Monthly Archives: August 2015

Parshat כי תצא – Devarim 22:7 – Is there a purpose to the command to send away the mother bird?

Deuteronomy 22:7  You shall send away the mother, and [then] you may take the young for yourself, in order that it should be good for you, and you should lengthen your days.

Gemora Hulin: 142(a): From the words “In order that it shall be good for you” we learn that just as an easy negative commandment [such as sending away the mother bird] the Torah states that the reward is long life, this is surely the case for more difficult commandments.

Torah Temimah – Colloquial translation of Note #68

The [Torah] refers to the command to cause minimal damage to the mother bird as a negative command. Regarding the explanation of the [famous] agada relating to this verse, see the commentary on Parshat VeEtchanan on the verse: Honor your father and mother in order that you shall have long life.

It is appropriate now to comment on the observation made by Chavas Yair on the Shulchan Aruch Section 67 regarding this mitzvah. The Chavas Yair questions whether the command to send away the mother bird [when taking the mother bird’s young for food] applies only when one wants to take the young for food or whether it is a commandment to shoo away the mother birds and take the young [whether you are desiring the young for food or not. Since the command is to chase away the mother bird, we can thereby fulfill a commandment of the Torah by doing so whether we are actually looking for food or not.]

All of the Chavas Yair’s comments on this issue are not necessary. I am personally amazed, in general, how one could possibly think to say that the Torah commands a person to involve himself in this mitzvah against his will [if he doesn’t want to collect the young birds for food.] Isn’t it indeed clear and beyond any doubt that the whole purpose of this mitzvah is to [train ourselves] not to be hard-hearted and to take the young while the mother bird is still crouching [nearby to protect them.] So, even though ultimately the purpose of all creation is for the sake of Man as is shown by the permission to slaughter animals for food, nevertheless the Torah commands us to only take the young in this manner so that the other bird won’t see her young being taken.

This being the case that the Torah is only providing us a permitted method, but certainly someone who does not desire the young for food, it is certainly appropriate for him to skip this entire mitzvah completely. Actually, the opposite is true. By skipping the mitzvah completely a person causes happiness to the mother and to the young by leaving them alone. There is absolutely no logic to say that there is a commandment to cause a separation between things that naturally belong together. This is similar to the commandment to not slaughter an animal and it’s young on the same day. There is clearly no command to actual slaughter one of them. So too with our situation here [with the mother bird.]

In addition to all that we have just stated based on reason and logic, on can also find legal precedent mentioned explicitly in the Chidushe ha’Ran comments on Gemora Hulin 140(a). There the Ran discusses the issue of a bird that has killed a person. In that case, a person is exempt from the command of chasing it away when taking its young, since one is obligated to capture the bird to bring it to the Court to fulfill the commandment of “you shall remove the evil from your midst”. The Ran asked the [legalistic] question of why the positive command plus the negative command relating to the sending away of the mother bird does not “overpower” or take precedence over the single positive command of “you shall remove the evil from your midst”. The Ran answers this question by stating that the commandment of “removing the evil from your midst” is an obligatory commandment while the commandment of the sending away the mother bird is not an obligatory commandment since if he doesn’t want the young for food there is no command to chase away the mother bird.

So behold, the Ran’s words explicitly support my explanation above. It is a wonder that the Chavas Yair and other commentators who so deeply question this point and none have even brought the proof from the Ran [mentioned above.]

Regarding the other point that we wrote above concerning the main reason for the command of sending away the mother bird is to teach us to not be hard-hearted towards the mother bird, [please] don’t reply to me and quote the Mishna Brachos 33(a): If one says “may Thy mercies extend to a bird’s nest…he is silenced. The gemora goes on to say that he is silenced because he presents the measures taken by the Holy One, blessed be He, as springing from compassion, whereas they are but decrees. Indeed this would imply apparently that the reason for this command is not to teach mercy.

Really this is no contradiction at all to what I said earlier. The reason why we are obligated to heed G-d’s commandments is truly because they are decrees from G-d. We do not obey G-d’s commandments only because of the purpose that is hidden within them. If that were the only reason for doing G-d’s commands, it would be possible to stray off the true path in each man following his own point of view according to his knowledge and his spirit. This is as is noted in Gemora Sanhedrin 21(b) where it discusses the question of why the reasons for the commandments were not revealed. The answer given there is that indeed for two commandments reasons were explicitly given and this led righteous people to stumble and err regarding these commandments.


Translator Note: This lengthy somewhat legalistic note stresses the Torah Temimah’s view that the Torah and its commandments are whole and good. For him it is unthinkable that one should go out of his way to chase away the mother bird and take the young even if one had no need for the food. Some have suggested that one should indeed do this because one is then fulfilling a command written in the Torah! To the Torah Temimah, this approach does not make any sense at all and ignores the whole reason for the commandment.

