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Posted on August 19, 2021 (5781) By Rabbi Yissocher Frand | Series: | Level:

These divrei Torah were adapted from the hashkafa portion of Rabbi Yissocher Frand’s Commuter Chavrusah Series on the weekly portion: #1259 – Shiluach Hakain – On Shabbos? From Your Back Porch?

Vilna Gaon (Quoting Zohar): Sending Away Mother Bird Tests – Cruelty with a Purpose

The pasuk teaches in Parshas Ki Seitzei: “You shall surely send away the mother (bird) and the offspring you shall take for yourself, in order that it will be good for you, and your days will be lengthened.” [Devarim 22:7]. This is one of two mitzvos in the Torah regarding which the Torah says the reward for its fulfillment is a long life. The other famous mitzva for which the Torah tells us the reward is Arichas Yomim is the mitzvah of Kibud Av v’Eim (honoring one’s parents).

What is the commonality of the mitzvah of Shiluach haKen (sending away the mother bird) and the mitzvah of Kibud Av v’Eim? The Yerushalmi in Masechta Peah says that these two mitzvos are the polar opposite of one another. The Yerushalmi calls Kibud Av v’EimChamurah she’b’chamuros” (the hardest of the hard mitzvos). It is one of the most difficult mitzvos to fulfill. That is why we find Amoraim in the Talmud who say “I would be better off if I had never seen my parents”. It is very difficult for a person, at least at some point in his or her lifetime, not to have treated his or her parents improperly. The respect that we owe and should give to our parents is incalculable!

On the other hand, the Yerushalmi categorizes Shiluach haKen as “Kal she’b’kalos” (the easiest of the easy mitzvos). It is a mitzvah that does not cost anything and does not require preparation. This is how the Yerushalmi formulates the “common denominator” between these two mitzvos. The Torah specifies the exact same reward for the hardest of mitzvos as it does for the simplest of mitzvos, to emphasize that we have no way of figuring out the reward for mitzvos based on evaluation of the level of difficulty to perform them.

The Vilna Gaon has a different take on this, based on the Zohar. The Gaon says that when a person examines both of these mitzvos, he assumes that the reason why the Torah gives the exact same reward for each of them is because they are apparently similar in nature. Shiluach HaKen appears to be a mitzvah teaching compassion: Do not take the baby birds in front of their mother. Have mercy on the mother bird by first sending her away and only then taking her chicks. (As the Ramban emphasizes, this is not a question of compassion for animals in the style of PETA (People for Ethical Treatment of Animals) but rather, the Torah wants to teach us compassion: If we need to have compassion even for a bird, kal v’chomer, we must have compassion on people!).

Likewise, Kibud Av v’Eim is a mitzvah of compassion. People need to take care of their parents and be beholden to them. They need to respect them. Our parents brought us into this world! They educated us. They clothed us. Kibud Av and Shiluach haKen seem to be the same type of mitzvah, and therefore they have the same type of reward.

The Vilna Gaon points out that according to the Zohar, just the reverse is true. Rather than being a mitzvah of compassion, the Zohar claims that Shiluach HaKen is a mitzvah of cruelty (Achzariyus). The mitzvah of Shiluach HaKen is to send away the mother from off of her nest so that the mother bird will suffer! The Zohar explains that the goal is for the mother bird to feel pain and want to kill herself in anguish of losing her chicks!

The Torah is not asking us through this mitzvah to be compassionate, but to be cruel! It is not cruelty for cruelty’s sake. The goal is to arouse Mercy in the Ribono shel Olam so that He will have Mercy on His creatures. But the bottom line is that unlike the comfort we are to provide our parents, Shiluach HaKen requires us to cause pain to the mother bird.

If these mitzvos are in fact polar opposites of one another, why then do they have the exact same reward? The Gaon explains – it is because that is what the Torah demands of us as human beings: To be in charge of our emotions. Sometimes the Ribono shel Olam says “I want you to be compassionate” and sometimes He says “I want you to be an Achzar” because there is a purpose in this cruelty. These two mitzvos have the same reward because, in combination, they bring a person to Shleimus (completion).

