Friday, August 29, 2008

Parshat Ra'eh - All a matter of perception

Parshat Ra'eh, like many of the Parshiot in Sefer D'varim is chock-a-block full of stuff, a lot of Chumash D'varim is a collection of "Greatest hits" from other parts of the Torah.

One of the things repeated in this week's parsha is HaShem's Kosher List - and I wanted to focus on one of the non Kosher Birds listed - the ראה also known as the איה or the דאה.

This bird is mentioned in D'varim 14:13:

: וְהָרָאָה וְאֶת הָאַיָּה וְהַדַּיָּה לְמִינָהּ.

Rashi points out that these are three names for the same bird:

"והראה ואת האיה וגו'" - (חולין סב) היא ראה היא איה היא דיה ולמה נקרא שמה ראה שרואה ביותר ולמה הזהירך בכל שמותיה שלא ליתן פתחון פה לבעל דין לחלוק שלא יהא האוסרה קורא אותה ראה והבא להתיר אומר זו דיה שמה או איה שמה וזו לא אסר הכתוב ובעופות פרט לך הטמאים ללמד שהעופות הטהורים מרובים על הטמאים לפיכך פרט את המועט

My Alacalay dictionary translates ראה as "Vulture" and says that the word can also be spelt

Bible Picture Gallery says that the bird is a Hawk or a Kite (see here or here)

Firstly, it is very surprising (at least to me) that the Resh and Daled seem to be interchangeable, as Vayikra Raba (19:2) points out:

אם אתה עושה דלת - ריש, אתה מחריב את כל העולם כולו

"If you change a Dalet to a Resih, you destroy the entire world"

However in the case of this world both ראה and דאה seem fitting names for the bird - ראה from the verb "to see" designates its incredible eyesight, דאה from the verb "to fly, sore, or glide" is also a good description of this type of bird.

The Gmara describes the bird's eysight in Chulin 63b:
ולמה נקרא שמה ראה שרואה ביותר וכן הוא אומר (איוב כח) נתיב לא ידעו עיט ולא שזפתו עין איה תנא עומדת בבבל ורואה נבלה בארץ ישראל
Why is it called "Ra'ah", because it sees very well, as it is written (Job 28) "No bird of prey knows that hidden path, no vulture's eye has seen it.", we learn that this bird could be positioned in Babylon, and see a corpse in Eretz Yisrael.
The question is, given that we should try to emulate Kosher animals, and avoid the traits of non-kosher animals, why is this bird not kosher? Surely eyesight (and with it perception) is an important trait - shouldn't this bird be the prime example of a kosher animal?

I think that the answer is in what the bird perceives, it sits in Bavel and all that it sees in Eretz Yisrael is a corpse - dead bodies.

I think that unfortunately today we have many people who emulate the Ra'ah, they can sit in their homes in Bavel (or Canada, or the US, or Europe, or anywhere else in the world), and can look at Erezt Yisrael with the help of CNN or BBC or other news cameras. But when they turn on the news to look at Eretz Yisrael, they don't see the miracle of our nation rebuilding its land and language, they don't see thousands of school children happily retuning to school, or world leading technological and medical advances. They don't see the hundreds of thousands of people sitting and learning our Holy Torah, or the beautiful new and rebuilt communities throughout the country - what do they see? a corpse, or even several corpses.

Unfortunately we are effected by this attitude, Rabbi Riskin used to say that Eretz Yisrael is like Israeli Coffee - it's either "Nes" or "Botz", if you don't see the "Nes", the miracle that is Eretz Yisrael and Medinat Yisrael, all that is left if the "Botz", the mud on which our holy land rests.

We should all work on our perception, when הקב"ה gives us a beautiful gift like Eretz Yisrael, we should appreciate it, and not be like the Ra'ah who only sees the dead bodies.

Shabbat Shalom

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