For the week ending 5 November 2022 / 11 Cheshvan 5783

Perek Shira: The Song of the Swallow

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by Rabbi Shmuel Kraines

The swallow says: “[You transformed my mourning into joyous dancing,] so that my soul shall sing to You and not be silent. Hashem, my G-d, forever I will thank You!”

Swallows have slender, streamlined bodies and long pointed wings, making them superb flyers. They possess extraordinary endurance, which allows them to spend most of their time in the air. Quick and nimble, they hunt tiny insects in mid-flight. They fly with grace and sing with sweetness, constantly, without pause. Thus, they express the message of the verse, “So that my soul shall sing to You and not be silent…” As it migrates southward and northward every year, the swallow calls out to all mankind: “Sing to Hashem while you live, thank Him while you have the ability to do so.”

Just as the swallow’s very nature is to dance and sing, the nature of every soul is to dance and sing to its Creator, as long as it resides within a body. It is therefore our obligation to do so, and it is certainly incumbent upon us to avoid using our Divinely granted ability of speech for destructive purposes instead.

A metzora is a person who has been rendered contaminated with tzaraas, usually because of lashon hara. As part of his purification process, he requires two chirping birds, and the Gemara says that swallows are suitable for this. Chirping birds teach the penitent metzora an important lesson: the uncontrolled chirp-like chatter of his mouth that caused him stumble upon the evils of lashon hara. However, the solution is not to simply remain silent. Man was granted the ability and the desire to speak so that he may actually do so, but only for good purposes. He may choose to study Torah, which our Sages teach is a remedy for lashon hara. He may also use it as a tool of encouragement, a builder of society — and a source of perpetual song to the Creator.

  • Sources: Beis Elokim, Yaavetz, Knaf Raananim, Lechem Rav, Mesores Ha’of, Wikipedia

*In loving memory of Harav Zeev Shlomo ben Zecharia Leib

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