“If, along the road, you chance upon a bird’s nest… and the mother is sitting over the fledglings or on the eggs, do not take the mother together with her young. Send the mother off and take only the young, in order that you may fare well and have a long life.” (Deuteronomy 22:7)
כִּי יִקָּרֵא קַן צִפּוֹר לְפָנֶיךָ בַּדֶּרֶךְ… וְהָאֵם רֹבֶצֶת עַל הָאֶפְרֹחִים אוֹ עַל הַבֵּיצִים לֹא תִקַּח הָאֵם עַל הַבָּנִים. שַׁלֵּחַ תְּשַׁלַּח אֶת הָאֵם וְאֶת הַבָּנִים תִּקַּח לָךְ לְמַעַן יִיטַב לָךְ וְהַאֲרַכְתָּ יָמִים.
Chassidic thought learned something fundamental about our psychology and how to rectify our egos from this mitzvah that seems so detached from our modern lives. These verses actually contain two mitzvot. First, there is the prohibitive commandment, not to capture the mother bird and her offspring together. But together with the prohibition, there is a prescriptive mitzvah, to send away the mother bird before taking the eggs or the chicks.
Mother and Child, Cause and Effect
In Kabbalah, the mother symbolizes a cause—just as a mother is the cause [the reason behind] her children’s birth. By extension, the mother’s offspring symbolize the effects that result from the cause. Our actions have reasons or causes behind them.
Often, when we are unsure about which path to take in life, we search for some sort of “sign,” some sort of indirect revelation of Divine Providence. If we encounter one, the “sign” acts as a cause, or a motivation, helping us choose a particular path. To our understanding, this “sign” was sent to us from above to steer us in the right direction.
For example, a person is unsure where to live. He cannot decide where he might be a better influence on his surroundings and where his mission in life would best be fulfilled. There are pros and cons for each choice. But then suddenly, he lands a good job in one of the places. This serves as an external cause, shifting the balance of the options. If the person decides to, he can now prefer one option to the others, with the “sign” of a good job directing his choice. This is a helpful way to choose.
A Dynamic, Living Relationship
However, once the “sign” has appeared and helped you decide, you need to let go of it. Don’t continue holding on to it, because attachment to this “sign” may eventually cause you to lose sight of the fact that it is God who runs the world and recreated it anew at every moment. The essence of having a relationship with the Creator is to feel that this relationship is renewed at every moment. Once the decision has been made, it is time to “Send the mother away,” to let go of the cause and to realign ourselves with the feeling that it is God that gives us the power to succeed. Thus, we send the “sign” away and, “the children, take for yourself.” From here on out, we focus on the task at hand, on fulfilling our life’s mission, knowing that it all depends on our daily, live relationship with God.
Photo by Geoff Brooks on Unsplash