For a person who is compassionate by nature, Kibud Av v’Eim is an easy mitzvah to fulfill. If a person’s parents are old or infirm and they need help, a compassionate person reasons, “Listen, my parents fed me when I was a baby and I would spit out my food at them. Now that my parents are older and cannot take care of themselves, I am going to do the same for them that they did for me!”

That same person, who by nature is a compassionate person, finds it very difficult when he is asked to send away the mother bird so she will cry. But that is what the Torah wants from human beings. The Torah wants people to put aside their human emotions and natural inclinations and follow Divine commands that do not necessarily go with their own grain. Do something that is hard! Do something that goes against your personal middos and proclivities.

The tenth and final test of Avraham Avinu (according to most Rishonim) was Akeidas Yitzchak. “…Now I know that you fear Elokim…” [Bereshis 22:12]. What is with this emphasis on “now I know”? After the other nine tests, the Ribono shel Olam did not see that Avraham was G-d fearing? The answer is that the Almighty said, “I know that Avraham is a ba’al chessed. I know that acts of kindness come naturally to him. I know that he is a kind-hearted person. But the true test of how devoted a person is to the Ribono shel Olam is to see whether he is capable of doing something that goes against every sinew in his body – when asked to do such by the Almighty.”

Therefore, the Ribono shel Olam commanded Avraham: Slaughter you son! “Slaughter my son? Destroy my whole life’s work – what I stood for?” That is when Hashem could say “Now I know that you fear Elokim!” after Avraham did something that did not fit with his personality.

That is why the Talmud says [Berochos 33b] “One who praises Hashem by saying ‘His Mercy reaches the nest of the bird’ must be silenced!” The Gaon explains that Shiluach haKen, – at least according to the Zohar – is not about rachmanus. It is about achzariyus, but it is about an achzariyus which can have a positive result. And that, explains the Gaon, is the reason for the equation of reward between these two “book-end mitzvos.” The commonality is that they each, in their own way, create Shleimus (completion) in a person who needs to subjugate his own natural middos and inclinations to the Will of a Higher Power. At the end of the day, that is what it is all about.

I saw this thought in an essay by Rav Avrohom Bookspan.

The Special Segulah Reward for Returning Lost Objects

This week’s parsha also includes the mitzvah of HaShavas Aveidah: “You shall not see the ox of your brother or his lamb wandering about and ignore them; you shall surely return them to your brother.” [Devorim 22:1]. Returning a lost object fulfills a positive Biblical command. If someone finds something in the street, he should pick it up, take care of it, try to find the owner and he will thereby fulfill the mitzvah of HaShavas Aveidah.

At first glance, it would seem like this is a relatively simple mitzvah to fulfill. However, we can see from the Rambam [Gezeilah v’Aveidah Chapter 13] that this is far from an easy mitzvah to fulfill and in fact is a very difficult mitzvah to fulfill.

“One who finds a lost object that obligates him to return it, must announce that he has found such and call upon anyone who has lost an object of this type to come and give identifying marks and then claim it…” (Halacha 1)

Where and how does someone make such an announcement? The Rambam writes: “Originally, anyone who found a lost object would announce his find for three consecutive Festivals….” When a person came to the Beis HaMikdash for the Shalosh Regalim, there was a special rock near the Beis HaMikdash. People would stand on the rock and announce whatever they had found. A person had to make this announcement three times – on each of the Shalosh Regalim.

Then, following the third Festival (if no one has yet claimed the article) he must stick around in Yerushalayim an extra week and announce for seven more days about the lost object he found. This is so that someone who heard the announcement has time to go home, search his possessions, realize that he does not have this item of his that must have gotten lost, and come back to Yerushalayim to claim it from the finder! In the meantime, the finder is taking care of this thing. He feeds it if it needs feeding. He makes sure it is safe and well kept, etc., etc. This is not an easy mitzvah.

If no one claims it after all these announcements, the Rambam writes that the finder must keep it “Until Eliyahu HaNavi comes (in pre-Messianic times).”

If the lost object is a coat, fine, it can sit in the closet. If it is an umbrella, fine, it sits in his umbrella stand. However, if it is a cow – he needs to feed and take care of this cow until Eliyahu comes!

