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I for an I
One of the commandments in this week’s parshah involves a person who chances upon a nest with the mother bird crouching on her chicks or eggs and wants to take the hatchlings.

“If you encounter a bird’s nest on the way… You should not take the mother from upon the young. You should always send away the mother, and then you may take the young for yourself.”

The great Chassidic master Rabbi Levi Yitzchak of Berditchev offers a novel, allegorical interpretation of this verse. The word tzippor, bird, can also be translated as the morning light, a metaphor for the spiritual inspiration that comes from above. Thus the Torah commands us: If we would experience a spontaneous inspiration, we should send it away; we cannot and should not rely on the inspiration from above. It is imperative that we do things with our own initiative. When we rely on the inspiration from above, it will only last as long as we feel that inspiration. It can easily dissipate. Once the person “owns” the inspiration, it has lasting power.

This interpretation also relates to the theme of the Hebrew month of Elul, when this parshah is always read. Elul, our Sages tell us, is an acronym for the four words in the Song of Songs: “Ani l’dodi v’dodi li—I am to my beloved and my beloved is to me.” Unlike the Passover season which marked the liberation of the Jewish people that came solely as a Divine effort, the month of Elul is predicated on personal initiative.

The word “Elul”, as stated, is alluded to in the words “I am to my beloved…” It suggests that in this month we identify the true “I.” In formal settings, such as the Holidays and other inspirational times and places, the true “I” may be concealed by the spiritual veneer supplied by the holy atmosphere. In Elul, we discover the true unadulterated, unadorned “I.”

The word tzippor, bird, is also an allusion to Moshiach. Numerically, the word (when spelled without the vowel, Vav) adds up to the words “zeh Moshiach” – this is Moshiach.

In some people’s minds, there is an erroneous view that Moshiach and the ensuing Redemption is entirely in G-d’s hands. Nothing can be further from the truth. Moshiach and the final Redemption—unlike the first liberation of the Jews from Egypt—is primarily a consequence of our efforts. The Mitzvos that we perform in exile and especially those that we perform in the most sterile, non-spiritual times of exile—akin to the ordinary days of Elul—will bring the Redemption.

This is not to suggest that G-d and Moshiach have no role in all of the above. G-d and His chosen human redeemer, Moshiach, are here and waiting for us to do our part in making the Redemption a reality. Moshiach is waiting for us to say, “We are ready for Moshiach!”

Sending away the mother bird in this context means that to bring Moshiach, who will usher in the age of true G-dly light, we should not rely on G-d’s initiative. Rather, it is our responsibility to do our part and justifiably demand that G-d crown our efforts with success.


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