Parshat ראה – Devarim 12:29 – Is there a current religious obligation to live in the land of Israel?

Deuteronomy 12:29 When the Lord, your God cuts off the nations to which you will come to drive them out from before you, and when you drive them out and dwell in their land

Sifri: From here they say that the [fulfilling] the commandment of living in the land of Israel is equal to fulfilling all the commandments in the Torah.

Torah Temimah – Colloquial translation of Note #114

It is not explained explicitly the reason for equating fulfilling the commandment of living in the land of Israel is equivalent to fulfilling all the commandments of the Torah. The most likely answer is that it is only possible to fulfill all the commandments in all the their details in the Land of Israel. The reason for this is that many of the commandments actual depend on the land as is well known. [Examples are leket, shichah, peah, yovel, shmittah, etc.] Even commandments that are obligatory on the individual no matter where he lives [like: tefillin, keeping kosher, keeping Shabbos] are still primarily geared towards fulfilling them in the Land of Israel. This is explained in many places in the Torah with phrases like “when you come into the land” [you will give charity…] and other similar phrases. We keep these commandments even when we are in exile only for the purpose of not forgetting them at the time that we return from exile.

This is explained clearly in the Sifri on Parshat Eikev Chapter 10, Verse 18. There it says “G-d said to the Jewish people, even though I am exiling from your land, nevertheless you are still obligated to fulfill the commandments, in order that when you return to the Land of Israel, they will not seem like something new to you.”

So, according to all that is noted above, this is the reason why living in the Land of Israel is equal to all the commandments. The reason is that the Land of Israel is the foundation and the basis for the fulfillment of all the commandments. This is alluded to by the proximity of the previous verse “You should guard and heed all of these things which I command you…” with the following verse commanding to live in the Land of Israel.

All of this is an explanation of the words of the Ramban in the Book of the Commndments. There he adds a commandment which the Rambam left out [in his list of commandments.] In Positive Commandment Number 4, the Ramban mentions this explanation of the Sifri [as noted in the beginning of this note.]

Indeed it is the view of some Rishonim [such as the Ramban] that the commandment of living in the Land of Israel is applicable and in force even today. However this is not the opinion of the Rambam. He omitted this commandment from his count of commandments and so did other Rishonim. Their opinion is that there is no commandment to live in the Land of Israel until the final redemption comes. However, after the [Roman] exile there is not current commandment to live in the Land of Israel until the final redemption.

Through this explanation that we have written that the reason why living in the Land of Israel is weighed equally to all the other commandments is due to the Land being the foundation and enabler of all the commandments in the Torah, it would appear that the core reading of this commandment is according to the Rambam and his supporters. The reason for this is because in our day, even in the Land of Israel, it is impossible to fulfill all the commandments. This is because many of those unfulfilled commandments depend on the building of the [third] holy temple. [This being the case, the principal value of living in the Land of Israel as the enabler of fulfilling all the commendments of the Torah is not currently active.] Check out the Gemora Sota 14(a) and the explanation of Rabbi Simlai there and you will find support for our opinion.  

Translator Note: The translator is very aware that there is a wide, wide difference of opinion amongst religious Jews on this topic. I have chosen to translate this note to inform readers of some of the differences of opinion and to publicize the Torah Temimah’s opinion. To the translator (me) this has nothing to do with a debate over Zionism. Rather, the Torah Temimah is discussing whether there is a technical commandment to live in the Land of Israel in our times.

Parshat ראה – Devarim 11:28 – Why is the curse more complex than the blessing?

Deuteronomy 11:27 – 28.The blessing, that you will listen to the commandments of the Lord your G-d, which I command you today;  and the curse, if you will not listen to commandments of the Lord your G-d, and you will turn away from what I command you this day, to follow other gods, which you did not know.

Sifri: From here they say that anyone who accepts idol worship is as though he denies the whole Torah; also, anyone who accepts the Torah is as though he denies idol worship

Torah Temimah – Colloquial translation of Note #66 (second paragraph)

In general we need to examine the issue of why the blessing seems to be short and abbreviated – just saying that you will listen. The curse, on the other hand, explains in more detail saying, “You will not listen and you will turn away….”

Perhaps the explanation is according to what it says in the Gemora Kedoshim 40(a) and in other places. There it says that a good thought is considered by G-d as though you have also done a good deed; however, G-d does not do the same with a bad thought.

Therefore, with the blessing it is sufficient to say merely “you will hear”. [That is the blessing, in and of itself!] In other words, you will hear and accept these words. If you do this, you will immediately merit the reward.

On the other hand, for a curse, you will not merit a curse just by not listening. Rather, you must also do an actual bad deed, “turn away from what I command you this day”.  Therefore, as long as you don’t actually do a bad deed, your bad thoughts do not bring you to a punishment.

Translator Note: I think that this is an important point. We can’t go around beating ourselves up over bad thoughts. They don’t “count” against us unless we put them into action.