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On Eagles' Wings
By: SFW Students & Alumna
Ariel Barnehama (SFW '09)
“You have seen what I did to Egypt, and how I have borne you on eagles’ wings, and I brought you to Me.” (Shemot 19:4)
Rashi explains that the Torah uses the eagle as a metaphor because all other birds place their young between their feet since they are afraid of another bird that flies above them, but the eagle fears none except man. The eagle fears that man may shoot an arrow at it and therefore, would rather have the arrow pierce him than his child. So too, Hashem protected Bnei Yisrael when taking them out of Egypt. The eagle shows its absolute love by placing its body in front of any danger that could fall upon his children. Similarly, Bnei Yisrael’s protection is crucial to Hashem. The Seforno, however, understands the use of the eagle in a different way altogether. The eagle travels where no other bird travels; its ‘derech’ is entirely different. Similarly, when Hashem took Bnei Yisrael out of Egypt, He, in effect, introduced us to a totally different way of life. Hashem separated Bnei Yisrael from all other nations, made us His children and brought Bnei Yisrael to Har Sinai for Mattan Torah.
The Chatam Sofer asks what is so unique about the eagle that makes it so relevant as a symbol of our people in relation to Matan Torah. When we usually see Bnei Yisrael being compared to a bird, they are compared to a dove. The eagle has all four signs of impurity (tumah) that can be found in a bird. The Chatam Sofer explains that the use of the eagle in reference to Matan Torah is to indicate that even if Am Yisrael behaves in such a manner that reflects impurity, nevertheless Hashem will still bring us towards Him, as an act of chesed.
There are two ways to develop our relationship with Hashem. The ideal relationship is one that we initiate. One in which we daven to Hashem, do His mitzvot and strive for spirituality. However, often people are in a situation that is so terrible and they are so far from Hashem that Hashem can no longer wait for them. It is in these times that Hashem comes to us despite our lack of spirituality. This was the case in Egypt when Hashem redeemed Bnei Yisrael. Bnei Yisrael were not worthy of being redeemed, yet had Hashem waited any longer Bnei Yisrael would have totally assimilated.
The reference to eagles’ wings immediately before Matan Torah acts as a reminder that we were not redeemed as doves, but as eagles, as impure beings, which G-d saved out of the goodness of His heart. It is through studying Hashem’s torah, given to us at Har Sinai, that we can ensure that we never fall into this state again.
Rabbi Levi Yitzchak Miberditchev has a beautiful comment on the idea of Bnei Yisrael being compared to an eagle. “The Jewish people can be compared to an eagle. The feathers of the eagle fall off at the end of each year and are replaced by new feathers, thus the name Nesher from the Hebrew ‘to fall’. Hashem gave the Jewish people the characteristic of the eagle; we have the ability to renew ourselves, to change our ways, to become better. We have the ability to put the past behind us and strive towards the truth.”
May Hashem help us all to learn His Torah, follow in his ways and soar to the heights of eagles.
1: Parshat Shavua