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For the week ending 24 December 2022 / 30 Kislev 5783

Perek Shira: The Song of the Chasil Locust

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by Rabbi Shmuel Kraines

The Chasil Locust says:“Hashem, You are my G-d, I will exalt and thank You, for You have performed wonders,faithfully fulfilling prophecies of long ago.” (Yeshayah 21:1)

A large swarm of locusts can consist of billions of locusts spread out over an area of thousands of square kilometers. The Chasil species is the most damaging of all locusts, destroying crops entirely. Therefore; its name is “Chasil,” which is related to the Hebrew word for “annihilation.”

They sing how Hashem should be exalted and thanked for fulfilling the wonders He promised the prophets to the very last detail. He did so when He saved us from the Egyptians through the plague of Chasil locusts, and He will likewise redeem us in the future. In the same way that unnoticed locusts can proliferate into billions at a designated time, so too Hashem’s salvation will one day quickly fill a horizon previously empty of hope.

Some maintain that the Chasil is not a species, but rather the wingless nymph phase of any locust. This would explain why Hashem had to bring them into Egypt with a wind.

Hashem sends locusts to fulfill His will in other ways as well. The Talmud teaches that on account of the sin of theft, locusts proliferate and crops are destroyed. Theft in itself is a relatively small crime, but if committed repeatedly within a whole society, it corrupts the social order entirely. It is therefore fitting that theft is punished by insects that are individually insignificant, but which altogether devastate a country. A further reason may be that although locusts swarm in large groups, they function individually, with no leader to guide them. They are thus fitting to punish a society of thieves that steal individually. In this way, even the damaging elements of the universe contribute to its Divine song.

  • Sources: Yerushalmi 3:6; Li Lishua; Perek B’Shir; Otzar Lashon HaMikra; Shabbos 32b;Mishlei 30:26; Otzar Lashon HaMikra; Rashi; see also Re’em.

*In loving memory of Harav Zeev Shlomo ben Zecharia Leib

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