In the beginning of pesukei de-zimra, we read the psalmist’s call to express our marvel at God’s wonders:
“שִׁירוּ-לוֹ, זַמְּרוּ-לוֹ, שִׂיחוּ בְּכָל-נִפְלְאוֹתָיו.” (תהילים ק"ה:ב)
“Sing (shiru) to Him, play music (zamru) to Him, speak (sichu) of all His wonders.” (Psalms 105:2)
What is the difference between these three actions — shirah, zimrah, and sichah?
Rav Kook explained that we process our awareness and wonder of God’s providence in three stages.
The first stage is shirah. This is an initial flash of insight, a spark of poetic inspiration. The thought is not fully defined and fully developed; but it is the result of a clear vision, a pure and lofty insight.
Next comes zimrah. This is music, a lyric song expressing our inner emotions. Our sense of awe and wonder touches the heartstrings of the soul. We are moved and filled with feelings of gratitude, and the heart responds with joyful song.
Finally comes the third stage — sichah. The word sichah means ‘talk’ or ‘conversation.’ This is an introspective discourse, as we contemplate God’s sublime light and reflect deeply on the wonders of His creation.
After the inner insight of shirah and the heartfelt song of zimrah, comes the contemplative discourse of sichah. Compared to the first two steps, sichah is like a composition of prose, well-developed and thought-out. It expands upon the original flash of insight, as we further examine life and the world around us.
“Speak of all His wonders.” Great and numerous insights are revealed to those who reflect upon the wonders of Temim Dei'im, the Creator with Perfect Knowledge.
(Adapted from Olat Re’iyah vol. I, p. 200)