Parashat Shmini

Parashat Shmini contains a significant section on the laws of kashrut, including the statement that וְאֵת֙ הַחֲסִידָ֔ה הָאֲנָפָ֖ה לְמִינָ֑הּ (Leviticus 11:19), the hasidah, stork is among those birds considered prohibited. Rav Yehuda, the great Talmudic sage (Chulin 63a) explains why by teaching: she’osah hasidut im chaveiroteha, the stork performs chasidut, charity, to its fellow birds. The Torah is always intentional with words and therefore, Rashi explains that the bird is called hasidah, charitable, because it shares its food with other storks. One might wonder why such a kind and generous bird is considered unclean and therefore, not kosher? 

The great 19th century Polish hasid known as the Kotzker Rebbe supplied the answer. He teaches that the hasidah shows such kindness only to its kind. 

In other words, by nature, the stork feeds fellow storks and ensures they have adequate food, but the stork does not extend such kindness to other birds. 

Looking at images and hearing stories from Przemysl, Poland is inspiring: strangers feeding, fostering and sheltering families, particularly children; taxi drivers offering free rides; parents leaving strollers at the train station. The Polish people are unconsciously channeling the message of their Polish-Jewish ancestor, that reminded us that the Torah believes hesed does not stop at the borders of own’s one people.  

As we reach the final stretch to Pesach, we are reminded of the Seder’s opening invitation that kol dichfin yaytay v’yechol, let all who are hungry come and eat. May Jews everywhere sit at their Seder in peace and freedom, welcoming all who are in need. 

Shabbat Shalom