he would remain hungry

Friday, 1 April, 2016 - 7:46 am


Dear Friends,


Have you ever heard of the “Shalach”? If you have learned Chumash with Rashi this week, you not only have read about it, but you even know what the Shalach is and what its characteristics are. So – in the list of non-kosher birds in this week’s Parasha, there is a bird called “Shalach”. It is a bird of prey that operates during the day; it has a long body and a huge wingspan, strong feet with a vise-like grip, and a razor-sharp beak – all meant for catching fish. On a good day he dives into the sea or a lake and comes up with three to six fish.

I think that all its abilities, speed and power wouldn’t be worth a thing if he didn’t have the uncanny ability to see from high above what is happening in the water. Whereas others see just blue water, the sunset and a beautiful shore, the Shalach sees what all this beauty is hiding – a wonderful world of living creatures, all underwater. All he has to do is wait for the right moment, dive quickly and come up with a tasty fish.

The Gemara says in tractate Chullin as follows: “When Rabbi Yochanan would see a Shalach he would say the Passuk from Tehillim, ‘Your judgments are like the vast deep waters.’” Rabbi Yochanan saw in the Shalach a symbol of the law and justice that Hashem upholds in His world, including in its hidden parts – in the depths, known also as “the covered world”. For the Shalach manages to catch its prey only according to an account run by Hashem.

The teachings of Chassidut see in this a proof of Divine Providence (Hashgacha Pratit). The Baal Shem Tov taught that everything – great or small – that happens in the world happens according to personal Divine Providence, down to a leaf being detached from a branch, an apple falling off a tree, or a Shalach that ends the life of some fish or other.

With your permission, though, I will return to the eyes. I think the main thing is the eyes – the ability to see. For, like the Shalach, we too have eyes; we too are able to, if we only wish it – or, better, if we will only agree and allow ourselves to open our eyes – to see that under the surface of the water there is life. If we do so, we will be able to see that nature, fate and physics are like blue water, a shore and a breathtaking sunset. Deep under them there is a whole system of living beings. In other words, even the regular and logical things we experience are part of “Your judgments are like the vast deep waters” – personal Divine Providence of the Creator of the world.

If the Shalach would say to himself, “Oh, nonsense; there’s nothing there – only water,” he would remain hungry…



Shabbat Shalom,


Rabbi Zalmen Wishedski

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