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Dvar for Ki Tetzei (Deuteronomy 21:10-25:19)

Parshat Ki Tetzei contains the commandment of Shiluach Hakan (22:6,7), sending away the mother bird before taking her children/eggs. According to the Rambam (Maimonides) the idea is that making the mother watch as you take her children is cruel, even for animals, and one should be sensitive. The Ramban (Nachmonides) sees it differently, arguing that while the Torah gave humans the right to consume animals, taking two generations at once is an over-consumption of that species, and wrong. However, as Rabbi David Fohrman asks, why is this Mitzvah phrased in reference to birds? The reasons above would seem to apply to any animal. Further, the words in the Passuk (verse) don’t seem to fit with either explanation: “Don’t take the mother with her children there” (22:6) sounds like we shouldn’t take the mother, but according to the Rambam we’d be taking the children, and according to the Ramban we’d be taking both. How do we resolve these issues?

Rabbi Fohrman explains that the answers lies in the reward for this commandment: Long life. Aside from this commandment, there is only one other commandment with the same reward – honoring one’s parents. The connection is the honoring of motherhood. He goes on to explain that it’s very difficult to capture a bird, unless it’s a mother bird protecting its young. The Torah tells us not to take advantage of a mother’s love and sacrifice for her offspring for your own benefit. This lesson is true for all of us – our parents will always love us, but we should not desecrate that love by taking advantage of it. Parental love is meant to help us grow, not to be used as a trap against them. If we honor our parents, appreciating everything that we have because of them, may our reward be a long and healthy life.

Shlomo Ressler