To Dedicate Please Contact: Hadrash Ve-Haiyun
If a bird’s nest happens to be before you on the road, on any tree or in the ground, young birds or eggs and the mother is roosting on the young birds or on the eggs, you shall not take the mother on the young. You shall surely send away the mother and take the young for yourself so that it will be good for you and you will prolong your days (Devarim 22, 6-7).
The Midrash Rabbah begins this week’s parsha with the law of sending away the mother bird and then immediately begins a discussion about a child who was born without a foreskin. The Midrash cites a teaching of Chazal requiring one to extract blood from the place of the foreskin.
What is the relationship between the law of sending away a mother bird and a child who was born without a foreskin? We may simply answer by noting how the Midrash uses this law as a springboard to discuss various other laws of circumcision. The Midrash goes on to explain that the reason a child is circumcised on the eighth day emanates out of compassion. The Torah wanted to give the child time to grow, develop and gain strength before the circumcision. The Midrash then explains that just as Hashem has pity on child, He also had pity on animals by not permitting the slaughter of the mother and child on the same day. Furthermore, Hashem has pity on birds, as we learn from our parsha, where one is required to send away the mother bird before he take takes her children. Seemingly, all the laws of circumcision are an introduction to this last statement, which is directly related to the parsha.
Let us suggest another connection between the two laws.
The Torah concludes the law of sending away the mother bird with the words “so that it be ‘good’ for you and you will prolong your days.” It is noteworthy that the same word ‘good’ appears in relation to circumcision. The Torah records Moshe’s birth with the words “She saw that he was good” (Shemos 2:2). Chazal explain the word “good” in this context to mean circumcision. The posuk is interpreted as meaning that Moshe was born circumcised. Indeed, some explain that for this reason many have the custom of reciting the posuk “Give thanks to Hashem for he is ‘good’ ” (Psalms 118:29) before performing a circumcision.
The commentators explain that the reason the Torah requires us to send away the mother bird before taking her children is not primarily out of compassion for the mother. Rather, it is to instill within us the trait of compassion. We are instructed to use this opportunity as a training exercise and learn first hand what it means to have compassion so that we will practice this trait in other more important life experiences. The posuk may homiletically be interpreted as instructing us to send away the mother bird so that it be good “for you.” The emphasis is on the words “for you.” Compassion is certainly “good” but we should use the experience of sending out the mother bird to ingrain the trait of compassion within us.
Normally, when a child is born a circumcision is preformed. There are two partners, the child and the father. The child is circumcised and the father performs the circumcision or is responsible to appoint an agent on his behalf. Both the father and the child have a share in the “good.” Certainly, the experience of the father is very meaningful. He performs a dangerous and painful operation in order to bring his child into the covenant of our forefather Avraham. This experience no doubt has a profound affect upon the father. However, when a child is born circumcised as was Moshe, the Torah says “he was good.” The only one who benefits from the ‘good,’ i.e., the experience of the circumcision, is the child and not the father. Chazal, however, teach us that here too the father must extract blood. Through this act the father acquires a portion of the ‘good’ for himself.
We may now understand why the Midrash relates this law unique law of circumcision in connection to the law of sending away the mother bird. The Torah is teaching us to do something so that it will be good “for you.” To this the Midrash relates the law of the “good child” who was born circumcised and yet the father is required to do something so that it will be good for him as well.
© Efraim Levine 5760/2000 - 5765/2005