There are numerous mitzvos in the Torah that seem difficult for the human mind to comprehend and understand why we do them. They are beyond our comprehension. We do Mitzvos because G-d commanded us in the Torah – not because they make sense to us or do not make sense to us.
One of the more uncommon mitzvos is that of sending away the mother bird – mentioned at the end of the 2nd aliya. What is the Mitzva and how is it done? The Torah states, “When it will happen before you a nest of birds, on the way, on any tree or on the ground, chicks or eggs and the mother is laying over the chicks or over the eggs, do not take the mother over the offspring. You shall surely send away the mother and the offspring take for yourself, in order that it shall be good for you and you will have length of days.”
All the laws of sending away the mother bird we learn from these verses. “When it will happen before you . . .” – a person cannot prepare the nest and eggs/chicks for this mitzva. A person must stumble into the mitzva. One just happens to find oneself in the position to perform the mitzva.
“On the way, on any tree or on the ground . . .” – all of these are public areas. This Mitzva is only done if the nest is not on private property.
“The mother is laying over the chicks or the eggs . . .” – the mother must be on the eggs/chicks or hovering over them. “Take the offspring for yourself . . .” – the birds must be from a kosher species.
It must be a kosher bird. The Torah does not give signs for kosher birds. It lists 24 species of non-kosher birds. All other birds are kosher. However, the Talmud lists four signs of kosher birds. 1) it has an elongated toe 3) it is not a bird of prey 3) it has a crop 4) it has a gizzard that is easily peeled. If one can look at the bird and ascertain that it is a kosher bird, then one can do the mitzva. Also, it must be the mother bird – not the father bird – on the eggs/chicks.
This mitzva and the mitzva of honoring parents are the only two mitzvos that the Torah promises, “in order that it will be good for you and you will have long life.” The Talmud explains that sending away the mother bird is an easy mitzva. Honoring parents is a difficult mitzva. The reward for an easy mitzva is the same as that of a difficult mitzva. We should not overlook a mitzva just because it seems too easy or insignificant. Every mitzva has deep meaning and importance.
Rosh Hashana is quickly approaching. We all have ways that we can improve. The mitzva of sending away the mother bird teaches us that we don’t have to look for great challenges to overcome. We can try to improve what we consider “little things.” Every improvement is movement in the right direction and a benefit for mankind.