By Rabbi Mordechai Young
Ah, the good memories of the ice-cream truck coming down the block. Good Humor had four ice-cream bars on a stick, and every once in a while you got the LUCKY stick. So sweet! You won a free ice cream on the spot!
This week’s parashah mentions the mitzvah of shiluach ha’kan, sending away the mother bird before taking the eggs or fledglings from her nest. Next, the Torah teaches the mitzvah of ma’akeh, putting a protective fence on a (flat) roof as a safety measure. Rashi teaches that if you did the mitzvah of sending away the mother bird, you will end up putting up a protective fence. As it states in Pirkei Avos 4:2, “mitzvah goreres mitzvah” — if you do one mitzvah it brings you another mitzvah.
This process continues to the following mitzvah of not mixing seeds in the vineyard, and goes on to other mitzvos it brings along the chain. Hashem is much more generous than Good Humor, as the lucky stick in your ice-cream bar only rewarded you with one more. Here, even the second mitzvah brings another mitzvah. The Da’as Zekeinim says Hashem will give a person a house in order for him to fulfill the mitzvah of ma’akeh. Wow! There are other mitzvos a person can do with his house—put up a mezuzah, host guests, open their house as a gathering place for chachamim. Why did the Torah pick ma’akeh as the mitzvah connected to a house? The Torah says that a “reward” for the one who sends away the mother bird is long life. So the Ba’al HaTurim explains that since a ma’akeh ensures safety, that is why it follows the mitzvah of sending away the mother bird.
The Gur Aryeh explains the connection between the two mitzvos as an establishment of settlement. The mother bird will make another nest. If it wasn’t sent away, it is destructive and viewed as if destroying a species. The Gur Aryeh, explained in the footnotes, holds that when a mitzvah is done, the mitzvah that follows is similar to the original mitzvah. That is so interesting; why should the second mitzvah be similar to the first? At the end of Makkos, Rabbi Chananya ben Akashya says Hashem wanted to give us merit; therefore, He gave us Torah and mitzvos in abundance. The Rambam explains this Mishnah with an amazing idea. An important rule of the Torah is that in order to merit olam ha’ba, a person must do one mitzvah with 100% devotion to Hashem. Therefore, we have so many mitzvos in order to facilitate our proper performance of a mitzvah. According to this Rambam, it’s possible to answer that the reason the second mitzvah is similar to the original one is to help us get to perfection by doing a similar mitzvah; the practice will help us improve on it.
The Rambam discusses a very interesting idea. Is it better to give a lot of tzedakah at once or give a little every day? Let’s say Yosef has $100 he wants to give. The Rambam says it is better for Yosef to give a dollar a day for 100 days. That way he is building in himself this trait to give. This is as opposed to giving all the money at once, which doesn’t have as great an impact on Yosef. We could add that the Rambam is also saying to give a dollar a day because then he has a greater chance of giving the tzedakah with perfection. If he gave all the money at once, maybe he was in a bad mood or maybe he felt haughty as he gave it, which would detract from the good deed. By giving tzedakah 100 times, he has a great chance that one of those times he will give with the correct intention and earn himself the portion in olam ha’ba.
Let us remember that Hashem made an awesome deal for us: Do a mitzvah and it keeps bringing mitzvos. We hope the practice will make it perfect.
Rabbi Young lives in the Five Towns with his wife and children. He teaches Torah and is available as a tutor/remedial rebbe. He can be reached at email@example.com.