THOUGHTS ON THE DAILY DAF
brought to you by Kollel Iyun Hadaf of Har Nof
Rosh Kollel: Rav Mordecai Kornfeld
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1) SHAKING THE NEST TO MOVE THE MOTHER BIRD
QUESTION: The Gemara relates that Rav Yehudah bought the products of the
dovecote of Levi bar Simon. Shmuel told Rav Yehudah that in order to
acquire the eggs, he must shake the nest. The Gemara explains that he had
to shake the nest and could not acquire the eggs through a Kinyan
Chalifin, because Levi himself had not yet acquired them; the mother bird
had been sitting on the eggs from the moment she laid them until Levi sold
them, and thus he never acquired them for himself (as Rav Yehudah in the
name of Rav rules (141b), one may not acquire the eggs while the mother is
sitting on them). Shmuel told him to shake the nest, so that the mother
would jump up and Levi would be able to acquire the eggs for himself so
that he could transfer ownership to Rav Yehudah (through a normal Kinyan
2) AGADAH: THE REWARD OF LONG LIFE
Shmuel's instruction is not clear. How is it permitted to merely shake the
nest in order to take the eggs? It is not permitted to take the eggs until
the mother bird is sent away (beyond one's reach), in fulfillment of the
Mitzvah of Shilu'ach ha'Ken!
(a) The CHASAM SOFER writes that since Rav Yehudah did not intent to take
the eggs at the moment that he shook the nest, but rather to make it
possible for *Levi* to take the eggs, he had no obligation to send away
the mother bird. The Chasam Sofer is consistent with his view that there
is no obligation to send away the mother bird when one does not want to
take the eggs (see Insights to Chulin 139:3. Only the person who wants to
take the eggs himself must send away the mother if she is sitting on the
eggs. (The CHAZON ISH (175:2) also cites this Gemara as support for the
opinion that there is no obligation to send away a mother bird when one
does not want the eggs.)
However, others argue with the Chasam Sofer and maintain that there is a
Mitzvah to send away the mother bird even when one does not want the eggs.
How do they understand the Gemara?
(b) The RIMON PERETZ explains that it is possible to exempt oneself from
the obligation to send away the mother bird. By causing the mother bird to
raise herself form the eggs so that she is hovering over the nest (as the
Gemara teaches on 139b, one is not obligated to send away a mother bird
that is hovering over the nest, one removes the obligation of Shilu'ach
ha'Ken. This is similar to one who takes a four-cornered garment (on which
one is obligated to place Tzitzis) and rounds out one of the corners,
exempting the garment from the obligation of Tzitzis.
Why, though, would a G-d-fearing person like Rav Yehudah want to absolve
himself from performing a Mitzvah, and why would Shmuel advise him to do
such a thing?
The Rimon Peretz explains that Rav Yehudah saw that Levi bar Shimon wanted
to acquire the bird and the eggs for himself. Thus, if Rav Yehudah would
have sent away the mother bird, he would have transgressed the principles
of "Darchei Shalom" (141b). For this reason, Rav Yehudah turned the
situation into one in which there was no Mitzvah for him to send away the
mother bird, allowing Levi bar Simon to acquire the eggs. (Mordechai Zvi
Rebbi Yakov teaches that when the Torah promises "long life" to the one
who fulfills the Mitzvah of Shilu'ach ha'Ken, it is referring to eternal
life in Olam ha'Ba, and not necessarily to life in this world. The Gemara
says further that the reward for Mitzvos is given in the World to Come and
not in this world.
In order to prove this, the Gemara relates that it happened once that a
man told his son to send away a mother bird and bring him the chicks.
While the son was descending from the tree after sending away the mother
bird and fulfilling both the Mitzvah of Shilu'ach ha'Ken and the Mitzvah
of Kibud Av (the two Mitzvos for which the Torah explicitly writes that
one is rewarded with long life), he fell to his death. The combined merit
of both Mitzvos did not lengthen his life in this world. It must be that
the reward of long life is long life in Olam ha'Ba.
