You shall surely send away the mother and take the young for yourself, so that it will be good for you and will prolong your days. (Devarim 22:7)
The mitzvah of shiluach hakan is a mitzvah that many people find difficult to understand and therefore simply accept it as a chok – a commandment that does not seem to have a logical explanation. The Koshnitzer magid offers an explanation through drush, which is inspirational at this time of year.
As children grow up, they tend to have a tug-of-war with their parents, reaching out to have their own sovereignty and independence. (though they would still like all the amenities of being a child who is doted on by their parents.) Success in raising children is when we see that they are able to sustain themselves in the world on their own, without being “babied” at all. In the classroom, we also have this kind of a dynamic. Sometimes a student needs a shadow, a tutor or parental help. When that student is able to function on his own, those mentors feel fulfilled.
There is a story told about a 6-year-old boy who had not spoken a word since his birth. His parents went from doctor to doctor to find the cause of this muteness, but unfortunately, none of the professionals were able to find the cause. The parents were adamant that their child was normal and decided to send him to school with regular children who were able to speak. The morning of the first day of school, the household was abuzz as everyone was preparing to bring the boy to school. Unfortunately, the mother became distracted from her breakfast preparations and the toast that she prepared for her son burned. He sat looking at the toast, but would not take a bite. The mother asked “tzadikl, why aren’t you eating the toast? What is the matter?” he looked his mother in the eye and said, “I DON’T EAT BURNT TOAST!” The mother’s jaw dropped as she not only heard a word, but a complete sentence from her son. She scooped him up, gave him a big kiss and asked “If you can talk so nicely, why didn’t you talk until now?” To this the boy replied, “Until now, you didn’t burn the toast, so there was no need for me to express myself.”
This is an example that coddling a child, at a certain point, becomes counter-productive to the child’s growth. Yet we recognize that it was by being in the mother’s surroundings, which gave the child the ability to express himself in words. The love and devotion was successfully transmitted, but we must move on to the next level.
The metaphor of the child learning to eat the toast (even when burnt), but he should also learn to prepare it himself—even without being taught.
The magid says, we are generally considered “bonim lmakom” children to Hashem. However, in that relationship, the assumed pose of Hashem is father-like, giving us what we deserve. Sometimes we are so weak in our observance that Hashem treats us, so to speak, as a mother: offering compassion without reason; overflowing with love. This is the metaphor of this week’s parsha. You shall surely send away the mother: Our job at this time of year is to fend for ourselves, not to have to rely on the mother bird “spoon-feeding” us. We must get rid of our crutches and become self-sufficient. We should free ourselves from those vices which help sustain us and be able, through our own love of Hashem, return to our inborn strengths and grow on our own. The idea of teshuva is to stop and take stock of who we really are and the power that we possess to succeed.
In this season, may we merit to be an “adult” and not need to be coddled as a small child.