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The Mother Bird

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JewishTreats.org

There are many mitzvot in the Torah for which there are no given explanations. These mitzvot are known as chukim. For instance, there is a prohibition against wearing wool and linen together in the same garment. Among these chukim is one known as shiluach ha’kayn, sending away the mother bird: If one comes upon a roosting mother bird, one must send the mother bird away before gathering the eggs or the young chicks.

It has been suggested that this act is meant to teach humans about mercy. However, any proposed reason for this mitzvah, or any mitzvah in fact, is mere speculation.

Unlike many other mitzvot, the Torah even mentions a reward for shiluach ha’kayn: “that it may be well with you, and that you may prolong your days” (Deuteronomy 22:7).

Most people today do not eat the eggs of wild birds and might assume that this mitzvah has no relevance to them. While most rabbis agree that one who has no use for the eggs is under no obligation to fulfill the mitzvah, it is assumed that doing so merely for the sake of the mitzvah itself is commendable. Don’t worry, to fulfill the mitzvah one does not have to actually use the eggs or eat the baby birds. Rather, one may simply pick up the eggs (delicately, preferably with an instrument), which under halacha is a form of acquisition.

Here are some important facts to know about the mitzvah: The bird must be a kosher, non-domestic species (dove, pigeon), roosting on eggs or newly hatched chicks and female (who generally roost in the evening and night). While some opinions assert that one must physically pick the bird up and send it away, most agree that the mitzvah is fulfilled by merely scaring the bird away from her nest.

Copyright © 2011 National Jewish Outreach Program. All rights reserved.

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