Fowl Play and Kosher Kindness: Parshat Re’eh

storksThis week’s parsha lists the fowl that we are not allowed to eat. In contrast to kosher animals which possess the identifying characteristics of split hooves and chewing the cud, the Torah simply lists the fowl that we are not allowed to eat. Among the forbidden species is the Chassida. Though we cannot be sure as to the precise translation, Chassida is often rendered as “stork.” More interesting is the fact that the Hebrew word Chassida happens to come from the same root as the word chessed, meaning “kindness.”
Why should this bird be called a name which could be translated as “kind?” The Talmud answers, “because it performs kindness with its fellows.” Rashi, both in his commentary on the Talmud and in his commentary on the Torah explains this as a reference to the Chassida sharing its food with its fellows.
Well this is a very impressive bird indeed! But why, then, is it not kosher? The Kotzker Rebbe points out the qualifying phrase used by the Talmud, “with its fellows.” The chassida shares its food with others of the same species, but not with other types of birds. This is a defective, non-kosher, kindness.
We humans have the tendency to be very similar to the Chassida. It is relatively easy to be kind and considerate to our friends and with those whom we feel a basic affinity. But what about those individuals who are less appealing and less attractive to us? Do we show them the same kindness?
Let’s commit ourselves, as individuals and as a community, to be extraordinarily kind, to display kosher kindness, even when it takes effort.

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