for Parshat Ki Teitzei
MORE THAN MEETS THE EYE
The Mishna in Brachot states that if a person says in prayer "May G-d have mercy on
us like he shows the mother bird in the mitzva of SHILU'ACH HA'KEN", we should
silence him. He must not say that. The standard explanation of this teaching, is that
mitzvot are to be observed because they are Divine Commands, not for any benefits which
might come along with their fulfillment. This can be said of any mitzva. In this case, the
statement implies that the reason for the mitzva is mercy on the mother bird - maybe there
is a kindness performed, maybe there is not. That is irrelevant to the main reason for
keeping mitzvot - they are the decrees of the King.
On further reflection, another idea emerges. In this same sedra of Ki Teitzei we find
several mitzvot that form the basis of "kindness to animals". Not muzzling an
animal when it is working with food, not harnessing together two incompatible animals,
helping someone load and unload a beast of burden - these mitzvot are all seen as G-d's
way of teaching us and sensitizing us to treat animals kindly.
Would it be objectionable for one to pray that G-d show us
kindness as He has taught us towards the animals via these mitzvot? Perhaps not.
SHILUACH HAKAN is different. It is far too simple to suggest that it is in the same
category as the other mitzvot just mentioned. Yes, some commentaries include this mitzva
among the many inputs into "Kindness to animals". But there are too many facets
of SHILUACH HAKAN that point to something beyond our complete understanding. Kindness to
animals is required for all animals, kosher or non-kosher. So it is with the prohibitions
of muzzling, harnessing, etc. Not so here.
The mitzva applies only to kosher
birds. Only to females. Only ones found on the road, not ones owned by the person. There
is something so complex about this mitzva that it has CHOK-like features and we are warned
by the Mishna not to oversimplify it.
Not being a mitzva with a non-kosher bird, does that mean that we may take the mother bird
with the eggs, or does it mean that we may not even chase away the mother bird and take
the eggs, because without a mitzva requiring such an act, perhaps it is an act of
cruelty. It is not simple. While no mitzva is "simple", while we do not know all
of G-d's reasons for any mitzva, some are easier for us to work out, straightforward
enough for us to "be on safe ground" when we assume (presume?) to understand why
G-d gave us these commandments.
Shaatnez is a prime example of a CHOK, those mitzvot for which reasons are not apparent,
those mitzvot that we do purely because we are commanded. However, some see a symbolic
reminder in the mitzva of Shaatnez to the first, terrible clash between brothers, that
resulted in Kayin killing Hevel. Kayin's offering to G-d was from the produce of the
ground and Hevel's was from his flock. Keeping wool and linen separate in garments reminds
us of this Biblical episode and its lessons.
Some see Shaatnez as having its origins in pagan cults of old, thus being one of many
mitzvot geared towards keeping us far away from idolatry.
Others point out that some of the garments of the Kohen Gadol (and possibly the belt of
every kohen) were Shaatnez. Perhaps this particular combination of wool and linen is
off-limits for us in our everyday lives to highlight a special place the combination
has in the holy service of G-d.
Others point out that Shaatnez completes the set of forbidden combinations - there are
plant-plant prohibitions, animal-animal prohibitions, and Shaatnez represents the
forbidden blending of plant and animal. (Important: only the combinations that G-d
forbid us to have are considered sinful. We do not extend this idea to the many permitted
mixtures of our experience.)
And some commentaries include Shaatnez in the group of mitzvot that are meant to sensitize
us towards treating the animals kindly. Fiber is fiber, and as humans, we can take fibers
for fabric and clothing from any source we so choose, in any way we want. WRONG.
Perhaps the mitzva of Shaatnez is to remind us that the flax plant and the sheep are not
the same. When we shear sheep for wool, our main goal should not be economics. How to do
it fastest, most cost-efficient. We must take the sheep's well-being into account.
Shaatnez is A CHOK; we do not really know why the rules are as they are. But we can learn
many lessons from this unusual mitzva.