3) HADRAN: MERCIFULNESS AND THE MERIT OF ETERNAL LIFE
There may be a deeper intent in relating that the son fulfilled these two
Mitzvos, the Mitzvah of Shilu'ach ha'Ken and the Mitzvah of Kibud Av. The
VILNA GA'ON (as cited in Insights to Chulin 138:5) explains that these two
Mitzvos address opposite character traits that are found in different
types of people. There are people who are instinctively inclined to
perform kindness, for whom honoring parents is a natural instinct. Those
people would find it difficult to perform an act that seems so cruel, like
Shilu'ach ha'Ken. Conversely, there are people who do not naturally
possess the characteristic of kindness. For them, the Mitzvah of Kibud Av
va'Em may be difficult to perform, while they may perform Shilu'ach ha'Ken
without hesitation. Since the Mitzvos were given equally to all men,
regardless of their individual dispositions, the Torah promises the same
reward for the Mitzvos of Kibud Av va'Em and Shilu'ach ha'Ken. The Torah
is teaching us that our performance of the Mitzvos should not be based on
our personal feelings toward the Mitzvah, but rather on the fact that
Hashem commanded us to do it. We are rewarded for obeying Hashem, and not
for acting in accordance with our logic and personal inclinations.
Accordingly, we can understand why the Mitzvah of Kibud Av va'Em and
Shilu'ach ha'Ken have the same reward. They share a common purpose: to
demonstrate an absolute adherence to carrying out the will of Hashem.
One who is merciful might not be a Tzadik; he acts mercifully only because
that is his nature. Only when one overcomes his natural tendencies in
order to serve Hashem can he be considered a Tzadik. When a person
performs with equal devotion both the Mitzvos that demonstrate cruelty,
such as sending away the mother bird, and the Mitzvos that demonstrate
compassion, such as honoring his parents, it is evident that he is a
Tzadik, and he is the one whom the Torah blesses with long life in the
World to Come.
The Gemara at the end of Chulin cites the Beraisa of Rebbi Yakov who
teaches that when the Torah promises "long life" to the one who fulfills
the Mitzvah of Shilu'ach ha'Ken, it is referring to eternal life in Olam
ha'Ba, and not necessarily to life in this world.
On to Bechoros
According to Rebbi Yakov, the Torah's directive for how we are to treat
the mother bird is clearly not merely for the animal's well-being, but it
is for *our* well-being and ultimate reward. Hashem put animals into this
world not merely for us to care for, but in order to enable us to refine
and perfect ourselves in this world (as the RAMBAN writes in Devarim 22:6,
citing the Midrash in Bereishis Rabah 44:1; see Insights to Chulin 138:4).
The animals, in that sense, were put into the world to care for *us*.
The Mitzvah of Shilu'ach ha'Ken, and the Mitzvah of Shechitah as well (in
addition to the Mitzvah to lift the heavy burden off of an animal that has
fallen down, the prohibition against muzzling an animal to prevent it from
eating while working, letting one's animal rest from work on Shabbos, the
prohibition against working two different types of animals together, the
requirement to feed one's animals first before one eats for himself, and
Tza'ar Ba'alei Chayim), were given not out of mercy for the animals, but
in order to teach us to act mercifully. When a person inculcates the trait
of mercy into his character through the fulfillment of the Mitzvah of
Shilu'ach ha'Ken, he emulates the ways of Hashem and is guaranteed eternal
life in the World to Come.
Accordingly, we can understand the words at the beginning of Chulin (2a)
in a similar manner. The Mishnah begins, "ha'Kol Shochtim," which the
Gemara (2a) interprets to mean, "All are permitted to slaughter
*l'Chatchilah*." We can understand the Gemara to be saying that we may
slaughter animals l'Chatchilah, and we do not need to refrain from eating
meat out of mercy for the animal. Animals were put into the world to serve
us, and that is how they fulfill their purpose in the world (Ramban ibid.,
Bava Metzia 85a).
In addition, as we proceed to Maseches Bechoros, we find that Bechoros
begins with the laws of Pidyon Peter Chamor, redeeming a firstborn donkey,
and not with the laws of Bechor Behemah Tehorah, the firstborn calf of a
Kosher animal. The Gemara in Bechoros (13a) explains that the reason why
the Tana begins with the laws of Pidyon Peter Chamor is because he
cherishes Rebbi Chanina's teaching (5b): "Why does the Torah obligate us
to redeem only the firstborn of donkeys, and not the firstborn of all
other non-Kosher animals?... It is because donkeys assisted the Jews when
they left Mitzrayim" (Bechoros 5b).
When an animal assists a Jew to perform Mitzvos and to serve Hashem, it is
fulfilling its purpose in being created. To demonstrate this point, the
Torah elevated a donkey's status, granting it the holiness of Bechorah
which non-Kosher animals normally do not have, and making it an integral
part of a Mitzvah of the Torah as reward for assisting the Jews in serving
Hashem. (See also RASHI to Shemos 22:30.) (M. Kornfeld)
May Hashem help us use all that He has given us in this world to serve Him
properly and to glorify His holy Name in this world!