Saturday, June 15th 2024   |

Rav-Elations: Why Doesn’t the World Work Right?


The Talmud shares a story of a boy instructed by his parents to fetch eggs from a bird’s nest. Being familiar with the Torah, the boy understood that he was fulfilling two vital mitzvot. The first was to honor his parents, and the second was derived from this week’s Torah portion, which states that before taking birds from a nest, one must first send away the mother bird.

What sets these commandments apart is that they both promise a reward, which is uncommon for mitzvot. The reward for these two mitzvot is the promise of a long, happy life.

In the story, the boy, eager to obey his parents, climbed a ladder and sent away the mother bird. But tragically, he fell from the ladder and died. So, where was his promised long life? What happened to the guarantee of extended days?

The rabbis, as they often do, debated this puzzling outcome and arrived at a thought-provoking answer: the boy had climbed a rickety, unstable ladder. Since the ladder was unsafe for climbing, even a miracle couldn’t intervene to save him.

How does this allegory resonate with our world? Our rabbis compare our world to that unstable ladder. Ideally, the righteous should be rewarded and the wicked should face repercussions. However, due to humanity’s flawed nature, our world doesn’t always function as it should. Although we might not be able to repair the ‘ladder’, we can strive to create a world where everyone can ascend with safety and assurance.

Rabbi David Gerber is the senior rabbi of the URJ’s Congregation Gates of Prayer (Sha’arai Tefillah) in Metairie.

Share Button