One of the many laws present in Parshat Ki Teitzei is Shiluach HaKan – to send away a mother bird before taking the eggs or the young birds from the nest.
This is one of only a few mitzvot where the Torah specifies a reward for the proper observance of the mitzvah, namely, a long life. It is also one of only three such mitzvot that directly promises longevity, the other two being – honoring one’s parents, and using proper weights and measures in business (also found in Ki Teitzei).
Rashi on 22:7, quoting the Sifri, notes that Shiluach HaKan is an “easy” mitzvah to fulfill, and so if such an easy mitzvah gives a person long life, then kal vachomer how great the rewards will be for much more difficult mitzvot. In contrast to the ease of sending away a mother bird, the Gemara in Kiddushin 31a notes the extreme difficulty of properly fulfilling Kibud Av Va’Eim – honoring one’s parents. A lesson suggested from the fact that the same reward is given for such starkly different mitzvot, is that we cannot decide the value of mitzvot and that all are equally important.
Interestingly, there is also something to learn from the similarities shared by these two mitzvot…
In a sicha written by my Rosh Yeshiva, Rav Yehuda Amital z”tl, he notes that although there are obvious differences between the two mitzvot, they do share something in common. Most mitzvot demand preparation and planning – plan then execute; other mitzvot pop up unexpectedly. Kibbud Av Va’Eim and Shiluach HaKan share the characteristic of being the latter type.
Shiluach HaKan, as noted by Rashi, is only a mitzvah when you encounter a bird’s nest “along the way”; it has to be unintentionally; “ba’derech”.
Similarly, although there is an aspect of preparation for the constant obligation to honor one’s parents, often times a parent’s wishes/requests/needs will arise unexpectedly. We have no way of predicting every wish a parent might have (such as, “come for shabbat” or the like, I’m told).
Rav Amital writes that mitzvot like these present us with an opportunity and a challenge – are we (a) going to make an immediate adjustment to an unexpected circumstance, and (b) are we going to do so with excitement to have an opportunity fulfill an unanticipated mitzvah?
The “adjustment” in the case of Shilu’ach HaKan is not particularly demanding, as opposed to the potentially more time-consuming obligations that arise to fulfill a parent’s request, but both demonstrate the importance of always being ready and eager for a chance to perform another mitzvah, making whatever adjustments that might be required.The Torah promises long life to a person who embraces such mitzvot, because it shows a strong love for Hashem and a deep-seeded commitment to fulfilling Torah and mitzvot.
I would like to humbly suggest that there is also a connection between Shiluach HaKan and Amaleik. In both instances, the Torah uses the exact wording of (i) “ba’derech” and (ii) related wording of “yikareh” and “karcha”, indicating coincidence/happenstance – both words sharing the root of ק.ר.א.
Shiluach HaKan: Devarim 22:6-7
כִּי יִקָּרֵא קַן צִפּוֹר לְפָנֶיךָ בַּדֶּרֶךְ בְּכָל-עֵץ אוֹ עַל-הָאָרֶץ אֶפְרֹחִים אוֹ בֵיצִים, וְהָאֵם רֹבֶצֶת עַל-הָאֶפְרֹחִים אוֹ עַל-הַבֵּיצִים לֹא תִקַּח הָאֵם עַל הַבָּנִים
שַׁלֵּחַ תְּשַׁלַּח אֶת הָאֵם וְאֶת-הַבָּנִים תִּקַּח-לָךְ לְמַעַן יִיטַב לָךְ וְהַאֲרַכְתָּ יָמִים
Amaleik: Devarim 25:17-18
זָכוֹר אֵת אֲשֶׁר עָשָׂה לְךָ עֲמָלֵק בַּדֶּרֶךְ בְּצֵאתְכֶם מִמִּצְרָיִם
אֲשֶׁר קָרְךָ בַּדֶּרֶךְ וַיְזַנֵּב בְּךָ כָּל-הַנֶּחֱשָׁלִים אַחֲרֶיךָ וְאַתָּה עָיֵף וְיָגֵעַ וְלֹא יָרֵא אֱ-לֹ-הִים
Many meforshim write that Amalek embody “mikreh” – believing the world functions by coincidence, instead of Divine Providence. (see also dvar torah for B’chukotai )
The Torah does use “yikareh” – an unexpected occurrence – as a prerequisite to be able to perform Shiluach HaKan, but clearly Hashem does not want us to think that our ability to do this mitzvah is brought on by pure coincidence. From OUR perspective, coming across a mother bird and her eggs was unexpected, but Hashem decides to put someone in the position to carry out the mitzvah. Unlike Amaleik, who look at everything as coincidence, we are meant to believe that Hashem gives us opportunities to do mitzvot for a reason – to fulfill them and grow from that action, and to do so in an excited and eager way, as noted above.
Some mitzvot, such as Shiluach HaKan and Kibbud Av Va’Eim, present themselves unexpectedly, but perhaps one of the ways we can counter Amalek is that when presented with such mitzvot, we view them as Hashem’s specific and targeted calls to action, and perform them with dedication and zeal.