This week’s parasha discusses the laws of שילוח הקן, one who comes across a bird’s nest and is required by the Torah to send away the mother bird and keep the eggs or chicks. The Torah promises that one who performs this mitzvah will have long life. The Gemara, however, offers us a different perspective on this reward of long life. The Gemara (Chullin 142a) records an incident where a man sent his son to perform the mitzvah of sending the mother bird away, and upon completing the mitzvah, the boy died. The Gemara wonders how, according to the Torah, this boy received a reward for long life? The question is two-fold, as the mitzvah of honoring one’s parents also warrants that one receive long life. In this incident, the boy was deserving of a long life for performing two mitzvos, and yet he was cut off in his prime. The Gemara therefore posits that the reward refers to long life in the next world.
This is all fine, but there is a difficulty to this resolution from the Mishna (Peah 1:1) that states clearly that one who honors his parents will eat from the fruits of the mitzvah in this world and will retain the principle reward in the World to Come. Given this statement, it would seem that the boy should have at least been allowed to live out his life in this world. How, then, was his life cut short despite the performance of mitzvos that ensure one a reward of long life?
To answer this question it is worth referring back to the end of last week’s parasha, Shoftim, where the Torah discusses the laws of עגלה ערופה. The Torah states that if a man is found dead between two cities and it is not known who killed him, then the elders of the city closest to the corpse must bring a calf and kill it in an uncultivated patch of land. The Medrash states that the reason for this is because the murdered individual was not given the chance to bear fruit, so his death is to be atoned for by a calf that did not bear offspring, on a patch of land that did not bear fruit. This Medrash is difficult to understand, as perhaps the murdered man had children, grandchildren and great grandchildren, and he just happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time. The Sifsei Chachamim explains that we are not referring here to biological children. Rather, we are referring to the opportunity to perform mitzvos which the murdered person can no longer do. Similarly, we can explain the Mishna in Peah as referring to one who is rewarded for the mitzvah of honoring one’s parents by being given the opportunity to perform more mitzvos.
With this understanding we can now gain a better insight into why the Gemara in Chullin states that the boy whose life was cut short after performing the two mitzvos of sending the mother away and honoring his father did not receive long life in this world. Long life is truly in the next world, but the boy was at least able to enjoy the fruits of his labor, which was the fact that he merited performing the mitzvos while he was still alive.
HaShem should grant us the opportunity to perform mitzvos and receive the reward of performing more mitzvos in our lifetime. HaShem should grant us long life and long days that we will utilize to study His Torah and perform His holy mitzvos.
Have a REWARDING and FRUITFUL Shabbos!
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Have a wonderful Shabbos!
Prepared by Rabbi Binyomin Adler
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