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.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Time limit is exhausted. Please reload the CAPTCHA.