Thursday, October 06, 2011

Is There Even A Point To This?

A friend of mine spotted the following flier hanging in Brooklyn.  In short, it states that there are a limited number of openings for the opportunity to do the mitzvah of shiluach hakein -- the sending away of the mother bird.  For a "nominal fee*" the person behind the flier will presumably take you to the bird and nest and allow you to perform the mitzvah. 

Furthermore, the flier continues, you should not miss out on this opportunity since aside from Torah's promise of "Prosperous Days and Longevity," you are also guaranteed (emphasis mine) a slew of other benefits, including the conceiving of children, finding a spouse, purchasing a house, etc.

Personally, I have several problems with this particular flier and with others like it.  The first issue I have (with this flier in particular) is the use of the word "guaranteed."  How can the rabbi behind this offer (whoever he is) possibly make such a guarantee?  Even the promises made by Hashem Himself in the Torah aren't absolute promises -- consider the story that is told about Elisha ben Avuyah (a.k.a. Acher) who saw a young boy die while trying to fulfill this mitzvah and the mitzvah of honoring one's father.  That being the case, how can this rabbi make such a guarantee?  Will he personally grant a child to a childless couple if they fail to conceive despite his promise?  Will he pay the medical bills of someone who *is* hurt while traveling?

This is, of course, a part of the general trend nowadays of selling yeshuous (salivations) and promises of miracles.  The only difference here is that instead of the money going to a yeshiva, charity or some other organization, this rabbi is using it as a part-time business opportunity.  I don't begrudge him the opportunity, but I must say that if I find the selling of Divine promises of salvation distasteful in charitable endeavors, I find it all the more so in a private enterprise.

But there's also a deeper, more troubling problem with this offer.  Shiluach hakein strikes me as an "opportunity" mitzvah.  If you find yourself in a position of wanting eggs, and you find that the eggs you want are in a nest being protected by a mother bird, then have to send the mother away.  But what if you don't really want the eggs?  Suppose you're traveling on the road (as the case is described in the Torah) and you spot a tree with a bird, nest and eggs, but you have no desire for the eggs.  Is there any mitzvah to climb the tree and shoo away the mother bird?  Clearly the answer is no -- you don't have to do so and (to my understanding) doing so for no reason may even amount to a measure of tza'ar ba'alei chaim (causing pain/distress to animals).

That being said, what is the purpose of this whole exercise?  I doubt that anyone who responds to this rabbi's offer has any real desire for pigeon eggs (or whatever other bird it is that he's using)**. Even if he's using chicken eggs, why would anyone go all the way to him when eggs can be had in the local grocery much more easily?  So, the whole thing is just an artificial and contrived set up to perform a mitzvah that is just not required.  What next?  Should I charge people $5 for the opportunity to find my wallet in a side room after I leave it there so that they can perform the mitzvah of returning a lost object?  Is that really fulfilling the mitzvah?  The entire exercise sounds (to me) so contrived and artificial and completely out of sync with how the mitzvah should actually be performed.

The Wolf

* I don't begrudge the rabbi the "nominal fee" (assuming, of course, that it is, indeed, nominal).  He certainly spends his time (and possibly money) to arrange this and deserves to be compensated.

** This is leaving aside the question of whether or not the rabbi would even let the person take the eggs away, as this would either prevent him from giving the opportunity to the next person or require him to find a new nest with eggs for each opportunity.

(h/t for the photo on request)


azi said...

I agree. Have always felt that this "mitzva" was wrong. If you intend to eat the eggs, ok, I guess in some old world that scenario would play out and you can do the mitzva. But for random people with eggs in their fridge to go and destroy a bird family, etc... is frankly disgusting.

The mitzva is to save the birds from pain, and these bums are causing pain for selfish reasons.

Kindred Spirit said...

Every year, when the Mitzvah comes up in the Parsha, my family has the same discussion. It must be only if you need the eggs. No, we learned it is a Chok. There is a very understandable reason for sending the mother away when you want the eggs. The reason it is a Chok is because you send the mother even if you don't want the eggs...Back and forth without any final conclusion.

If the Mitzvah is only when you want the eggs, how can it the be one of HaShem's Chukim?

Susan B said...

I agree with you completely. It's no mitzvah if you don't want or need the eggs. It's just torturing the bird.

I noticed you said they are offering "salivations," and though I suppose one may salivate at the thought of eating eggs, I suspect you may have meant "salvation."

May you have an easy fast, and may your first meal afterward be worthy of salivation.

Mike S. said...

1) The rabbi does not guarantee anything. He says the midrash does. If he guaranteed it, someone might sue him.

