Friday, April 17, 2009

Parshat Shmini - פרשת שמיני

"ואת אלה תשקצו מן העוף לא יאכלו שקץ הם את הנשר ואת הפרס ואת העזניה. - And these shall you abominate from among the birds, they may not be eaten, they are an abomination: the nesher, the peres, the ozniah."

The list of forbidden birds is headed by the Nesher, the eagle. The Nesher is the undisputed king of the birds, and yet it is specifically listed as being not kosher. Moreover, the Nesher lacks every one of the four signs of purity required for an animal to be rendered kosher. The dove on the other hand, the easiest prey in the entire bird kingdom, has all the signs required. Moreover, the dove is among those selected to be brought as an offering and burnt on the Altar!

Rav Zalman Sorotzkin tenders an answer to this poser. He says that we know that there are four animals engraved on Hashem's כסא הכבוד; a man, a bull, a lion and an eagle. Each of these four creations is a king in some way.

Man is the king of Creation, and indeed the king of all creations. The bull is the king of all domesticated animals. The lion is the king of all wild animals and the eagle is the king of all birds. These four animals are kings and exalted above all other creations. Above them all sits Hashem, Who presides over all creation.

The dove, possibly the most prey-upon creature in all of creation, is to be offered up in sanctification of Hashem's name, and become a "satisfying aroma" for Hashem. The dove cannot possibly be engraved upon Hashem's throne of glory - but instead merits a different, perhaps greater זכות.

Personally I believe that we, the people of today's society, would do well to understand the seemingly contradictory nature of these two birds and absorb the lesson being taught here. It is clear that the eagle is the highest creature and the dove the lowest creature of all. There is no doubt to be had that the eagle soars high above other birds and preys upon them as it sees fit. Equally, there is no getting away from the fact that the dove is easy fodder for many creatures. Despite the eagle's high status in the natural world, though, the torah makes an example out of the eagle as something that is clearly not suitable to be eaten. The dove however fulfills all the requirements to be a kosher animal.

The eagle might well be the natural king of the birds, and deserving of a place on the throne of glory, but it remains non-kosher nevertheless. The dove on the other hand, despite being an "easy target" has the value of being one of the few creatures listed to be sacrificed to Hashem.

I know that this might sound like a cliche, but it must be absolutely clear that we should recognise the differences in this world, and not ignore them. I once made the mistake of saying that Jewish people are superior to non-Jews because we have a better task to do. A friend soon put me in my place, letting me know that there might well be differences, but there's no such thing as superior or inferior. We as Jews have our role to play, and so do non-Jews. Everything in this world has it's function, like the dove and the eagle, which both have their merits, which both have their place.

Wishing you a שבת שלום!

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