Ki Teitze: A Rare Mitzvah

This week’s Torah portion contains within it one of the peculiar biblical commandments — to shoo away the mother bird before snatching her eggs.

“If a bird’s nest chances before you on the road, on any tree, or on the ground, and [it contains] fledglings or eggs, if the mother is sitting upon the fledglings or upon the eggs, you shall not take the mother upon the young.”
[Deuteronomy / Devarim 22:6]

There is much to be said about whether this is something that must be done with the opportunity arises, or just simply if you happen to have a craving for an omelet. I’m not going to go there.

It reminds me though, of a recent opportunity to perform another rare mtizvah, Birkat HaChamah, a blessing on the sun. On April 8, 2009, (Nissan 14 5769), people made a whole fuss. There were new pamphlets and books published, there were t-shirts, there were gatherings at the Kotel and the Tayelet in order to say the special blessing recited when the Sun occupies the position it held on the fourth day of creation – the spring equinox, every 28 years according to calculations recorded in the Talmud.

One of the things I learned about Birkat HaChamah, is that the astrological alignment it celebrates actually occurs more accurately once in every few thousand years, but our sages knew that Torah is supposed to be brought down to the human level and therefore the human lifespan. A mitzvah performed every 28 years is rare indeed.

If that is the case, then a mitzvah performed only once every 2000 years must be even more unique, and perhaps above human comprehension, or supernatural. I have a secret to share with you. We have that opportunity now! All Jews have the opportunity to live in Israel, and even if you don’t consider that a mitzvah, you have the opportunity to come to the Land and perform mitzvot that you cannot do outside of it, mitzvot that for most of Jewish history, Jews have been unable to perform.

There still remain many valid reasons for Jews to remain outside Israel (economic hardship, distance from family, culture shock, and a host of weapons pointed at your forehead by neighboring hostile nations most easily come to mind), and a minority of religious authorities will even say that a Jew cannot move to Israel until the messiah comes. My feeling is that Israel is a gift that cannot be taken for granted.


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Ilene Rosenblum is a writer and marketing professional living in Jerusalem.

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