2) Why is the rabbi needed for the mitzvah? If he (or anyone) owns the birds, there is no mitzvah at all. If you want a wild duck egg, just find a wind duck nest.

3) What is the LMEHadrin part? Is there a non-mehuddar way to fulfill this mitzvah?

ItcheSrulik said...

Mike, Since there are opinions that you aren't yotze if you don't want the eggs, I guess that would qualify as "nonMehudar," IOW the advertised "mehadrin" service.

PS The captcha below this post says "boyel." I wonder what the tznius patrol would think of that. :)

Gil Student said...

It's a machkokes acharonim whether there's a mitzvah to send away the bird if you don't want the egg:

BrooklynWolf said...

R. Student,

Thanks for the response and the info. But even according to that opinion, the situation being described here is artificial and contrived.


Thanks for the correction. :)

The Wolf

G*3 said...

> yeshuous (salivations)

You mean salvations, of course, but I think that salivations may actually more accurately capture the spirit of the thing . :)

Abba's Rantings said...

a few years ago a neighbor told me he just did shiluach haken (come on, as a baal kore you should know better ;) ) and i asked him what he was going to do with the eggs. he looked at me strangely and asked if i wanted to to it as well. he also went to all the jewish neighbors in the building to ask if they wanted to do it as well. i didn't understand the point doing it over and over.

Sara said...

Even if the mitzvah is applicable if you don't want the egg, it;s only if you come across the bird, rather than if it's been prepared for you. It's a rashi on the pasuk (פרט למזומן)

Woodrow/Conservadox said...

An old Christian saying from the Middle Ages seems on point:

"When the coin in the coffer rings,
the soul from purgatory springs!"

Anonymous said...

The reason that the Rabbi is needed for the mitzva is because with experience, he knows where to find likely spots where birds will make a nest and lay the eggs. I did some research on the subject because-twice-birds made a nest on my porch and laid eggs. There was the issue of a nest in a private property. There was (perhaps still is) a phone # in the Yated where somone who is well versed in the details of the mitzva could advise you as to how to proceed.

Balansen said...

I suspect that my local rabbi would compare this contrived, artificial act, devoid as it from any thought or regard for the spirit of the mitzvah, to putting coins in the cosmic slot machine hoping to hit the jackpot.

At least we can take solace in the fact that only of the little paper phone stubs was taken.

On a side note, does the Wolf screen the posts or is everyone here just very civil? It's quite refreshing.

BrooklynWolf said...

I do not screen comments and I very rarely do any "active" moderation.

It just seems that people behave here -- and I'm certainly not complaining. Yes, we've had our share of troublemakers, but, on the whole, I'm happy that I have commentators who are civil.

The Wolf

Coco said...

"nominal fee". I believe the Catholics have a word for this. "Indulgences"

ItcheSrulik said...

Coco: Nah, we have indulgences too. They're called "pidyon" not to be confused with bogus Shiluach haKen, which is called "pigeon." The latter is entirely our own nonsense.

aaron from L.A. said...

for $5,I will show you a dog you can give unkosher meat to...after all,the torah says you shall give it to a dog...(and for an extra $3,I'll show you a place you can get the unkosher meat to give to the dog)

Anonymous said...

I am no expert on brain function of birds or anything else, but "destroying a bird family" seems to me like nothing more than anthropomorphism. The expression "bird brain" has a source. I doubt that a mother bird will notice if an egg (/chick) or two (or all) is missing when she returns to the nest. Birds operate on instinct, not based on family values. If this mitzvah offends anyone's sensibilities, I suggest it may have more to do with how the person perceives animals than with any reality.

I admit there may be some smarter than average bird species, e.g. parrots, that would notice. But are there any kosher bird species known for having intelligence? I am not aware of any.

P.S. I am not coming at this from the angle that "no mitzvah in the Torah could involve 'cruelty' of any kind". Certainly some mitzvos do (e.g. the mitzvah to war with any Canaanite that did not leave Eretz Canaan). But chazal tell us that the purpose of shiluach hakan is to avoid cruelty. Chazal do not say this about all mitzvos, and where they do say it I choose to believe it.

Sorry Wolf for the tangential.

Noam said...

האומר על קן צפור יגיעו רחמיך ועל טוב יזכר שמך מודים מודים משתקין אותו

There is something unhalchic about pitying the mother. Even if one does not agree with the feeling. Halacha does not vary upon one's person feelings.

OK having said that, this sheet is is posted by a teen looking to make some moolah. I know the kid, nice guy, dads a bit tight in the finacial department. Kid thinks he is doing it l'shem shomayim and making a couple of bucks in the process.

Anonymous said...

Chok doesn't mean there is no reason. It doesn't even necessarily mean we don't know the reason.