19 Kislev 5781 / Saturday, December 05, 2020 | Torah Reading: Vayishlach
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Ki Teitzei: A Mother Bird    

Ki Teitzei: A Mother Bird

The mitzva of sending away the mother bird before taking her eggs or fledglings teaches a deep lesson about the greatness of a mother; she must be left alone and respected…


Parshat Ki Tetze

The mitzvah of sending away the mother bird before taking her eggs or fledglings teaches us a deep lesson about the greatness of motherhood. Ibn Ezra states that the mother is essential; therefore she must be left alone and respected by the hunter. “If a bird's nest chance to be before you in the way in any tree, or on the earth, whether they be young ones or eggs, and the mother is crouching upon the young or upon the eggs, you shall not take the mother with the young. But you shall surely let the mother go, and take the young to you, that it may be well with you, and that you may prolong your days (Devarim 22:6-7).
According to Ramban, the reward for sending away the mother bird is particularly great because this mitzvah entails such a deep and elevated matter. Kli Yakar notices that the reward for this mitzvah is identical with the reward for keeping the commandment to honor our parents. Both mitzvoth teach us that no being comes into the world without a mother who gives birth to it. This chain of motherhood leads us back to Hashem - the original Mother, Who gave birth to the world. Had the world been eternal, without a Creator, there would be no reason to respect our parents. However, we believe that the first Mother shared her honor with all mothers emanating from her. Therefore, we must honor our parents, and also send away the mother bird. Since both of these mitzvoth strengthen our belief in the creation of the world, their reward is to live a long life in this world. This is the foundation of emunah, as it states “The righteous person lives by his faith” (Chabakuk 2:4). By means of emunah, we cleave to the source of life and therefore, the reward for this is to live a long life.
The mitzvah of sending away the mother bird is immediately followed by the reference to building a new house. Our Sages explain this juxtaposition as follows: If you fulfill the mitzvah of sending away the mother bird, you will merit building a new home, since this mitzvah leads you to believe that G-d created and built the world (See Rashi, Devarim 22:8). Rabbi Eliyahu Kitov asks why the Torah forbids taking the mother bird from upon her young ones in the nest, when in general, it permits taking the life of any bird in order to serve the needs of humanity. Moreover, why did the Torah have mercy only on the mother, and not on the young ones? He explains that the little ones, as well as the eggs, belong to mankind, because G-d made us rulers over all animals. However, by what means do human beings merit to rule over the mother who is hovering over her fledglings? The reason why she is not flying away and escaping from the hand of the hunter is her instinct to protect her little ones. This mother is involved in raising her offspring, which is the most essential way of tikun haOlam. For the sake of protecting her young ones, she is willing to risk being caught by the hunter. It is not befitting to cruelly take advantage of this noble character trait, which G-d imprinted in His creatures. Therefore, we must send the mother bird free. She may then go and build another nest, thereby fulfilling the will of her Creator by continuing to be involved in fixing the world. Although humankind is the ruler of all creation, we cannot subdue the spirit of G-d which He imparted to all of His creatures. The motherly instinct to protect her young ones is considered to be the manifestation of the spirit of G-d which keeps the world going.
Ramban brings a kabbalistic reason for the mitzvah of sending away the mother bird. He quotes Rabbi Rechmai from Sefer HaBahir who notes that the Torah emphasizes the mother more than the father. This is because the mother refers to the attribute of bina, often referred to as “intuition”, as it states, “For the mother is called bina” (Mishlei 2:3). Like the mother who has the power to give birth, the attribute of bina gives birth to the seven lower sefirot (Divine emanations) embodied in the seven days of Creation. These days teach us to have faith in G-d and His Divine providence. While we must release the mother bird, which also alludes to the soul, and let her reunite with her Maker, she bequeaths us with her offspring. The teachings of faith and the good deeds that we acquired in this world are the children of the soul.
 (Rebbetzin Chana Bracha Siegelbaum is Director of Midreshet B’erot Bat Ayin in Gush Etzion. This article is an excerpt from her book Women at the Crossroads: A Woman’s Perspective on the Weekly Torah Portion, reviewed by The Jerusalem Post, The Jewish Press, Voices Magazine, Good Reads, and Wordpress/JewishPress and more. To order this book, click here)

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