The Rambam writes that following the destruction of the Beis HaMikdash, the Rabbis enacted that people should make announcements in the local synagogues and study halls. What do we do today? We put up a sign in the shul and the Beis HaMedrash.

This is not such an easy mitzvah. Far from it. Listen to the following observation:

If you do a word search for the expression “mi’shecharav Beis HaMikdash” (after the Temple was destroyed) in the Talmud, it appears fifteen times. Sometimes it appears two or three times on the same daf in Shas. But there are at least ten specific places in Shas where the Gemara uses the expression “After the Temple was destroyed…”

In Rosh HaShanah 29b it says: “When the Temple was destroyed, Rabbi Yochanan Ben Zakkai enacted that they may blow shofar (on Rosh HaShanna that falls on Shabbos) in any place where a Beis Din exists”.

In Rosh HaShanah 30b it says: “When the Temple was destroyed, Rabbi Yochanan Ben Zakkai enacted that the witnesses for the New Month be accepted the entire day” (unlike the decree during the time of the Beis Hamikdash, where mix-ups in the Shira (Temple Song) could occur so they no longer accepted the witnesses after Mincha).

In the same Gemara it says that “When the Temple was destroyed, Rabbi Yochanan Ben Zakkai enacted that on the day they brought the Omer offering, the entire day was forbidden to eat of the new wheat crop.”

In Succah 41a it says: “When the Temple was destroyed, Rabbi Yochanan Ben Zakkai enacted that the Lulav be taken throughout the country seven days, as a commemoration of the Temple (practice).

Without going through all fifteen cases, it is always the same format: “When the Temple was destroyed, Rabbi XXX enacted…”. However, there is one place in all of Shas that we find a variant expression and that is in Bava Metzia 28b regarding the laws of HaShavas Aveidah. This Gemara, which is the source of the aforementioned citation from the Rambam, teaches: “Originally anyone who found a lost article would proclaim it for three Festivals and for seven days following the final Festival, in order to give the loser three days to go home and three days to return, and still have the finder proclaiming the lost item that seventh day. WHEN THE TEMPLE WAS DESTROYED – MAY IT BE SPEEDILY REBUILT IN OUR DAYS, they enacted that the proclamations should be done in the synagogues and in the houses of study.

This is the only place among all fifteen times in Shas that the Gemara throws in a prayer – She’Yibaneh bimheira b’yameinu – after the frequently-used expression “Mi’Shecharav Beis HaMikdash” (After the Temple was destroyed). How do we understand this? Are the Gemaras in Rosh HaShannah and Succah and Beitzah and Moed Katan and Sanhedrin and Menochos not concened “that the Temple be speedily rebuilt in our days?” Why suddenly in Bava Metzia, by HaShavas Aveidah is this prayer inserted after the expression “When the Temple was destroyed?”

Rav Yosef Engel has a beautiful explanation for this oddity. He explains that HaShavas Aveida is a Segulah that the Beis HaMikdash will be rebuilt. The reason for that is the Gemara [Makkos 24a] where Rav says, “I am afraid of the pasuk (in the tochacha) ‘And you shall be lost among the nations of the world’ [Vayikra 26:38]”. He feared that this pasuk was predicting the final doom of Klal Yisrael. Rav Pappa calmed him down with an alternate interpretation. “No. This is not a death sentence for the Jewish people. Yes, we are a lost object, but we are a lost object that has Someone looking for it. We are like a lost object whose Owner has not given up on us yet. The Ribono shel Olam wants us back!”

Rav Yosef Engel says that if a person is meticulous in the mitzvah of HaShavas Aveidah (i.e. – he returns lost objects), then midah k’neged midah (measure for measure), the Ribono shel Olam will also find and take back His ‘lost object’ as well. He will take us back from Galus. That is why this is the only place in Shas where when it says “M’She’Charav Beis HaMikdash“, the Gemara immediately adds the prayer “She’Yibaneh bim’hera b’yameinu.” HaShavas Aveidah is a Segulah that the Ribono shel Olam will once again bring us back.

