Between International Holocaust Remembrance Day, Tu B’sheva, and now Shabbat Shirah, this has been a full week, for certain. It is especially remarkable when you contrast the three events: the commemoration of the liberation of Auschwitz, the celebration of the new year of the trees, and this week’s Torah portion, Be-Shalach, in which our people are redeemed from slavery and Pharaoh’s army is vanquished. But perhaps they have more in common than first appears. This shabbat is also known as the Sabbath of the Birds and is celebrated with music and songs reflective of the exultation, over our deliverance and our rebirth and our emancipation.
For nearly a year now, I’ve worked from my home office, which features a picture window overlooking our neighborhood.Friends and neighbors pass by. The trees have gone from barren to blooming to bare again. And I have lately been struck by how, in this season, the outdoors is empty: no leaves. No greenery. No birds. There is a custom on this wintery Sabbath of the Birds of leaving crumbs for the birds to eat. It’s a small, humble gesture. A little deed to help these creatures sustain themselves.
There are these: winter’s bleakness, a birthday for the trees, and liberation and redemption. There is nature, immutable and yet ever-changing. There is an act of kindness and compassion for our feathered friends. There is the remembrance of and reflection on our vulnerability, past and present.
We are not much different than the birds. We have been trapped, and we have flown free. We have received the gift of an outstretched hand, and we have stretched out ours to nurture others. To give and to lift up.
May this Shabbat be filled with song and renewal and freeing acts of compassion.