For the week ending 19 November 2022 / 25 Cheshvan 5783

Perek Shira: The Song of the Stork

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by Rabbi Shmuel Kraines

The Stork says: “Speak to the heart of Yerushalayim, and call out to her, [saying] that her measure has been filled. For her sin has been pardoned, for she has taken from Hashem’s hand twofold for all of her sins.” (Yeshayah 40:2).

The stork has the longest wingspan of all birds, reaching up to 3.2 meters, with which it can soar across great distances. The prophet Yirmiyahu castigated his generation for lacking the intuition to follow Hashem’s mitzvahs and avoid danger, contrasting them to the stork, which migrates to escape harsh winter climates. Unlike passerine migratory birds who fly solely by instinct, storks memorize their routes, learning from older storks. Yet, that generation strayed from the path of their parents and became lost. The stork’s migratory route crosses through Eretz Yisrael, and therefore serves as a vivid symbol of this lesson.

The stork returns to the northern hemisphere without fail at the dawn of spring, which symbolizes how we will return after our winter-like exile as well. In this way it comforts us that our “measure has been filled,” that is, the allotted years of our exile will have reached its end and we will be redeemed.

The song continues, “for her sin has been pardoned,” meaning, we may be redeemed earlier if we repent and merit Hashem’s forgiveness. The stork’s virtuous conduct alludes to this eventuality as well. Storks share food with each other, and they are known to be particular regarding the loyalty of their mates. Its very name “chasidah” is related to the word “chessed” — kindness, which the Kabbalists associate with the stork’s white color. “Chasidah” is also related to the words “chassidus” (devoutness) and “chasa” (pity). The stork thus indicates that if we live with virtuously, Hashem will hasten our return.

Conversely, if the Jewish people do not repent, Hashem may choose to hasten the redemption by intensifying the exile, as the stork’s song concludes, “for she has received from Hashem’s hand twofold for all of her sins.”

  • Sources: Based on the following sources: Yirmiyah 8:7 and Malbim; Chullin 63a; Perek B’Shir; Shir HaChaim; Midrash Shocher Tov 104, Mahari Kohen, Aderes Eliyahu (Shemini), and Otzar HaYedios. Wikipedia. See also Sifsei Renanos and Daas Shalom.

*In loving memory of Harav Zeev Shlomo ben Zecharia Leib

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