This week’s Torah portion, Shemini, opens with Moses and Aaron standing in front of the Israelite community, receiving instruction from God. Among this instruction is a list—a very LONG list—of all the different flying creatures that are not to be eaten.
Here are the creatures that are on the list:
the eagle, the vulture, and the black vulture, the kite, falcons of every variety, all varieties of raven, the ostrich, the nighthawk, the sea gull, hawks of every variety, the little owl, and the great owl, the white owl, the pelican, the stork, herons of every variety, and the list goes on and on. What a thorough section!
Rabbi Menachem Mendel of Kotsk was a Hasidic rabbi, he lived hundreds of years ago, and he noticed something very interesting about the stork. He looked at the word for “stork”—chasidah, and noted its similarity to the word for kindness—chesed. From this he assumed that the stork, was full of kindness.
Then, he asked a question:
If the stork, who’s name is “chasidah” is therefore obviously kind towards its kin, why is it unkosher? Shouldn’t those who are kind to their kin be kosher?
No sooner did he ask the question about the stork, than he answered it himself—the stork, the chasidah is not kosher because to be kosher, one must be kind not only to one’s kin, but to all. It is imperative to extend kindness not only to one’s own group, but to all species. It’s important to extend kindness to all.
This week, by counting the Omer, we have contemplated the kabbalistic idea of chesed/kindness. How have you been kind to yourself, and to those in your community? At this time, it is even more critical to be so.
I have been inspired by community leaders who make masks, who get groceries for one another, who continue to guarantee income for their employees, who provide rent relief, who continue to work and risk their lives for the sake of those in the community.
I am inspired by their commitment to live Jewish values, and wish them continued success in all their endeavors. May we each be inspired by their ability to make a difference as well—and may each of us be reminded that we have the power to make a difference in our own lives and the world around us.
Keyn yehi Ratzon—may it be God’s will. Amen.