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Learning to Fly

By: Mrs. Neima Novetsky

Parashat Ha'azinu abounds in poetic language, including several beautiful images of Hashem caring for Am Yisrael.  Perhaps the most well-known of these is the comparison of Hashem to an eagle waking up her nest, hovering over her young and spreading her wings to carry them on her pinions.  The metaphor contains a lovely mixture of majestic strength and gentle caring, presenting Hashem as both king and parent.  What, though, is the specific message that the image is meant to convey?

The first half of the verse describes the eagle waking her nestlings.  Rashi suggests that the text emphasizes how she gently awakens the babies, hovering over them, rather than coming upon them suddenly.  So, too, Hashem relates to AmYisrael.  He recognizes that it takes time to forge a relationship; sometimes coming on too strongly can scare someone away.  A soft continuous show of love, though, will tie one to another. The Or HaChayyim, instead, sees in this is a message about teshuvah.  Hashem tries not to punish immediately, but rather to awaken a person to his/her mistakes so they can rectify them. Gentle prodding can sometimes go a lot further than punitive actions

The second half of the image portrays the eagle carrying its young on its wings.  Rashi points out that the eagle is singular in this; other birds carry their young between their legs, afraid lest they be attacked by the eagle from above.  The eagle, though, has no other bird to fear, just the arrows from below.  Thus it carries its young on top of its wings, saying: "Let the arrow enter me, not my children."  So, too, Hashem protects Am Yisrael, ensuring that they need not fear enemies be they on top or below.

Nechama Leibowitz brings another explanation, suggesting that this part of the verse speaks of the eagle teaching her young to fly. The mother takes the fledgling bird onto her wings, and then throws her into the air and catches her, eventually letting go totally so she can fly on her own.  This is a beautiful lesson in maturation.  A baby cannot be carried forever; at some point it needs to learn be independent, to spread its wings and fly.  To do that might entail taking a literal leap of faith.  But a mother helps instill that faith through being there when needed as the baby grows; teaching the child that it always has someone to turn to for help.  With that basis the young is ready to move forward. 

The analogy is an apt one for Bnei Yisrael as they begin to prepare to enter Israel.  During the wilderness period Hashem cared for the nation through overt miracles, teaching them to rely on Him, and thus preparing them for a life of independence in Israel.  It is perhaps not coincidental that we read Ha'azinu on the Shabbat before Sukkot, a holiday in which we both recall Hashem's care for us in the desert and celebrate our ability to thrive on our own in the land as we reap our harvests.

May we always merit the protection of Hashem's wings and learn to fly with His guidance!

Shabbat shalom!










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