Just like Shiluach HaKen has this aspect according to the Zohar – that HaKaodosh Baruch Hu sees the pain and He says “What am I doing to My children? – I am going to take them back” so too Hashavas Aveidah has that aspect as well. Our returning of lost objects prompts the Almighty to look for and return His ‘lost object’ as well.

Returning lost objects is indeed not the easiest of mitzvahs. It involves effort and caring for the item. But there is a payoff for this mitzvah. The payoff is She’Yibaneh Beis HaMikdash Bim’Hera b’Yameinu.

Transcribed by David Twersky; Jerusalem [email protected]

Technical Assistance by Dovid Hoffman; Baltimore, MD [email protected]

This week’s write-up is adapted from the hashkafa portion of Rabbi Yissochar Frand’s Commuter Chavrusah Series on the weekly Torah portion. A listing of the halachic portions for Parshas Ki Seitzei is provided below:

  • #020 – Non-Halachic Marriage Ceremonies
  • #065 – Polygamy and the Cherem of Rabbeinu Gershom
  • #110 – Mamzeirus: Possible Solutions?
  • #156 – Reconciling Divergent Customs Between Husband and Wife
  • #203 – The Pre-War “Get”
  • #250 – The Mitzvah of Ma’akeh
  • #293 – “Get Me’useh”: The Prohibition of the “Forced Get”
  • #339 – Shana Reshona: The First Year of Marriage
  • #383 – The Mitzvah of Burial
  • #427 – Trying on Suits that May Have Shatnes
  • #471 – Autopsies on Non-Jews
  • #515 – Women Wearing Men’s Clothing
  • #559 – The Double Portion of the Be’chor
  • #603 – Burying a Rasha Next to a Tzadik
  • #647 – Ramps and Stages – Do They Need a Maakeh?
  • #691 – Chassanah Minhagim
  • #735 – Brachos in a Bathroom?
  • #779 – Shehecheyanu at a Chasuna
  • #823 – Tzar Ba’al Hachayim – Does It Apply to People?
  • #867 – Dying Hair For Men – Asur or Mutar?
  • #911 – Returning a Lost Pacifier
  • #955 – The Un-Cancelled Stamp – Can You Re-use it?
  • #998 – Making a Bracha for Building a Ma’akeh?
  • #1042 – Dressing Up As A Woman for Chasunah Dancing and on Purim?
  • #1086 – A Bracha for Shiluach HaKen?
  • #1129 – The Ani Who Picked Up Your $20 bill
  • #1171 – Dating Someone Before You Are Divorced?
  • #1259 – Shiluach Hakain – On Shabbos? From Your Back Porch?
  • #1303 – Is A Woman Allowed to Carry a Gun?
  • #1347 – The Case of the Frail Grandfather and the Bracha Under the Chupa
  • #1391 – Shalom Aleichem – Before or After Kiddush?
  • #1435 – Paying a Worker on Time- A Mitzva De’oraisah

A complete catalogue can be ordered from the Yad Yechiel Institute, PO Box 511, Owings Mills MD 21117-0511. Call (410) 358-0416 or e-mail [email protected] or visit for further information.

These divrei Torah were adapted from the hashkafa portion of Rabbi Yissocher Frand’s Commuter Chavrusah Series on the weekly portion: #1261 – Did I Say Hamelech Hakadosh? / Nuts on Rosh Hashana

oshe Rabbeinu tells Klal Yisrael at the beginning of our parsha: “You are standing today, all of you, before Hashem your G-d:” (Atem Nitzavim hayom kulchem lifnei Hashem Elokeichem) [Devorim 29:9] There is a very famous Medrash Aggadah quoted by Rashi here [Pasuk 12]: “Why was this passage juxtaposed with the curses (at the end of Parshas Ki Savo)? Since they had just heard ninety-eight frightening curses besides the forty-nine curses at the end of Sefer VaYikra, their faces turned pallid. They asked – ‘Who can withstand all of this?’ Moshe therefore came to mollify them and calm them down. You are still standing here today. You have angered the Almighty very often and He has not destroyed you.” As if to say – “You have been bad before, you will be bad again. You will get through it all! Don’t worry.” This is the context of “Atem Nitzavim haYom…

A famous question is asked on this Rashi. Moshe appears to be defeating the whole purpose of his mussar schmooze. He gets them really shaken up. They are trembling in their boots – “What is going to be with us?” And he tells them “Chill. Don’t worry about it.” This is equivalent to a Mashgiach Ruchani getting up in the Yeshiva and reading the riot act to the bochurim. The bochurim are trembling that because of their behavior they are all going to burn in Gehinnom. And then the Mashgiach gives them all a wink and tells them “Don’t worry!”

