Office of the Chief Rabbi

D’var Torah: Parashat Shemini

In his D’var Torah this week, the Chief Rabbi teaches us about the power of positive thinking.

Treif birds are a symbol of treif conduct.

In this week’s Parasha of Shemini, we are given a list of all of the treif birds. And according to our tradition, these birds are not kosher because they have characteristics, which we as human beings, should never replicate.

Two of the birds are the ‘da’ah’ and the ‘ra’ah’. Now there is a fascinating Gemarah in Mesechet Chulin (63b). There, our Rabbi’s tell us: Hada’ah Omedet B’bavel Veroah Neveilah B’Eretz Yisrael, ‘the kite flies around in the skies of Babylon and from there it can see a Neveilah (a trief animal) lying on the ground in the Land of Israel’.

So, our Sages want us to know from this, that the kite has piercing vision and from afar it can identify its pray and then swoop down in order to take it. But why Babylon and the Land of Israel?

‘We should appreciate the blessings that the Land of Israel has given to our people and to the world’

I believe that there is a powerful message emerging from this Gemarah. Babylon is a symbol of the diaspora. We should not be like the kite. From afar, to look at the Holy Land and to purposefully only search for that which is wrong and then to complain about it. Instead, we should appreciate the blessings that the Land of Israel has given to our people and to the world, through all time, and the enormous blessing that the State of Israel is for us today.

But this is not only a statement about how we relate to the land and to the State of Israel, it is also a statement in general as to how we relate to life.

So often, we don’t appreciate the enormous blessings that surround us and instead you will find some people who are ‘the complainers’. We can rely on them in any circumstances to highlight what they consider to be wrong and to complain about it.

A couple were once celebrating their golden wedding anniversary, it was a wonderful celebration and later that evening, the husband was thinking to himself, ‘my wife, throughout these fifty years, she’s really been magnificent… what can I do for her?’

‘So often, we don’t appreciate the enormous blessings that surround us’

And then a thought crossed his mind, for all those fifty years, she had been on at him to put the cap back on the toothpaste tube and he hardly ever did it! So, he made a resolution. Right, from now onwards, I’m going to return the cap back onto the tube. And that is exactly what he did, day after day, every time after he brushed his teeth. But he got no reaction from his wife.

Two weeks later, she took him aside and she said ‘I’d like to talk to you about something’.

He said, ‘Gosh, what’s the matter?’

She said to him, ‘Why have you stopped brushing your teeth?’

Sometimes, really lovely things are happening right in front of our eyes and we fail to recognise them. Whether it is relating to Israel or life in general, let’s have that Ayin Tov, the ‘good eye’, a positive disposition to recognise and appreciate everything that is good right in front of our eyes.

Shabbat Shalom