The biblioholic strikes again — I must recommend another book! Last year Seth Rogovoy published a book titled “Bob Dylan — Prophet, Mystic, Poet.” It is a biography that focuses on the role Judaism played in his life and music. Bob Dylan, né Robert Allen Zimmerman, holds a special place in many hearts and when you add the Jewish influence, the music takes on new meaning. I do suggest this biography to those interested in Dylan or music, but that is not the book I am recommending. A new children’s book with a Dylan song is a must-have: “Man Gave Names To All The Animals” by Bob Dylan, illustrated by Jim Arnosky (and it comes with a CD). It is a great Dylan song with wonderful pictures.
The Jewish connection to this is, of course, right from Genesis 2:20 — “…the Lord G-d formed every animal…and brought them to the man to see what he would call them; and whatever the man called each living creature, that was its name.” Giving names was a special job that G-d gave to man. Names are important to animals and to people. Parents carefully choose names for their children. If you are a parent, make sure you tell the story of their name to each child and share the story of your name.
Now back to the animals: Adam was told to take care of the animals and, of course, Noah had a very important job with animals. You can find all about animals from the Tanach — check these out and then look for more:
• Ferret – Leviticus 11:30
• Frog – Exodus 8: 1 – 2
• Grasshopper – Leviticus 11:22
• Peacock – 1 Kings 10:22
• Behemoth (maybe original dinosaurs) – Job 40:15-16
There is an ancient, sacred work titled “Perek Shirah — Chapter of Song.” Some sources say that it was written by King David, who was inspired after being told by a frog that its “song” to G-d was loftier than David’s Book of Psalms. Others credit it to King Solomon, who understood the speech of animals, vegetables and minerals. Still others say it might have been the sages. But whoever wrote it, many great people recite “Perek Shirah” every day. In “Perek Shirah,” the creatures say that they are carrying out their assigned tasks and this obedience to the will of G-d is His praise; they cannot achieve their complete purpose without man. We must listen and hear the sound, but we must also listen for the music and the harmony. Each animal has its own special song. The final song is from the dog, “Come! Let us prostrate ourselves and bow, let us kneel before G-d, our Maker” (Psalms 95:6). Dogs epitomize loyalty; they are man’s best friend and display gratitude and obedience to the master who treats them well. What better example for man to show gratitude to G-d?
Talk about the animals in your life and what song each may sing. If you could choose an animal to be, what would you be? Why? Is there an animal that you would choose not to be? Why? In G-d’s eyes, do you think all creatures have equal value? As you ponder these thoughts, be thankful for the wonderful and wide diversity among creatures!
Laura Seymour is director of camping services and Jewish life and learning at the Jewish Community Center of Dallas.