So “what did the Sages accomplish with their enactment?” The point of the Tochacha was to read them the riot act and to put the fear of G-d in them!

I saw in the sefer Avir Yosef a very interesting observation from Rav Elya Ber Wachtfogel, the Rosh Yeshiva of the Yeshiva of South Fallsburg. The Tosefta in Maseches Shabbos notes that of all the city dwellers in the world, the people of Sodom are the calmest. They have the most menuchas haNefesh. The Tosefta says that, in fact, that is what brought Lot to Sodom. He checked out all the cities around and he saw that the people of Sodom were the most serene.

What does this Tosefta mean? Why were the people so serene in Sodom? Rav Elya Ber Wachtfogel explains: Lot lived with Avraham Avinu. With Avraham Avinu he saw great serenity. He saw a man that was at peace with himself. He was calm and content with life. Lot said to himself “I want that kind of life. I want the same serenity that my uncle Avraham has.”

Why was Avraham Avinu able to achieve such serenity? The rest of us experience this ongoing tension between our guf (body) and our neshama (soul). Our flesh wants one thing and our neshama wants something else. It is a battle from Day One. As soon as the neshama enters a person, the neshama is not happy. “I don’t want to be in this world. I don’t want to deal with the physicality and material nature of Olam HaZeh.” On the other hand, the body wants the physical pleasures of life.

That is the ongoing battle and tension that exists in every human being. For this reason, we are not all calm, serene, and content. One day we are like this and one day we are like that. Or, one minute we are like this and one minute we are like that. We may be one type of person when we are in shul, and another type of person when we are at work.

Avraham Avinu solved the problem. He was 100% spiritual (kulo ruchniyus). He devoted his life to improving his neshama. Therefore, there was no tension. There was this enviable calm and serenity in his lifestyle.

I once had the opportunity to spend ten minutes with Reb Aharon Leib Shteinman (zt”l). If you ever were in his little house, he sat there on a roll-away sofa bed. They put up a chair that served as a backing. The man was so at peace. It would seem like he didn’t have a worry in the world. He had patience for everyone. Besides the tzidkus (piety) that emanated from him, there was also this serenity. That is because—to a very large extent—he also solved this human dilemma by choosing a very ascetic life.

Lot envied this. Except, Lot said to himself, “But I can’t live that type of life.” Lot knew that he could not live such a spiritually-infused lifestyle. He still lusted for the pleasures of the flesh. Therefore, his only option was the other way of achieving serenity – at the other end of the spectrum. The people of Sodom also did not have a conflict. They also felt no tension between the desires of their guf and the desires of their neshama. They threw out the ruchniyus and lived by the motto of “Eat, drink, and be merry – for tomorrow you may die!”

They opted to completely forget about satisfying the neshama and just concentrated on satisfying their bodily needs and desires. This is a path to you-know-where, but it is serene. There is no tension. That is why Lot chose Sodom—it was the most serene and contented spot on the globe.

Moshe Rabbeinu addressed the Jewish people and told them: You are all standing here before Hashem today. Don’t worry!

We asked that Moshe destroyed his whole mussar schmooze! The answer is that Moshe Rabbienu was telling them in the Tochacha, “What happened to Sodom will happen to you.” [Devarim 29:22]. But it will only happen to you like it happened to Sodom if you, like them, forsake ruchniyus totally. As long as you feel this tension, as long as you are still fighting the battle, and the struggle with your neshama still bothers you, then what happened to Sodom will not happen to you.

