In this week’s parsha Moshe reminds the Bnai Yisroel of Hashem’s loving care for them whilst they were in the midbar. He says: “K’nesher ya’ir kino al gozlav yerachef, yifros k’naphav yikachaihu yisa’aihu al evraso.” -As an eagle stirs up its nest and flutters over its young, it spreads out its wings, takes them, and bears them on its pinions (Devarim, 32:11). Rashi, quoting chazal, explains that an eagle carries its young in flight in a manner different than any other bird. While other birds carry their young in their talons, the eagle puts his young on his wings, because he knows there is no bird of prey which flies higher than him posing a threat to his eaglets from above. It is only the arrows from hunters below that remain a threat. The eagle therefore places his young on top of his wings as if to say “Better the arrows pierce me rather than my children.” Similarly, Hashem at Yam Suf put Himself between the Egyptian army and the Yidden in the form of a protective cloud, and intercepted all arrows and boulders aimed at His beloved children. The question however is, what exactly is so special about the care eagles show their young more than all other birds that Moshe chooses them as a mashal to Hashem’s protection? The fact is that all other birds also use the same loving parental protective measures as does the eagle. When they carry their fledglings in their talons they are also doing this to protect them from the birds of prey that fly above, and just like the eagle are using their own bodies as shields from potential high flying predators.
Perhaps we can suggest the following explanation. Yes, all birds are doing their best to lovingly protect their young. However, there is one fundamental difference between them and the eagle. With all other birds not only do they carry their beloved kinderlach in their talons, they carry everything else that same way. That is their natural way of transporting large objects. Therefore, when they carry their young, that premeditated act of love and care is just not noticeable. And no-one in the world, including the children that are being carried can appreciate the protective measures that these parent birds are willingly taking. The eagle, however, carries nothing but his kinderlach on his wings. For everything else he uses his talons. Therefore, every time the young hop onto a parent’s wings before a trip, they automatically feel special and they know with certainty that someone out there really loves and cares for them. And that makes it easier for them to return that love. It is that recognizable love that Moshe is trying to capture when comparing Hashem to the eagle. He is saying not only did He protect us by Yam Suf, but He did so in ways that were obvious. And that enabled us to express feelings of love and appreciation in return (Az Yashir…).
We are a nation of ba’alay chessed. Of course there are times that chessed must be done anonymously. But more often than not it is important to let it be known that you have done someone else a kindness/favor. Rav tells us (Shabbos 10b) one who gives someone a gift must notify the recipient that he is the benefactor. Putting a name and a face to an act of chessed increases friendship, strengthens bonds, and allows the recipient to show his/her hakaras hatov.
My wife once got a ride with a couple from Brooklyn to Lakewood. On the way, they stopped to pick up another male passenger. As this new passenger got into the car the wife said to him, “My husband would tell you that he was passing by your house anyway but I want you to know that we willingly drove out of our way to pick you up.” Sounds at first like a nasty thing to tell someone, but think about it and you will realize that the opposite is true. By notifying someone of a chessed you have done for them, one which took time (money) and effort, you are letting them know that someone really cares about them. And that will increase ahava and achva amongst Bnai Yisroel.
Have a great Shabbos.
Rabbi Nosson Greenberg is rov of Khal Machzikei Torah of Far Rockaway, N.Y., and maggid shiur at Yeshiva of Far Rockaway.