Kosher Birds and Character Development

The mitzvos (commandments) of kashrus are “chukim” (decrees). Our observance of these mitzvos, without definite knowledge of their reasons, demonstrates our obedience to the commands of G-d. As the prophet Shmuel told King Shaul, heeding the word of HaShem (G-d) is even more precious than bringing a choice offering (Samuel I Chapter 15).

 With this in mind, we may attempt to find reasons for the “chukim”.  However, we must remember that any rationales which are offered by our sages, were not intended to be exhaustive. The chachomim, or sages, were aware that even with all the reasons suggested, in essense these mitzvos remained somewhat mysterious.

The Ramban (Nachmanides) and others say that the non-kosher birds demonstrate undesirable character traits. We refrain from eating these birds so that we will not emulate their ways.

One of the birds which we do not eat is the “chasida” (it might be a stork).  Rashi tells us that its name connotes “chesed”, kindness, since it does kindness by giving its friends food. The Chidushei Harim asks, “Why should it be unkosher if it does kindness?”

He answers, “Such “chesed”, kindness, limited to friends, is not sufficient. If a person is hungry, we should offer food. It is not proper to share only with our comrades.”

The Gemora (Talmud) tells us that kosher birds do not eat their prey while they are still flying, while non-kosher birds will begin to eat their prey even before they have landed. Rav Elya Lopian commented that this too teaches proper character traits. A person should not be impatient. Just like the kosher birds can wait until they have landed before eating, so too should a person exhibit the patience to defer enjoyment.  It is well known that the ability to defer enjoyment is one of the hallmarks of successful people.  Obeying G-d by fulfilling His mitzvos is very important, but we should not suffice with mere obedience.  Rather we should enhance our mitzvah observance by incorporating the messages of the mitzvos into our daily lives.