Torah Fax 

Friday, August 29, 2008 - 28 Menachem Av, 5768


Torah Reading: Rei (Deuteronomy 11:26 - 16:17)
Candle Lighting: 7:14 PM
Shabbat ends: 8:13 PM
Pirkei Avot Chapter 5

We bless the New Month of Elul

Rosh Chodesh Elul is Sunday and Monday, 9/1 & 2   

Bird Brain?


This week's parsha discusses the laws of animals that are kosher and fit for human consumption. The Torah lists the animals, birds and fish that are kosher and those that are not kosher.
When the Torah speaks of the birds that we may eat it employs two different words for bird:
In the introductory verse that states "you may eat every bird from a ritually pure species," the Torah uses the word "tzippor" for bird.
After the Torah lists the names of the non-kosher birds it repeats the admonition to eat only kosher fowl. Instead of the word "tzippor" that was mentioned earlier it uses the word "ofe" for bird prompting the following two questions:
First, why does the Torah have the need to repeat the admonition to eat only kosher species of fowl?
And second, why does the Torah employ two different words for the term bird, "tzippor" and "ofe?"
To answer these questions it is important to understand that when the Torah speaks of kosher and non-kosher animals, birds and fish it speaks of these laws on multiple levels or dimensions.

To be sure, the primary meaning of the text and its most important application is the straightforward surface meaning of the text: we are forbidden to consume the non-kosher species of birds, fish and animals, and we are permitted to eat the kosher ones.
But the Torah also addresses the ethical and spiritual dimensions of life. And thus the reference to species that we may or may not consume is also intended as a guide for us in our spiritual development.
When the Torah speaks of birds that we may or may not eat it is also addressing the bird within us. A bird has two characteristics that humans possess as well. A bird can travel across large expanses without encountering the obstacles that animals on land experience, and they can travel much more quickly.
Indeed, this trait is what our sages in the Talmud had in mind when they stated: "One who sees a bird in his dream should anticipate peace."
Peace is when two entities, far apart from each other, are brought together. The bird is the creature that traverses seas and continents making the world a smaller place; essentially uniting disparate and distant places.
It is thus no wonder that the Hebrew word "tzippor" has the same numerical value as the word Shalom, which, of course, means peace.
It is also significant that the word "tzippor" (when spelled without the optional letter vav) is also the numerical value of the phrase "zeh Moshiach-this is Moshiach," alluding to Moshiach's role as the one who ushers in an age of true peace.
It is clear then that the bird-tzippor symbolizes our ability to make connections and bring about peace and unity.
This thought could also shed light on the enigmatic story of the Covenant between the Parts, where G‑d told Abraham to take several animals and to cut them in half as part of the ritual associated with a covenant. However, he was also told to take a bird, a tzippor, which he did not split it in half. 
When G‑d made His covenant with Abraham He alluded to all of the travails of his descendents, the Jewish people. These travails were represented by the fractures animals. He also alluded to the fact that a time will come and the tzippor that symbolizes Moshiach will make things whole again. The Jewish people will be gathered together to the Land of Israel in a peaceful and harmonious world. The bird-tzippor will not be cut into two.
A bird also possesses another unique characteristic. It can soar effortlessly to heights that no other land creature can reach unaided. This too alludes to the human trait of seeking to climb the ladder of achievement and success and to scale unimaginable heights—to fly high. This characteristic is represented by the Hebrew name "ofe" for bird that means to fly.
This trait, however, comes in two forms. There is the kosher bird; the one that flies high so he or she can get closer to G‑d and draw that inspiration into everyday life. This is the type of person who surmounts all the obstacles and sees things from a higher perch.
However, there is a non-kosher form of the "ofe" personality; the one who soars to greater heights. Some may look to rise above others and view those below condescendingly. There are also some whose sole interest is to be spiritual. They therefore cannot relate to the physical world; the place that G‑d put us so that we engage it and refine it. Either way, the "ofe-flying high" personality and mindset is detrimental to the mission for which we were placed here. It is a non-kosher bird.
The Talmud declares that we never find the word tzippor used to describe a non-kosher bird. This is distinct from the word "ofe." Which often is used for non-kosher birds. Based on our analysis that the term tzippor represents the trait of peace, the question arises: Aren't there negative, or non-kosher, forms of peace just as there are non-kosher forms of ambition and achievement. The idea of unity is not always the ideal. There are forms of peace and unity that one must resist and oppose.
For example, when fire and water meet and unite without the separation of a pot the two elements neutralize each other. Hence the Talmudic statement that seeing a pot in a dream is also a symbol of peace. The pot is the "shadchan-matchaker" that allows fire and water to coexist. Any other mixing of the two, in the interests of peace and unity, will prove counterproductive.
All this indicates that while the notion of peace is noble and desirable, one must not seek peace between two elements that were intended to be separate.
Why then does the Talmud state that tzippor is always used in conjunction with kosher birds if there are undesirable forms of peace?
In truth, there is only one form of peace. When the pursuit of peace is uncalled for it isn't simply an inferior peace; it is the antithesis of peace.
To refer back to the analogy of fire and water, when we mix them it is not simply a weak form of peace; it is disastrous for both elements.
Similarly, the Torah in this week's parsha stipulates that certain things must be separated, such as milk and meat. By mixing them we do not create peace, albeit a bad or second rate peace. Rather what we've created is a forbidden and spiritually deleterious mixture where both the milk and the meat "threaten" each other's existence. It is like mixing two innocuous chemicals. The mixture can cause an explosion resulting in the loss of both chemicals, and much more. That is the opposite of peace.
True peace is the only real peace. And it is that peace that will be inaugurated in the Messianic Age with the arrival of Moshiach. 

Moshiach Matters 

Before his passing, Jacob said to his children, "Gather together and I will tell you what will happen to you at the end of days." Jacob wished to reveal the date of the Messianic redemption. One could also read this in the sense of "he wished to reveal, i.e., manifest and bring about, the end." In this context there is an important moral for every Jew. We are to follow in the footsteps of our ancestor, and wish and pray for the manifestation of the ultimate end of the exile. (Adapted from the teachings of the Rebbe)

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