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The Weekly eDrash

Gain new understanding from the ancient writings! Learn messianic insight from the Torah every week through the Weekly eDrash.

Extended details on this Torah Portion: Ki Tetze »

The Least of the Commandments

Tags: commandments, compassion, emotional pain, empathy, kindness, mercy, neighbor

Thought for the Week:

A righteous man has regard for the life of his animal, but even the compassion of the wicked is cruel. (Proverbs 12:10)

Commentary:

You shall certainly let the mother go, but the young you may take for yourself, in order that it may be well with you and that you may prolong your days. (Deuteronomy 22:6-7)

"Don't make mountains out of molehills" means don't turn a trivial matter into a large concern. Yeshua seems to espouse a similar sentiment when He chastises the religious for scrupulously observing the small details of God's Law while ignoring the "weightier provisions of the Torah" (Matthew 23:23). Nevertheless, Yeshua taught His disciples to keep even the smallest of the Torah's commandments. He said, "Whoever then annuls one of the least of these commandments, and teaches others to do the same, shall be called least in the kingdom of heaven" (Matthew 5:19).

Have you ever wondered what the "least of these commandments" is? According to the Talmud, one of the least of the commandments is Deuteronomy 22:6-7's admonition to drive away a wild bird from her nest before taking her young:

If you happen to come upon a bird's nest along the way, in any tree or on the ground, with young ones or eggs, and the mother sitting on the young or on the eggs, you shall not take the mother with the young; you shall certainly let the mother go, but the young you may take for yourself, in order that it may be well with you and that you may prolong your days. (Deuteronomy 22:6-7)

The Talmud points out that, although the commandment of driving away the mother bird is the least of the commandments, it carries the same reward as the weighty commandment of honoring one's father and mother:

Honor your father and your mother, as the LORD your God has commanded you, that your days may be prolonged and that it may go well with you on the land which the LORD your God gives you. (Deuteronomy 5:16)

In his famous work The Guide to the Perplexed, Maimonides (Rambam) explains that the commandment to drive the wild mother bird away before taking the young from the nest is an act of mercy. It would pain the mother bird to see her offspring taken. By driving her away before taking her young, we reduce her suffering. If God so cares for the emotional pain of a simple bird, how much more so should we show compassion to all of his creatures, especially our fellow man.

If Maimonides is correct, the law of driving away the wild bird is a commandment to show mercy and kindness to all God's creatures, to exercise compassion and empathy and to do our best to alleviate the suffering and emotional pain of others.

In that case, it's not a small commandment at all. Instead, it belongs to a category of laws that Yeshua called the "weightier provisions of the Torah" (Matthew 23:23).

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Torah Portions from previous weeks

Parasha: Shoftim

King of the Jews

Tags: king, king of Israel, rule of law, word made flesh

You shall surely set a king over you whom the LORD your God chooses, one from among your countrymen you shall set as king over yourselves; you may not put a foreigner over yourselves who is not your countryman. (Deuteronomy 17:15) The title Messiah (Christ) is an ancient Hebrew title for the King of Israel. The Torah commands Israel to set a king over them from among their countrymen--in other...
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Parasha: Re'eh

Invitation to God’s House

Tags: gifts, holy house, house of God, invitation, Jerusalem, Messiah, Presence, presence of God, Temple, temple

In Deuteronomy 12, Jerusalem is described as “the place which the LORD your God will choose.” It is the place of God’s Name. Deuteronomy 12 is an invitation to God’s house in Jerusalem. God invites His people to come to Jerusalem to seek Him there. Anyone seeking God in prayer or desiring to draw near to His presence was invited to His house in the holy city. “My house will...
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Parasha: Ekev

Forty Years of Preparation

Tags: daily bread, hardships, kingdom of God, Promised Land, provision, sustenance, trials, wilderness

Thus you are to know in your heart that the LORD your God was disciplining you just as a man disciplines his son. (Deuteronomy 8:5) Before God can entrust us with great things, we must prove faithful with the little things. Yeshua says, "He who is faithful in a very little thing is faithful also in much; and he who is unrighteous in a very little thing is unrighteous also...
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Parasha: Va'etchanan

He Who Seeks Finds

Tags: encouragement, Land of Israel, repentance, search, seek, spiritual hunger, spiritual thirst, yearning

But from there you will seek the LORD your God, and you will find Him if you search for Him with all your heart and all your soul. (Deuteronomy 4:29) Moses warned the children of Israel that if they strayed from the Torah and worshipped idols, God would exile them from the land of Israel and scatter them among the nations. Nevertheless, He would not abandon them. Moses says that...
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Parasha: Devarim

These are the Words

The book of Deuteronomy begins saying, "These are the words which Moses spoke to all Israel..." (Deuteronomy 1:1) The Hebrew for "words" is devarim (דברים), hence the traditional Hebrew name of the book. The words of Deuteronomy are, in many ways, simply Moses' recapitulation of the Torah, hence the common name Deuteronomy, which derives from the Greek words for repetition of the law. A famous rebbe once stated that the...
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Parasha: Massei

The Land of Israel

Tags: Land of Israel, presence of God

Numbers 34 sketches out the borders for the land of Israel, which Joshua was to distribute among the nine and a half tribes that remained to be settled. The tribes of Reuben and Gad and half the tribe of Manasseh had already made claim to territories east of the Jordan. The Levites were not to receive tribal territory. Joshua and Eleazar were to cast lots to parcel out the land...
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