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Respecting Our Nest

R Pesach Siegel

Parshat Ki Seitzeh

Aug 16, 2013

Parshas Ki Seitzei

 Respecting Our Nest

Ordinarily the Torah omits all mention of reward in regard to the performance of mitzvos. 


An exception is made in the case of two mitzvos; kibud av va'em and shilu'ach haken. 


The Torah says by the mitzvah of kibud av va'em, “Kabed es avicha vu'es imecha ka'asher tzivcha Hashem Elokecha lima'an ya'arichun yamecha[1]. Honor your father and your mother as G-d commanded you in order for your days to be lengthened. 


By the mitzvah of shilu'ach haken the Torah says, “Shalayach tishalach es ha'em vi'es habanim tikach lach lima'an yitav lach viha'arachta yamim.”[2] Send out send out the mother and the offspring take for yourself in order for it to be good for you and you will have length of days. 


The gemara says that length of days refers to olam haba and not mere physical longevity.[3] 




What do these two mitzvos have in common that bind them together? 


Why is the reward for them spelled out openly in the Torah? 


Why is arichus yamim the appropriate reward? 




Let us explore the mitzvah of shilu'ach haken. Why is it that demonstrating sensitivity to the instinctive "feelings" of the mother bird is given the same status as honoring those who gave birth to and nurtured us?


The mitzvah of shilu’ach haken is complex. A glimmer of understanding can be provided to us by the words of the Rambam.[4] He explains that relationships among members of the animal kingdom exist, although on a non-intellectual level. If we must take care in sparing the non-intellectual feelings of the mother bird how much more careful must we be of sensitivities among humans. From his words it is clear that the revealed purpose of this mitzvah is to uproot the trait of cruelty from ourselves. It is meant for our own sake. There are a number of similar sources in support of this [5]


A bond exists between a mother bird and her nestlings. The mitzvah of shilu’ach haken is the mitzvah of being cognizant of the bond that exists between the mother, who is the source, and her offspring.


The Hebrew word "ach’zar" means “a cruel one”. The word "zar" means a stranger. Cruelty emerges from a lack of connection. 


The mitzvah of kibbud av va'em has a similar purpose. Parents are the ones who brought their children into the world. They provide for their every need. There is no limit to the honor that is due them.


Once this concept is firmly entrenched, it naturally leads one to reflect on the gratitude owed to the Creator. The Creator is the one who "gave birth" to one as well as all of his ancestors. It is astounding to envision all the individuals who had to be born in order to produce a single child.[6] 


Essentially, the mitzvah of kibbud av va'em is respecting the bond one has with his source.


This is perhaps the understanding behind the view of the Rambam that even a mamzer must respect his parents.[7]  Even though the laws of love and kindness do not apply to a rasha, the mitzvah of kibbud av is distinct. It is a manifestation of respect of one's bond with his own source. Although the parents of a mamzer are wicked, they remain the source of their child.  By respecting them, one is not respecting their wickedness. One is showing respect towards the “concept of source”.




The relationship between the two mitzvos now emerges. If the natural bond between mother and her offspring is ignored, it will result in one being a victim of cruelty to himself. One will become a "stranger" to his own roots.


This perhaps why the mishnah in Meseches Chullin calls the mitzvah "shilu’ach haken", and not "shilu’ach hatzipor".[8] The word "ken" is commonly defined as a nest, but more accurately, it means a source. In the shmoneh esreh prayer we ascribe to Hashem the title "koneh hakol". He is the source of everything. The word "ken" is also the root of the word kinyan. The word kinyan means to acquire. This denotes a bond between an object and its owner.


Thus, the word ken represents a bond with one’s source.


Taking this concept one step further, the medrash tells us that the result of performing the mitzvah of shilu’ach haken is being blessed with children. The Medrash paraphrases the posuk, "shalayach tishalach es ha'em" - send away the mother, "v'es habanim tikach lach" - and children will you take to yourself.[9]


One who shows an awareness of the care that must be taken when dealing with a source and her offspring, is qualified to be an actual source.


The arichus yamim promised in the Torah is more than a reward. It is the ultimate goal, and thus it is explicitly spelled out in the Torah.


The reward referred to as "length of days" will take place at the end of time as we know it when we will reconnect with our source and bask in the presence of Hashem. 




[1] Parshas Va’Eschanan, perek 5, posuk 16

[2] Parshas Ki Seitze, perek 22, posuk 7

[3] Meseches Kiddushin, daf 39b

[4] Moreh Nevuchim, chelek 3, perek 48

[5] Breishis Rabbah, perek 44, piska 1

[6] See Sefer HaChinuch, mitzvah 33

[7] Hilchos Mamrim, perek 6, halacha 11

[8] Meseches Chullin, perek 12

[9] Yalkut Shimoni

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