Thursday, September 8, 2011

Thursday's Parsha Tidbits - Parshas Ki Seitzei

The following is a brief summary of a thought said over by R' Frand on the parsha this evening. I have attempted to reproduce this vort to the best of my ability. Any perceived inconsistency is the result of my efforts to transcribe the shiur and should not be attributed to R' Frand.

In Devarim 26:6-7, the parsha discusses the mitzva of shiluach haken - the commandment to send away the mother bird before taking the eggs or hatchlings from the nest. The Torah states that one who keeps this mitzva is rewarded with a lengthened life.

R' Frand noted that there is one other mitzva which we know the reward is a lengthened life - the mitzva to honor one's parents. R' Frand quoted a Yerushalmi in Pe'ah which states that Hashem presented the reward for both mitzvos so that both can be properly kept. The Yerushalmi further states that the two mitzvos are both the easiest and the hardest mitzvos in the Torah. While shiluach haken can be viewed as easy since there is no cost and it is done without effort, the mitzva of kibbud av v'aim can be difficult.

Why are these two linked together? R' Frand answered by quoting the mishna in pirkei avos which says that a person should be careful with easy and hard mitzvos because we don't know the reward for mitzvos. Since these easy and hard mitzvos have the same reward, we should not be quick to dismiss certain mitzvos because we mistakenly believe that the reward for doing them is minuscule.

R' Frand also offered a second answer to the question - based on a Vilna Gaon. The Gaon explains that our natural inclination is to believe that both mitzvos are built on compassion - if the Torah tells us how to act with little birds, it should also carry over to our actions towards people. Similarly, the showing of respect to parents when they age also appears to be based on compassion. This school of thought follows the Rambam and the Ramban who view the mitzvos as based on rachmanus.

However, there is another way of looking at the mitzva. The Gaon quotes the Zohar who explains that the mitzva shows the quality of aczarious - loosely translated as cruelty or lack of compassion. Although the mother bird is sent away, it eventually returns and sees that its nest is essentially gone. It has no hatchlings in the nest or eggs and it cries. The Zohar explains that the tears provoke Hashem's mercy and we too hope that he will have mercy on us and rebuild our nest from which we have been exiled (the Beis Hamikdash).

Under this approach to shiluach haken, the two mitzvos are from opposite ends of the spectrum - one is compassion and one is cruelty. The Gaon explains that this is why the rewards are specified - because we must know that whether the mitzva is easy or difficult or involves compassion or cruelty with a purpose - the reward is the same.

This concept equally applies to mitzvos of other kinds. A person may be predisposed to act a certain way, however to keep a mitzva, the person might have to act against their nature. A person may be shy and introverted, but the mitzva of hachnasas orchim - welcoming in guests, requires him to go against his nature.

The Gaon explains that a person who goes far to show respect for his parents may be doing so because he is a nice guy or a rachaman. Therefore, he must go against his nature by acting cruelly and send away the mother bird, only to return to the empty nest.

R' Frand tied this together by referencing the Torah reading for Rosh Hashanah when we read that Hashem said after Avraham showed that he was willing to sacrifice Isaac - now I know that you are G-d fearing. Why is this the moment? Because at this tenth test, Avraham was required to go against his nature of being a rachman and sacrifice his son. By doing this, he was able to demonstrate that he acted because Hashem commanded him to, not just because he was a nice guy.

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