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Kabbalah/Story of the Mother bird


In anticipation of this week's Torah portion, I wonder if you remember the parable of the young man who honors his father by climbing up on the roof to free the mother bird (both mitzvoth that promise a long life for performing them) only to fall to his death? I can't remember how the story ends or it's moral. Thank you in advance

Dear Joel,

Thank you for your question.

The Talmud tells the story of Rabbi Elisha Ben Abuha, a famous scholar who became a non-believer as a result of two incidents that he experienced.

Rabbi Elisha was walking one day and he saw a father and son near a tree which contained a bird’s nest. The Torah has many laws about not hurting animals needlessly. One of these laws is that if you’re about to take an egg from the nest, you must first chase the mother bird away so she doesn’t suffer the pain of seeing her egg being taken away. So the father tells the son, “Here’s your chance to fulfill this mitzvah. Climb up the tree, shoo away the mother bird, and take the egg.” The child climbed up, fell down and died. Rabbi Elisha thought that “if God could allow this to happen, then I don’t want to have anything to do with Him.” That’s one version of why he became a non-believer.

The other version is that during the Roman persecutions after the destruction of the Second Temple, many of the great Sages were tortured to death in the most horrible ways imaginable. On Yom Kippur and Tisha B’Av, we recall these 10 famous martyrs. One of them was Rabbi Elisha’s teacher, Rabbi Chutzpas. Rabbi Elisha watched his beloved teacher’s tongue being ripped out by the Romans and tortured to death, after which they did not permit his body to be buried. Rabbi Elisha thought that “if God can allow this to happen, then I don’t want to have anything to do with Him.”

Rabbi Elisha was one of the greatest Sages in Jewish history, on an extremely high spiritual level. So we don’t understand his particular challenge. But as it applies to us, we can learn the following: Even though you may have dealt intellectually with the issue of “why bad things happen to good people,” when faced with actual suffering, you can still lose it.

I hope this information is helpful, and I wish you all the best, Bob Waxman, Ph.D.


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Robert Waxman, Ph.D.


Please ask any questions that are relevant to Kabbalah or Jewish mysticism. Other topics to inquire about include: science and Kabbalah, parallel universes, reincarnation, after-death states, cosmology, numerology (gematria), hidden meanings of the Bible, the eternal validity of the soul, Plato, and Kabbalah, Vedanta and Kabbalah, and the meaning of life according to Kabbalah.


Author of "Kabbalah Simply Stated" published by Paragon House Publishers and distributed in 12 countries. Other books: "2012: The Meaning and The Message", "Seven Fundamental Propositions of Esoteric Philosphy" and "The Power of AWE!". Studied Kabbalah with Rabbi Azriel Abraham of Jerusalem from 1985 - 1998 and have been teaching Kabbalah and other subjects since 1998. Classes include: Kabbalah According To The Scholars, (Scholem, Kaplan, Tishby & Idel), Comparative Spirituality, Latest Research on the Near Death Experience (NDE), Spirtually Transformative Experiences & Cognitive Dissonance, Common Threads of Wisdom in Religion, Science, and Consciousness Studies. Thousands have attended these classes over the years. Additionally, on-going classes are given all year round along with guest speaking presentations at a wide variety of religious and philosophical organizations.

Founding Member and guest speaker at The Open Center in Sarasota, FL. International Association for Near-Death Studies (IANDS) Longboat Key Education Center Unity Life Enrichment Center American Seminar Leader's Association

(3) Books, many original articles that can be found on the internet (ezine, netterweb, searchwarp, etc.) "Beyond Madonna - Kabbalah according to the Great Scholars" and "Beyond The Da Vinci Code".

Ph.D. from Saybrook University; Master's Degree from Skidmore College with a concentration in Comparative Religion; (2) B.A.'s from The American University. Additional courses in Philosophy at Columbia University.

Awards and Honors
Many certificates of appreciation and recognition from various organizations.

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Over the last 15 years classes have been held at The Open Center, (5) Jewish Community Centers in South Florida, synogogues, Longboat Key Education Center, The Center For Positive Living, Interfaith Centers, Unity of Sarasota, and other religious & philosophical organizations.

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