שילוח הקן by Rabbi Avi Rosenfeld

(2000/5760)

One of the many Mitzvot found within Parshat Ki Tetzei is the Mitzva of שילוח הקן, sending the mother bird away from her nest before taking her eggs or babies.  When describing this Mitzva, the Torah uncharacteristically states: למען ייטב לך והארכת ימים, anyone who fulfills this seemingly easy Mitzva will be blessed with long life.  The Gemara (Kiddushin 39b) points out that long life should not be translated as long life in this world, for many people have kept this Mitzva and unfortunately not attained long life.  Rather, anyone who keeps this Mitzva will be granted אריכות ימים, eternal life, in the World to Come.

The fact that the Torah mentions the reward for this Mitzva is quite striking.  Of all the Mitzvot contained within this Perek, why would the Torah single out this one to describe its reward of long life?  Rav David Tzvi Hoffman points out that the Mitzva of כיבוד אב ואם, honoring one’s parents, is also listed as having the same reward.  It seems that the Torah draws a comparison between these two Mitzvot.  There is a link between the compassion one must exhibit to his own parents and the honor one must show a mother bird before taking her children or her eggs.  If one understands that he must honor an animal, such as the mother bird, he will understand the importance of respecting his parents, who nurture and sustain him on a daily basis.

Rav Shamshon Raphael Hirsch, in his work Chorev, further explains this connection.  The Torah allows, and even encourages, man to enjoy this world.  We are commanded to say Berachot on the various items we enjoy.  A person is allowed to take and enjoy a bird’s eggs but is first commanded to show respect for the mother.  Just as a Beracha is said immediately before enjoying any item, one is commanded to fulfill the Mitzva of שילוח הקן before enjoying the eggs.  Based on this idea, it seems that the Mitzvot of שילוח הקן  andכיבוד אב ואם are not just about respecting parents but respecting Hashem as well.  We should understand that Hashem has commanded us in this fashion, and we should perform this act for Him.

When discussing the Mitzva ofקן צפור , the Gemara in Berachot (33) says that it is forbidden to pray that Hashem, Who is compassionate even to theקן צפור , should have compassion towards people.  The Gemara explains that Hashem commands us to do the Mitzvot independent of what appear to be humanistic and rational reasons.  It seems the Gemara does not reject that certain Mitzvot are logically correct.  Indeed, there is a group of Mitzvot referred to by Rav Saadia Gaon as שכליות, Mitzvot based on human intuition.  However, it is important to understand that we fulfill these Mitzvot because they are Mitzvot and are thus commanded by Hashem.  While the Mitzvot of כיבוד אב ואם and שילוח הקן are logical, we must understand that we perform these Mitzvot for Hashem.  It is for this reason that we are told the reward for these Mitzvot.  The Torah is stressing that it is Hashem who rewards us for doing these logical Mitzvot.  As Rashi points out, if the Torah rewards us for performing the seemingly easy (and logical) Mitzva of שילוח הקן, certainly we will be rewarded for doing Mitzvot that are harder.

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