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I Am The Bat Man
(A re-post from over a decade ago)
Somebody sent me this link to a story from a community kollel about several invasions by bats into frum homes. According to the story, these invasions were both interpreted and solved via the bat's passuk in Perek Shirah: Perek Shirah explains why the bat appeared in the houses at that time, and reciting the bat's passuk from Perek Shirah assisted in finding the bat in order to remove it.
The irony is that the bat is not in Perek Shirah. The alleged "bat" in Perek Shirah, called retzifi in Hebrew, is not a bat.
Now, at this point some people will be saying, "Well, this is just Natan Slifkin's opinion. Others are of the view that the bat is in Perek Shirah!"
But this is where it gets really ironic.
The basis for people claiming that the bat is the retzifi of Perek Shirah, is the ArtScroll edition of Perek Shirah. And the ArtScroll Perek Shirah got it from me (as they acknowledge in a footnote). And I was completely mistaken about it!
When I found out that ArtScroll was working on Perek Shirah, and making use of my book Nature's Song, I wrote to them to inform them of a mistake that I had made in my book. My identification of the retzifi as the bat was a total stab in the dark. I claimed weak support from a commentary called Pi Eliyahu who identifies it as the tinshames, which in the Chumash is identified by some as the bat. But this is in fact no support at all, because Pi Eliyahu understands tinshames to be the owl. I only chose the bat because, faced with no evidence whatsoever (at the time) as to what the retzifi really is, I chose an animal that at least, with a generous dose of creativity, matches the theme of the passuk in Perek Shirah as explained by some of the commentaries. But there is no reason to think that the author of Perek Shirah was referring to the bat - and if he wanted to refer to the bat, he would surely have referred to it by the name atalef.
By the time I published the second edition of Nature's Song, in 2009, I had discovered that the retzifi is probably a type of dove, and corrected my book accordingly. But it was too late. ArtScroll had not taken note of my email to them admitting error, and had translated retzifi as the bat, crediting me in the footnote. And people at large, in the explosion of interest in Perek Shirah, had adopted the ArtScroll view. And, of course, nobody is going to admit to having based their mystical interpretation of an event on something said by Natan Slifkin - even if Natan Slifkin is admitting that he was mistaken!
Thus, an error that is destined to be perpetuated for all eternity, and used to "discover" the mystical significance of contemporary events involving bats, and even to have metaphysical results of enabling people to find the bat, all stems from a mistake on my part! I don't know whether to be amused or depressed.