The word "creature" can refer to any created thing. "Perek Shirah" contains the songs of the creatures within creation, including the following song of the trees:
"The trees of the field are saying: 'Then all the trees of the forest will sing with joy before the Compassionate One - for He will have come to judge the earth' (I Chronicles 16:33)."
Commentary: "Where there has been disarray, a judge must restore order and replace chaos with justice. When the world is in turmoil, and justice is perverted, even the trees of the wild suffer, for the earth's resources are abused and depleted. When the rule of the Ultimate Judge is acknowledged and accepted, even the trees will express their joy by waving their branches ecstatically, because the health of nature will be restored." (Rabbi Nosson Scherman - ArtScroll edition of Perek Shirah)
According to Jewish tradition, the human being is to maintain the health of nature, as it is written, "The Compassionate and Just One took the human being and placed him in the Garden of Eden to serve it and to protect it." (Genesis 2:15). Within the Garden, trees had a central role, as the Torah states, "The Compassionate and Just One caused every kind of tree to grow from the soil, delightful to the sight and good for food "(Genesis 2:9). In fact, the health of nature is connected to the health of trees, as Rabbi Nosson Slifkin reminds us in his book on Perek Shirah, "Nature's Song":
"Forests are the symbol of ecology. They fulfill the essential roles of providing habitat for animals and even smaller plants; they convert lethal carbon dioxide into precious oxygen; and they form the backbone of rainforest ecosystems."
Rabbi Slifkin also reminds us that the human being is not properly fulfilling his role as the custodian of God's earth: "Vast areas of rainforest have already been destroyed in South America and Africa. Included in this destruction are fragile species of animal life that are dependent on such habitat for their survival." Rabbi Slifkin adds that many valuable organisms which might provide cures for illnesses have been lost in the process.
The trees of the forest are endangered, and as a result, say many scientists, the entire earth is endangered. Nevertheless, within the ongoing song of the trees, there is the following message of hope:
"'Then all the trees of the forest will sing with joy before the Compassionate One - for He will have come to judge the earth." (I Chronicles 16:33)
Yosef Ben Shlomo Hakohen (See below)
A Related Teaching:
The Biblical Hebrew term for "judging" is "shfot" - a term which also refers to intervention on behalf of the oppressed. For example, it is written, "Shiftu dal v'yasom" - Render justice to the needy and to the orphan (Psalm 82:3). The commentators Radak, Ibn Ezra, and Rabbi Hirsch explain that the Hebrew term for "judging" in this verse refers to just intervention on behalf of the oppressed needy and orphans.
The phrase "He will have come to judge the earth" can therefore be understood in the following manner: "The Compassionate One will come to intervene on behalf of the oppressed earth." (I once saw this interpretation in the ArtScroll commentary on Chronicles, by Rabbi Moshe Eisemann.)
1. For information on the ArtScroll Perek Shirah, visit: http://artscroll.com/linker/hazon/ASIN/PSHH
2. Another book on Perek Shirah is "Nature's Song" by Rabbi Nosson Slifkin (Targum/Feldheim). For further information on this work, visit: www.feldheim.com
3. The majority of the previous letters of our new mini-series on other creatures now appear in the archive section of our website.