shira. As explained in Jews, transliterating Hebrew into English isn’t so straightforward, so we all just do the best we can.
There are laminated booklets available in the original Hebrew or translations of the Hebrew, accompanied by photos of the animal featured in each verse. (The illustrations are helpful in case you—like me—didn’t know what a swift or petrel was, for example; they’re both birds.)
But the website offering these booklets, plus more information, has since closed down and been transferred to a site for decking wholesalers. (Weird, I know.) To receive a laminated booklet of Perek Shirah with the accompanying photos, you can always try contacting an Orthodox book store (if you have one in your area) to see if they carry these booklets.
For an article by one of my favorite Jewish authors about her personal experience with Perek Shirah, please see: Nature's Song.
For an upbeat Hassidic musical rendering of the introductory paragraph of Perek Shirah, please see this video by Avremy Goldstein & friends (English subtitles appear at around 3:20): Perek Shirah Hassidic-Style