For the week ending 12 November 2022 / 18 Cheshvan 5783

Perek Shira: The Song of the Turtledove

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by Rabbi Shmuel Kraines

The turtledove says: “Comfort, comfort My nation,” says your G-d (Yeshayahu 40:1).

Turtledove pairs are firmly bound to each other. If one dies, the other will mourn it forever and not seek another mate.

Similarly, since the Jewish people were sent away from their mate, Hashem, they mourn inconsolably, refusing to join other nations and religions. Hashem treats us the same way. He says to the prophets, “Comfort, comfort My nation.” Comfort the Jewish people, telling them that they are still “My nation,” and that I will yet return to them. Hashem repeats the word “comfort,” urging the prophets to comfort His exiled people. In the subsequent verses He tells them to describe the great magnitude of the future redemption so that the Jewish people can feel solace already now.

Therefore, with its soothing coo the turtledove sings that our relationship with Hashem is inseverable, that our exile is temporary and that He will yet return to us.

*Notes: In our elucidation of this song, we have translated “retzifi” as “turtledove” based on Rabbeinu Chananel’s commentary to Shabbat 81a in which he identifies it as a species of turtledove (cited in Perek B’Shir, by Rav Chaim Kanievsky). In all likelihood this refers to the laughing turtledove, which is common in Eretz Yisrael today (see Mesores Ha’of). Although our suggested interpretation of the song applies to all turtledoves, perhaps it is ascribed specifically to the laughing turtledove since its so-called “laughing” coo may be perceived as a soothing consolation, or because this species does not migrate and therefore symbolizes Hashem’s remaining with us throughout the winter-like exile.

  • Sources:Aruch (“yetzifi”/“tzala”); Ramban (Vayikra 1:14); Radak (Yeshayahu 40:1); Perek B’Shir

*In loving memory of Harav Zeev Shlomo ben Zecharia Leib

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