Over forty years have passed since I first heard this song. In my opinion the melody was beautiful but the words, well the words speak for themselves.
The little bird is calling,
It wishes to return.
The little bird is wounded,
It cannot fly but yearn.
It’s captured by the vultures,
Oh, to see my nest again,
Oh, to be redeemed.
The little bird of silver,
So delicate and rare,
Still chirps amongst the vultures,
Outshining all that’s there.
How long, how long it suffers,
How long will it be,
When will come the eagle,
And set the little bird free.
The little bird is Yisroel,
The vultures are our foes,
The painful wound is Golus,
Which we all feel and know,
The nest is Yerushalayim,
Where we yearn to be once more,
The eagle is the Moshiach,
Whom we are waiting for.
Although I’d always assumed The Little Bird is Calling was a NCSY or some other youth group song internet research proved me wrong. It states the composer was one Malka Steinberg Saks who wrote the song while at Camp Bais Yaakov in 1947 when she was fifteen-years-old. Sadly, that’s all the information I could glean. I don’t know if Camp Bais Yaakov was in North America, Europe, or some other continent. From the cadence and rhymes of the song I assume it’s not a translation. Therefore, in my mind Malka Steinberg Saks was a sensitive, American teenager who somehow understood the turmoil of world Jewry in 1947.
1947: Two years after the end of World War Two. Two years since living skeletons left the concentration camps. Two years from the time DP camps were opened all over Europe and in Cypress. Two years after survivors began their arduous wait for certificates to allow them to enter the Holy Land. Two years of praying for permission to emigrate anywhere away from the ovens of the Holocaust.
One year later the miracle happened. The British left Palestine. Israel survived a war in which their Arab neighbors tried to annihilate the fledging state. An independent country with the Right of Return for every Jew was established. Many came, not on eagle’s wings, but rather via planes and boats. Many more, though, stayed right where they were content to let others revive the land promised to our forefathers.
I wonder where Malka Steinberg Saks was then. Did she cross the ocean or stay in America? Had she imbued a longing for Jerusalem in her children? If alive today she would be eighty-six years old. Does she realize how many have sung her song?
When I first heard her song, longing for Jerusalem wasn’t part of my lexicon. Still, I ached for an end to Galus, the Exile, and the coming of the Moshiach, the Messiah. As time passed the desire to live in the Holy Land did take hold. The thought of leaving Phoenix, Arizona where I lived as a guest, albeit a welcome one, and raising my family in the Jewish homeland became intoxicating. Amazingly HaShem allowed us to become a part of the Jewish people returning to our Land. We found ourselves in a place full of history, in Shilo, the one-time capital of Israel, home of the Tabernacles, the site where Chana came and prayed for her son Shmuel.
Thirty years passed and it was only recently that I heard A little Bird is Calling once more. As I listened to the poignant words I was struck at how passive the little bird was. Yes, in 1947 it could only yearn for its nest in Jerusalem. Now, though, reality is different. The footsteps of the Moshiach are coming closer and closer. It’s Elul and anything is possible. Little bird come home. Come home. We’ll end the Golus together.
Ester Katz Silvers is a freelance writer living in Shilo, Israel. Her second novel, Growing With My Cousin, was recently published by Mosaica Press and is being distributed by Feldheim. She’s married with children and grandchildren. She enjoys going to Torah classes, volunteering, and hiking all over Israel.
The words of this author reflect his/her own opinions and do not necessarily represent the official position of the Orthodox Union.
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