by Rabbi Yisrael Kaniel – August 14, 2012
In the Torah section of Re’eh, Moses repeats the various animals and creatures that G-d deems unfit for consumption, known colloquially as not being kosher, which were originally prohibited in the Torah section of Shmini. Amongst these is enumerated the chasidah [the stork] (Devarim 14:18; Vayikra 11:19). With regards to this bird, Rashi notes in Shmini, “Why has its name been designated as ‘kind one’? For it does kindness with its companions with food.”
In Ma’ayana Shel Torah, a comment is cited by the first Gerer Rebbe R. Yitzchak Meir Alter, known as Chidushe HaRim (1799-1866): According to Nachmanides, in his commentary to the Torah, the source of the various birds’ non-kosher status is their tendency to cruelty. Consequently, the Torah prohibits their consumption in order to limit our involvement with such unseemly characteristics. However, if the stork shows kindness, why then is it among those birds that are not kosher?
In response to the above question, the Gerer Rebbe explains that the problem lies in the fact that the stork only concerns itself with its immediate companions. True kindness, especially when it comes to providing another with sustenance, must not be limited to one’s immediate friends and family – an inappropriate tendency of the stork that deems it non-kosher. One who truly cares, who is truly compassionate and kind, will not distinguish between a friend and a stranger. If another needs help, a kind person will offer it without bias.
A similar point was made in a story that the 20th century Yerushalmi maggid [preacher] R. Sholom Schwadron would often relate: One afternoon, while sitting in his home, a piercing yell was suddenly heard. His wife ran in screaming that a neighbor’s child had fallen and was bleeding terribly from a gash over his eye. R. Sholom sprang into action to help his wife treat the boy’s wound and carried the boy as quickly as he could to the doctor on the main street. As he was rushing up the hill with the bleeding boy, he came upon the boy’s own grandmother. Seeing R. Sholom carrying the child, the lady called out, “There’s nothing to be worried about; G-d will help.” However, as the lady came closer and realized that the boy that R. Sholom was carrying was not one of his but rather her own grandchild, she suddenly lost her composure and began shrieking, struggling to grab her grandson. When the lady first saw the child in distress, thinking him to be someone else’s, she was very calm. When, however, she looked at the child closer and saw him to be her own grandson, she no longer could remain calm (Paysach Krohn, The Maggid Speaks, p. 216).
If we can look at a stranger’s distress as we see that of one close to us, then we truly exhibit kindness. This is the lesson of the stork. This is the lesson of G-d, as imparted through his Torah.