Our Daily Bread............
Several years ago, we lived in Modi’in [between Jerusalem and Tel Aviv]. My laundry room window faced the parking lot, and after living there for a couple of days, I noticed that a flock of small birds would congregate each morning and look for food. ‘What can they find in a driveway I asked my husband?” He made some comment saying birds are dumb.
I took a slice of old bread, broke it into several small pieces and threw it out to the birds. Their initial reaction was to fly away, but a minute or two later they returned and pecked at the bread.
So started my daily routine of feeding the birds.
Early each and every morning, I would open my window wide, call “birdies” throw out my pieces of bread and before I knew it, my ‘bird friends’ were pecking away.
This ritual became sort of family experience. Everyone enjoyed watching the birds eat, even though they laughed at me for calling the birds. Even our dog got into the act. He would jump up on a chair, put his two front paws on the window still, look around and hope a piece of bread would fall his way. Somehow small pieces always ‘fell’ down to his chair.
After awhile, the bird population in my parking lot grew. It was if the small birds told their friends and neighbors how to get free and easy food. It was amazing to see nature at work.
Very early one morning, before I fed the birds, we heard the triss [shutters] in our laundry room rattle. At first we just ignored it, thinking it was the wind, but a few seconds later, the rattle was louder. I opened the triss a little, and to my shock, several birds were sitting on the window still. They knew where the bread came from and were looking for food.
I remember thinking, is this what it was like, when the Jews were walking through the desert and their only food was the manna that fell from the sky each night. Waiting and looking for your daily ration is a humbling experience.
Like the birds, we are dependent on Hashem for our needs. Today manna doesn’t fall from the sky. We need to work to provide for ourselves and our families. But it is Hashem who decrees our livelihood. He is our Father in Shamyim [heaven] watching over us and we are His children. He knows our joy, he knows our pain. He is always with us.
I don’t know where the minhag [custom] of not throwing any left over bread from the table into the garbage came from, but I do know, if we collect the old bread and put it outside to feed the birds and where I live the chickens, we will always have food on our table. Around our apartment even the cats enjoy the left over bread.
We now live in Netivot. The birds congregate behind our apartment. Now it is not me who feeds the birds, but my husband, who every morning as soon as he sees the birds, goes and scatters the pieces of left over bread and comes back to the apartment to watch them eat. When a cat comes around, the birds fly away, and as soon as the cat is gone, back come the birds. More than once, he has chased a cat away who was lingering around trying to catch a bird to eat.
One day, a neighbor of ours, who happens to be a Rav, saw my husband scattering the bread. He asked him what he was doing and when my husband said that he was feeding the birds, the Rav told him that feeding the birds was a very important mitzvah.
He reminded my husband that the Shabbos, on which the Torah parsha of Beshalach is read, is known as Shabbos Shira. One of the customs associated with this Shabbos is to place crumbs outside for the birds to eat.
The chirping of birds is not 'noise'. It is the way that birds praise Hashem for providing them with their needs. Because, on this Shabbos, we too sing praises of Hashem, we recognize the constant song of praise chirped by the birds by feeding them, as a form of reward.
After four years, on the last day that we lived in Modi’in, I finished throwing out my pieces of bread I asked my husband, “who will feed the birds tomorrow?” He told me not to worry, they’ll be fed.
I hope you enjoyed my blog. Feel free to pass it along.
Note: This coming Shabbos is Shabbos Shira