As I attended Zoom services this morning I was settling into my less than enthusiastic reading of the prayers when I noticed a reference to an animal in one of Psalms. I began to wonder who the animals are that appear here in the early morning service so I went on a search of my own to list these animals and perhaps find out a little bit more about why they are there. Just for a clarification, I am talking about the weekday service as opposed to the Shabbat service where you might find different prayers. In short, I have learned a little bit over the past few days about eagles and vultures, about the different types of lions mentioned in torah and the types of animals used as sacrifice in our most ancient form of Judaism. I've learned that sometime Jews admired horses but at other times they reviled them and ravens are nasty birds and about monsters who live in the sea. I now know that the eagle mentioned in prayers was probably not an eagle after all. It's made the service much more interesting and although all of these animals crawl, swim, fly and gallop through the morning service, today I want to focus on the rooster.
At the very beginning of the day there are a series of blessings which are said during the first actions we take in the morning. We bless things like putting on our shoes, our clothing, even our belts. One of these blessings include
When he hears the voice of a rooster, he should say: “Blessed [is He] that gave the rooster discernment to distinguish between day and night.” (From Sefaria)
I can hear the rooster crowing loudly on the page and just the image it produces wakes me up. This blessing brings us back to the most natural way of telling the time. Before the time of clocks and dinging alarms, we had the rooster to wake us each morning. We also can understand the intuitive knowledge of the rooster to discern times for us before the sun even rises. When we depend so much upon technology to remind us, search and do for us and to help us sleep and to wake us from our slumbers, this blessing brings us back to the basics and remind us that there is another way to do things; a way more primitive, but one that reminds us of the powers that various species were given. For after all, how does the rooster know that it is morning even before the sun rises? Similar to the rooster, how do song birds know to warble when dawn is coming?
Perhaps there is a lesson here for us and perhaps it centers in on the rooster. We rely on technology for so much. It begins with our alarms in the morning but then it continues. I cannot speak for other's habits here, but I read the news on my phone during breakfast, check the weather and the latest updates from friends all on the same device. I listen to Daf Yomi on the same device, hold most of my communication from the most mundane to the most important on it as well. I record the number of steps that I take each day on my device and use it to give me directions from one place to another. It checks, verifies, reassures, entertains and is my constant companion. In fact is does so much that I am lost without it. If I do not feel it in my pocket I get anxious. If I leave home without it, I immediately rush home to retrieve it and my pulse rate slows when it is safely next to me.
What would I be now without my phone? Can I still hear the sound of that rooster crowing?
What can that rooster teach me about seeing the light, about feeling the difference between night and day without the aid of a phone? Is the simple message of the rooster's crow to wake up and take more notice of things around me each day instead of relying upon the artificial intelligence of a computer chip to do it for me? During the month of Cheshvan and during the holy days of Tishrei we traditionally rely upon the sound of the Shofar to wake us up, but perhaps the shrill morning cry of the rooster should be heard more clearly through our bedroom windows? Perhaps his ancient and piercing voice has a message that we should heed on a daily basis? Be less reliant on what is done for you and rely on your own instincts.
Look and hear and notice. Don't be complacent. Don't let your phone do it all for you.
Occasionally look up, see the dawn and crow!
For more information on the rooster blessing go to: