A Global Symphony of Biodiversity (Mel Alexenberg)
Every species of living organism on our planet sings its distinctive praise of their Creator. According to estimates made by biologists, over eight million species of animals live on planet Earth. Each species sings its special song in harmony with all the others to create a grand symphony of biodiversity.
The information for all forms of life from the amoeba to the giant redwoods, from roses to elephants, from bacteria to whales, and from onions to human beings, is written with an alphabet of only four letters like the biblical Tetragrammaton YHVH. They are A for adenine, T for thymine, C for cytosine, and G for guanine. These letters spell four words: A-T, T-A, C-G, G-C. Each rung of the DNA spiral ladder is written with one of these words.
Human beings have 46 chromosomes. The sequence and number of these words determines whether you have blue eyes or brown, whether you will be short or tall, and whether you will be a genius or mentally retarded. During my first career as a science teacher, I asked my students what would happen if they had 16 chromosomes instead of 46. When I told them that they’d be onions, they understood that all life forms are written with the same four letters.
PEREK SHIRA (cover photo)
Editor's note: The Perek Shira is an Ancient Jewish text, dating back to at least the 10th century, made up of 85 segments. Each segment has members of the creation, from the celestial to the canine, "use biblical and rabbinic verses to sing God's praises." (Wikipedia)
Here are some plants and animals with their verses from Perek Shira in the order they appear in the book with their chromosome numbers:
The trees of the forest like the oak tree with 24 chromosomes, says: “Then all the trees of the forest will sing with joy, before god – for He will have come to judge the earth.” (1 Chronicles 16:32)
The date palm with 26 chromosomes says: “A righteous man will flourish like a date palm, like a cedar in the Lebanon he will grow.” (Psalms 92:13)
The sheaf of wheat with 42 chromosomes says: “A song of ascents. From the depths I called you, God” (Psalms 130:1)
The grasses with 55 chromosomes say: “May the glory of God endure forever, let God rejoice in His works.” (Psalms 104:21)
The crane with 74 chromosomes says: “Give thanks to Hashem with a harp, with a ten-stringed lyre make music to Him.” (Psalms 33:2)
The swallow with 70 chromosomes says: “So that my soul might sing to You and not be stilled, my God, forever I will thank you.” (Psalms 30:13)
The domestic goose with 80 chromosomes says: “Give thanks to God, declare His Name make His acts known among the peoples. Sing to Him, speak of all His wonders.” (Psalm 105:1-2)
The spider says: “Praise Him with clanging cymbals; praise Him with resonant trumpets.” (Psalms 150:5) (There are tens of thousands of spider species that differ in chromosome number.)
The cow with 60 chromosomes says: “Sing joyously to the God of our strength, call out to the God of Judah.” (Psalms 81:2)
The donkey with 62 chromosomes says: “Yours, God, is the greatness, the strength, the splendor, the triumph, and the glory, even everything in heaven and earth.” (1 Chronicles 29:11).
The deer with 70 chromosomes says: “I will sing of Your might, and rejoice towards morning in Your kindness.” (Psalms 59:17)
The elephant with 56 chromosomes says: “How great are Your deeds, God, exceedingly profound Your thoughts.” (Psalms 92:6)
The bear with 74 chromosomes says: “The wilderness and its cities will lift their voices; …those who dwell on bedrock will sing out.” (Isaiah 42:11)
The snake with 72 chromosomes says: “God supports all the fallen ones and straightens all the bent.” (Psalms 145:14)
The ant with 40 chromosomes says: “Go to the ant, you sluggard; see its ways and grow wise” (Proverbs 6:6)
The weasel with 44 chromosomes says: “Let all souls praise God, Halleluyah!” (Psalms 150:6)
The dog with 78 chromosomes says: “Come! Let us bow in humility and adoration, let us kneel before God our Maker.” (Psalm 95:6).
The Talmud teaches: “Had the Torah not been given, we would have learned modesty from the cat, the prohibition of theft from the ant, the prohibition of forbidden relationships from the dove, and the proper method of conjugal relations from fowl.” (Tractate Eruvin 100b)
“He teaches us from the animals of the land, and from the birds of the heavens He makes us wise.” (Job 35:11)
Read the complete version of this blog, "Silent Dogs and The Symphony of Biodiversity" on TimesofIsrael.com. Mel Alexenberg is an artist, educator, writer "working at the interface of art, technology, and Jewish thought." Formerly a professor at Columbia, Bar-Ilan, and Ariel universities. Former research fellow at MIT's Center for Advanced Visual Studies. Mel's artworks are in collections at more than forty museums worldwide. He lives in Ra’anana, Israel. Photo collages at top of this piece are borrowed from Mel's great website.