12 July 2010

"THOUGHTS ON SHILUACH HAKAN"


by Roy S. Neuberger
Dear Friends:

I write from the Holy City of Yerushalayim.

When we arrived here, my wife walked into the kitchen. Peering over the edge of the window was a little head. A "yona" (dove)! On the ledge was a nest with two eggs. For the first time in our lives we would be able to perform the mitzvah of shiluach hakan (sending the mother bird away from the nest before taking the eggs)!

You may remember our driver, Yosef "ha Tzaddik," from a previous column. Yosef had just told us how, only a few hours earlier, he had driven a client to Rabbi Chaim Kanievsky in Bnai Brak. Rabbi Kanievsky had been speaking to someone with terrible problems. He asked his visitor, "Have you ever performed the mitzvah of shiluach hakan? No? Then you must try to do it as soon as possible."

Now, a few hours later, a nest with two eggs was outside our window!


A few weeks ago, we read in Parshas Chukas about the mitzvah of the Para Adumah (the Red Heifer). Shiluach hakan is also extremely difficult to understand. Why did Rabbi Chaim Kanievsky feel it vital for the man with problems to perform the mitzvah of shiluach hakan? And why should it, along with "honoring father and mother," be one of two mitzvos whose reward is "that it will be good for you and you will prolong your days." (Dvarim 22:7)
In a sefer called "Shiluach hakan" (Rabbi Naftali Weinberger, Feldheim, 2006), the author quotes Tikkunai Zohar (Ch. 6): "When a person sends a mother bird away from her nest, she is so distraught that she wishes to drown herself in the ocean [and in fact occasionally does so, according to the Gra]. During her flight, she laments the loss of her nest and grieves over her offspring. As a result of her great anguish, the angel designated to represent the birds asks Hashem: 'Does it not state in Tehillim, 'His compassion is on all of His creations?' Why did You command man to send the mother bird away from her nest?'

"Upon hearing the angel's supplication, Hashem gathers the Heavenly Legions and declares, 'This angel is concerned for the welfare of a bird and complains of its suffering. Why then do none of you care to take up the cause of My chosen nation, Israel? Why are you not similarly distressed by the fact that the Shechinah (the Presence of G-d), which has its dwelling in the Holy Temple, has been sent away and exiled from its domicile? And why do you not petition Me on behalf of My exiled children, the Children of Israel, who are neglected and abused by the pagan nations?

"Hashem then directs His compassion towards the Children of Israel and immediately bestows upon them beneficial decrees, particularly in assistance of the downtrodden and poor. He also proceeds to forgive His children for many of their sins and iniquities. Hashem then proclaims: 'Praiseworthy is the person who fulfills the mitzvah of shiluach hakan, for he causes additional mercy to descend upon the world.'"

But why is an act of apparent cruelty (see comments of the Gra on pages 40-42 of "Shiluach Hakan") needed to arouse the mercies of Hashem?

The nations are now formulating their plans to encircle the Children of Israel on all sides. For many years, Israel has been surrounded on three sides by enemies, but now they threaten us from the sea as well. This is a sign for all of us; indeed every one of us is surrounded on all sides by enemies. How will we survive?

Let us consider shiluach hakan. What actually happens? According to the view stated above, the mother bird can be compared to the Shechina, the nest to the Holy Temple and the eggs to the Children of Israel, who are left vulnerable and unprotected when the Shechina flies away.

Our nest used to be in the Holy Temple! We dwelt there, protected and enveloped in invincible security. And then, we fled from the security of the Holy Temple. "Because of our sins, we have been exiled from our land and sent far from our soil." (Yom Tov Mussaf) The Shechina flew away and we were left alone, vulnerable to our enemies, completely unprotected.

Who suffers most when we are in Exile?

When a Jewish boy has a bris milah, does he suffer? Yes, but his comprehension is primitive. Who suffers most? The parents! The new mommy cries tears of anguish! The father trembles! The sensitive guests shed tears of compassion!

Who suffers most when the eggs are taken from the nest?

"When a person sends a mother bird away from her nest, she is so distraught that she wishes to drown herself in the ocean [and in fact occasionally does so, according to the Gra]. During her flight, she laments the loss of her nest and grieves over her offspring."
The mother bird suffers!

Who suffers most when we are in Exile?

The Shechina suffers! Hashem is weeping for His beloved children!

This could be the reason why this incredibly profound mitzvah of shiluach hakan is so powerful in arousing Divine compassion on behalf of Klal Yisroel. The Shechina "remembers" how it once dwelt in the Holy Temple with the beloved children, how they were protected and nurtured, how they grew to become so beautiful in their upward flight on wings of Torah! The Shechina cries bitter tears of anguish, lamenting over the beautiful children!

"A voice was heard on high, wailing, bitter weeping. Rachel weeps for her children, she refuses to be consoled for her children, for they are gone." (Haftaras Rosh Hashana II, Yirmiah 31:14)
And the Al-Mighty responds: "Restrain your voice from weeping, and your eyes from tears, for there is a reward for your accomplishment - the word of Hashem - and they shall return from the enemy's land. There is hope for you ultimately - the words of Hashem - and your children shall return to their border."
Now is the time for weeping.

My friends, does it not seem that the signs are clear, that the "ultimate" days are near, the days of which Hashem says, "I will surely take pity on [them]." (Yirmiah 31:19)?
No matter how often the bird on our window ledge was driven away, she returned to her nest! So will it be with us! The Shechina will return and save the beloved children! We will once again live in security and soar on wings of Torah. But this time we will have learned! We will never again leave our beautiful home! As King David says, "He will deliver you from the snare that entraps, from pestilence that is devastating. With His wings He will cover you and beneath His wings you will be protected!" (Tehillim 91)
May He soon dry all our tears and bring the day that is All Good!

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