ALBUM OF THE WEEK
AW is the prize for the best PPP solutions, the best solution to the Radio Riddle on Torah
Tidbits Audio, Thursdays 10:08-11:00pm, on Arutz-7, 98.7FM, the source of a dvar Torah in
Torah Tidbits and a different one on the radio show; some of the songs from the AW will be
played (are being played, were played - depends upon when you are reading this) on TTA.
This week's Album of the Week: ELI FRIEDMAN - HaSamei'ach b'chelko. 10 original songs,
good arrangements; some fast songs, some slow songs. Nice mix.
The 8th song on the album is from T'hilim 35:11,12,10 (for some reason, they sing the
p'sukim in this order). What David Ha Melech is saying is that although enemies arise and
bear false testimony against him and make demands of which he knows not, and they repay
goodness with evil... he declares with all his being "Who is like G-d Who saves the
weak and poor from those who are stronger and from those who would hurt them". Ps. 35
is one of many by which David asks for HaShem's help against his (our) enemies.
"All my bones will say: HaShem, Who is like You?" This is
considered as one of the sources of the Jewish practice of swaying (SHUKLING) when
davening. Prayer generally involves one's mouth (hopefully, the heart and mind as
well), eyes and ears. Feet get into the act by the process of going to shul. But by
swaying, all of one's bones, KOL ATZMOTAI... become involved in saying "HaShem, Who
is like You!".
Speaking of swaying during davening... There are some other theories - half serious
and half kidding (maybe) about the origin of swaying during davening. Some suggest that
with a scarcity of siddurim in olden times, it is
possible to place a siddur on a table and have several people take turns at looking into
it, if the swaying back and forth is coordinated. Or, it has been said that swaying
originated in cold climates with poorly (or not at all) heated shuls, as a way of keeping
one's blood circulating during davening.
The fact is that most people seem to con centrate better when they sway. (Of course, some
swaying interferes with the concen tration of others davening nearby.)
Interesting, is it not, what thoughts
flow from a song. That's one of the purposes of this Album of the Week column - it let's
me write some things that wouldn't necessarily fit into the sedra summary. If you have
some thoughts about "shukling" - a reason you heard or read about, a pet theory,
etc. - please let us know.
Noam Productions albums, and many, many other CDs and cassettes spanning the range of
Jewish music are available at Noam Productions Music Stores:
6 Malchei Yisrael,
Geula, Jerusalem and 59 Rabbi Akiva Street, Bnei Brak and, soon to open, Noam
Productions Music and Jewish/General Computer Software Store at the Rav Shefa Mall in
Jerusalem (near T'nuva, where the old zoo was)
Righting a Wrong
In the Mitzva Watch on page 9 of last week's Torah Tidbits, the topic of EIDIM ZOM'MIM
(plotting witnesses) was presented. The case under consideration was the testimony of A
and B that Lavan had killed Eisav. During the trial, C and D testified and placed A and B
some place other than where they would have to have been in order to have witnessed the
murder in question. It is A and B who would be subject to the death penalty as EIDIM
ZOM'MIM, and not C and D, as was written last week (and last year). Several TT readers
pointed this error out. I am glad to be able to report that C and D were not, in fact,
executed, and forgiven me for the mistake.
And perhaps there is an Elul-time message here. If the wrong to two letters of the
alphabet is being righted, how much more so must we make ammends for slighting our fellow
Torah Tidbits Dedications
Torah Tidbits Dedications on the
occasion of a Yahrzeit or in honor of a birth, Bar or Bat Mitzva, engagement, wedding,
anniversary, birthday, graduation, someone's starting the army or Sherut Leumi can
be inserted in TT. Call us.
[The Ki Teitzei Homepage][The TORAH tidbits Homepage]
[How to use TORAH tidbits]
[About The OU/NCSY Israel Center][About TORAH tidbits]