Leann Shamash
Author of the blog Words Have Wings
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The mother bird

How do we act when we are given tiny moments by ourselves, with no human witness to our conduct? (Ki Teitzei)
The mother bird and her young. (Leann Shamash)

Parshat Ki Teitzei is a parsha that needs to be studied; turned over and over again for its riches. It is the Torah that reaches us on a personal level. How do we show compassion? How do we show fairness, both when others are watching, and also at times when no one’s gaze is upon us? This is the Torah of everyday.

Torah Shel Chesed. The Torah of kindness. I write here about one passage from Ki Teitzei, but this passage is emblematic of many more. How do we act when we are given tiny moments by ourselves, with only a bird and her eggs as our witnesses?

“If, along the road, you chance upon a bird’s nest, in any tree or on the ground, with fledglings or eggs and the mother sitting over the fledglings or on the eggs, do not take the mother together with her young.” (Deuteronomy 22:6)



The mother bird

builds her nest.



Straw speedily swept up.

In her small beak a dried leaf,

a bit of mud,

feathers added for softness.

She is a sculptor,

a builder of homes,

offering shelter for her children.

She builds not from love,

but from intuition,

ancient and deep.

She builds to protect her young


if a mother bird can hope,

that one day they will leave the nest

and fly,

fly away.


A man walks upon a dusty road.

Hair, the color of moonlight,

sways with his stride.

It is morning

and the wind sings

a quiet song.

The village is yet far

and the sun hot.

The man pauses to drink

for a moment

under the branches

of a spreading tree,

seeking shelter from the sun.

The man hears a call of warning,

the piercing call of a bird.


The man looks up.

Through the leaves he sees the nest.

The mother bird looks down upon him,

scolding, warning

and he begins to climb.

He is tall,

his long limbs reaching

steadily upward.

He is thinking

eggs for his family,

tasty and fresh.


The man climbs higher.


The mother bird squeals

She ruffles her feathers.

She tries to puff herself up

to look larger.

She presses a little harder

on the eggs beneath her.

She is fierce.


What more can the mother bird do?

She is small and but a bird.

Her children are vulnerable

Her small body shelters them from harm.


The man climbs higher,

his hair covered now with dust and twigs.


He reaches the nest

The mother bird has stopped her call.

The man’s and the bird’s eyes meet.


All is still except for a slight breeze.

Perhaps it is a bat kol?


This is Torah

in a tree

one warm, sunny morning.

The powerless and the powerful

meet on a branch.

The hand that can take,

and the mother bird who protects her young.


The breeze blows

It runs through the hair of the man

and the feathers of the bird.


The man extends his hand.


And here the story ends

as he and the mother bird meet each other’s eyes.


Torah is about words,

but it is more about what we do,

how we act

while standing on the branch of a tree

one quiet and sunny morning.


All the rest is commentary

About the Author
After a career in Jewish education, Leann Shamash is the author of the blog Words Have Wings, which addresses the parsha of the week through poetry.
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