Dvar for Shemini (Leviticus 9:1-11:47)
The Torah names several non-kosher birds, which most commentators assert are not kosher due to their aggressive nature or eating habits. However, two of the birds listed have names that seem to indicate virtuous qualities. The “racham,” which means merciful, and the “chassida” which means kind one. Why are these birds, named for mercy and kindness, included in the list of birds prohibited from consumption?
Rabbi Yochanan Zweig points out that mercy and kindness can be misplaced and inappropriate. Compassion can be misplaced when applied to evil people, and kindness can be inappropriate when one constantly highlights their own kindness to others. Virtues are meant to fuel us internally, not be flaunted to others. We are granted the talents, tendencies, virtues, and opportunities to use them; choosing how we use them makes all the difference.