Reaching for Eternity

August 20, 2021                                                                                                              Elul 12, 5781
Candlelighting Time 7:30 PM

Hashem in His great wisdom granted us a simple mitzvah, sending away the mother bird before we take the offspring. Yet the reward for this act is longevity. Rashi cites from the Midrash that if even such an easy mitzvah has such a return how much more so we can anticipate renumeration from accomplishing mitzvos which are much more difficult and complex! Nachmonides explains that the theme of this mitzvah is avoiding destruction of one family of birds. Hashem views that as though we have eliminated an entire species. Therefore, the reward for this mitzvah is longevity because just like we did not destroy an entire family and gave them continuity of life, so too, we will enjoy that same permanence of our lives. Maimonides understands that the point of this mitzvah is to instill in us the trait of kindness. Although birds and other animals are not intelligent as humans, however, they do experience pain and anguish when they witness harm done to their offspring. So too, we are not allowed to slaughter the mother and its offspring because this distresses the mother watching her offspring killed in front of her very eyes. It seems as though the Midrash that Rashi cites and the explanation of the other commentaries are sharply differing about the theme of this mitzvah.

Nachmonides has a lengthy discourse explaining that certainly the goal of all mitzvos is to elevate man. Some mitzvos address our conduct with our fellow man, others fortify our belief and trust in Hashem. Or sometimes observance of mitzvos serves to protect us from harm that would otherwise be of a concern. Whatever the case, this is the point of the mitzvos of the Torah. Therefore, it behooves us to perform all of the mitzvos because each and every one is beneficial to us. Regarding the mitzvah to send away the mother bird, we can infuse within ourselves the most valuable trait of kindness and avoiding troubling others.

However, there is an underlying premise that the Torah guarantees longevity when we perform this mitzvah. Yet the Talmud teaches us that true reward for serving Hashem is only in Olam Haba, the future world that we merit upon leaving this world. How can the Torah discuss the recompense for this mitzvah in this world?

Netziv in a long discussion explains that there are two ways that we can observe the mitzvos. Either we perform them out of love for Hashem or due to our fear of Hashem that we may be punished if we do not observe the Torah therefore we perform the mitzvos. When we perform mitzvos out of love for Hashem, then that elevated individual is granted longevity to continue his observance in this world because his service of Hashem at that level outweighs receiving his reward in the next world. However, if one only does the mitzvos because of the fear of punishment, then it is more valuable to receive his reward in the next world as soon as possible since his observance of mitzvos is somewhat lacking. Rashi in citing the Midrash that sending the mother bird away indicates that other mitzvos which are more difficult certainly will yield a tremendous reward is perhaps referring to one who keeps the mitzvos out of love and therefore he will earn longevity. However, performance of the mitzvah to imbibe the trait of kindness or to avoid offending the mother bird is not indicative of that special level of performing mitzvos and then will indeed be rewarded but perhaps not with longevity in this world but receiving his reward in the next world, one of eternity. 


The Torah details the punishment of Miriam when she slandered her brother Moshe to teach us that even someone of her great stature when she transgressed and spoke ill of her brother she was reprimanded, certainly we, of lesser greatness, must be cautious with every word that we say. CHOFETZ CHAIM