Torah E-Thought: Bird Brains

ב״ה

 
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Dear Friend,

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Rabbi Eli Pink
Director of Education
Chabad Lubavitch Leeds

.........................

Anti-Semitism seems to be a constant undercurrent in modern times, but perhaps more frustrating than some of the anti-Semitism, is the double standard from the wider community and the media.

In this week’s parshah we read about the laws of kosher animals. When commenting on the list of non-kosher birds the Talmud discusses their different characteristics. Three in particular stand out; the ‘ra’ah’, the ‘ayah’ and the ‘dayah’ (the white vulture, the black vulture and the kite).

The word "ra'ah" connotes seeing. The Talmud says that the ra'ah ‘can stand in Babylon (Iraq) and see a carcass in the Land of Israel’. Because it uses its excellent vision to view things negatively and find deficiencies, the ‘ra’ah’ is not kosher.

‘Ayah,’ which means ‘where.’ This bird is adept in its ability to evade capture, jumping from one hideout to another. The hunter finds himself muttering, ‘ayah’ — ‘where is it?’

While the greatest escapist who ever lived may have been a Jew, escapism is not a Jewish trait. When help is needed in communal projects, supporting minyanim or attending shiurim, and people sometimes wonder aloud ‘ayah’ – ‘where are they?’ judging the absence of their fellow Jews. The Torah does not condone this
behaviour and so the ‘ayah’ too is not kosher.

The ‘dayah’ too is a non-kosher bird. Its croak sounds like the word ‘dayah’ — ‘enough!’ This is the cry of those who unfortunately cannot bear another charity appeal or another communal venture. This too is a non-kosher attitude.

Being a ‘kosher’ Jew therefore requires three core values; looking for the positive in people and seeing things with a ‘good eye,’ being involved in communal Torah endeavors and always giving with a generous heart.

Perhaps the national press and critics should take to mind the lesson from the chazir – the swine; there are two components to a kosher animal; it must have split hooves and chew the cud. Although the swine has split hooves it does not chew the cud. The Talmud teaches that just as the swine when reclining puts forth its hooves as if to say, ‘See that I am kosher,’ so too did the empire of Rome boast of its justice as it committed violence and robbery. So we read of the story of a Roman Governor who sentenced to death thieves, adulterers and sorcerers and then leaned over to a Senator and said: ‘I myself did all these three things in one night.’

 
 
 
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Parshah in a Nutshell

Parshat Re'eh

See,” says Moses to the people of Israel, “I place before you today a blessing and a curse”—the blessing that will come when they fulfill G‑d’s commandments, and the curse if they abandon them. These should be proclaimed on Mount Gerizim and Mount Ebal when the people cross over into the Holy Land.

A Temple should be established in “ the place that G‑d will choose to make dwell His name there,” where the people should bring their sacrifices to Him; it is forbidden to make offerings to G‑d in any other place. It is permitted to slaughter animals elsewhere, not as a sacrifice but to eat their meat; the blood (which in the Temple is poured upon the altar), however, may not be eaten.

A false prophet, or one who entices others to worship idols, should be put to death; an idolatrous city must be destroyed. The identifying signs for kosher animals and fish, and the list of non-kosher birds (first given in Leviticus 11), are repeated.

A tenth of all produce is to be eaten in Jerusalem, or else exchanged for money with which food is purchased and eaten there. In certain years this tithe is given to the poor instead. Firstborn cattle and sheep are to be offered in the Temple, and their meat eaten by the kohanim (priests).

The mitzvah of charity obligates a Jew to aid a needy fellow with a gift or loan. On the Sabbatical year (occurring every seventh year), all loans are to be forgiven. All indentured servants are to be set free after six years of service.

Our Parshah concludes with the laws of the three pilgrimage festivals— Passover, Shavuot and Sukkot—when all should go to “ see and be seen” before G‑d in the Holy Temple.