Moshe Rabbeinu tells them the ninety-eight curses and their faces paled, but he tells them – the fact that your faces paled—that is a good sign. It shows that you are still battling; you are still in the fight. As long as you are still waging the battle and are still trying to choose ruchniyus, even though you have already sinned to the Almighty many times, nevertheless you still want what is right, and it still bothers you when it is not right. Therefore, do not worry – the Ribono shel Olam will not wipe you out like He did to Sodom. Sodom’s fate is only for those who have totally forsaken the world of spirituality.

These are very encouraging words as we approach Rosh HaShannah. We all have our issues that we need to deal with. We are now approaching the Great Day of Judgement. It is scary, because we look back on our past year and we know that we have fallen down like we have sometimes fallen down in the past. But we are still in the battle, and we are still fighting. It still bothers us. A person only needs to worry when it DOES NOT bother him anymore. Only when a person has achieved the serenity of Sodom is it necessary to really be concerned. The mere fact that our faces are pale and that we feel the need and desire to improve is the biggest testament that we are still fighting the battle. Please G-d, with that merit of our seeking ruchniyus, the Ribono shel Olam shall bless us with the rest of Klal Yisrael and Eretz Yisrael for a year of life and health, financial well-being, and peace upon Yisroel.

Transcribed by David Twersky; Jerusalem [email protected]

Technical Assistance by Dovid Hoffman; Baltimore, MD [email protected]

This week’s write-up is adapted from the hashkafa portion of Rabbi Yissochar Frand’s Commuter Chavrusah Series on the weekly Torah portion. A listing of the halachic portions for Parshas Nitzavim/Vayeilech is provided below:

  • # 022 – Reading Haftorah: Scrolls vs. Book
  • # 112 – Shoteh: Mental Incompetence in Halacha
  • # 158 – Schar Shabbos: How Do We Pay Rabbonim and Chazzanim?
  • # 205 – Kiddush Before T’kiyas Shofar
  • # 252 – Buying Seforim
  • # 295 – Burying the Dead on Yom Tov Sheni
  • # 341 – The Brachos on the T’kios
  • # 342 – Is Building a Succah a Mitzvah?
  • # 385 – Fasting on Rosh Hashana
  • # 386 – Succah Gezulah
  • # 429 – Treatment of an Invalid Sefer Torah
  • # 473 – Seudas Siyum Mesechta
  • # 517 – What Exactly Is Mitzva of Shofar
  • # 561 – Lo Bashomayin He
  • # 605 – Selling A Sefer Torah
  • # 649 – Minhagim of the Yomim Noraim
  • # 693 – My Father’s Chumros
  • # 737 – Borrowing and Lending Seforim
  • # 781 – I’m the Baal Tokeah and Not You!
  • # 825 – The Shuls of Gaza – A Halachic Perspective
  • # 826 – Yom Kippur: Women and the Shehecheyanu; Women and Kor’im
  • # 869 – The Mitzvah of Chinuch-Whose Responsibility? Mother or Father?
  • # 870 – Yom Kippur – The Yom Kippur That They Did Not Fast
  • # 913 – The Tefilah of Oleinu
  • # 957 – Coming Late for Tekias Shofar and Other Rosh Hashana Issues
  • # 1000 – Ta’amei Hamikra – The Tropp – How Important Is It?
  • # 1044 – Must You Stand for Chazoras HaShatz on Rosh Hashana?
  • # 1088 – Learning During T’kias Shofer?
  • # 1131 – Asking For Personal Needs On Rosh Hashana?
  • # 1173 – Oops! I Forgot Ya’Aleh Ve’Yavo in Bentching on Rosh Hashana
  • # 1217 – Fascinating Halachos Pertaining to a Choleh on Yom Kippur
  • # 1261 – Did I Say Hamelech Hakadosh? / Nuts on Rosh Hashana
  • # 1305 – The Case of the Esrog That Was Not As Advertised
  • # 1349 – The Baal Tokeah Who Was Doubtful If He Could Blow
  • # 1437 – Dip the Apple in the Honey Make A Bracha: Which Bracha?

A complete catalogue can be ordered from the Yad Yechiel Institute, PO Box 511, Owings Mills MD 21117-0511. Call (410) 358-0416 or e-mail [email protected] or visit for further information.