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Eagles Acting Like Chickens

About 60 years ago, HaRav Nissim Yagen zt’l heard this story from one of the mekubalim in Jerusalem that put things into perspective about the Jewish people today. One early morning a man looking to buy a live chicken walked into the farmhouse, and was immediately surprised after seeing the inventory. Can I buy any bird here? he asked the farmer. Sure thing sir, only thing I care about is the weight on the scale so I can give you the right price. Even the big black & white one in the back, the man inquired further. Like I said, repeated the farmer, only thing I care about is the weight on the scale. Okay then, I’ll take the big black & white one and, also, this small white one. You must have a big family to feed, said the farmer, but here you go sir. That’ll be $25 sir. The new owner of the two birds couldn’t believe his eyes as he drove to the mountains with them. Once he got to the top, he picked up the big black & white bird with both hands, took it to the edge of the cliff and whispered in its ear “You’re an eagle, fly”…. and threw it off the edge. Being surrounded by chickens since it was picked up as a lost eaglet, the young eagle thought it was a chicken its whole life. It jumped around just like them in the hen without ever trying to use its wings. Once it was thrown off the edge, it instinctively used its wings and cruised through the sky for the first time in its life. In our ever-so-ambitious to get rich overnight generation, it seems like almost every youngster with an idea believes that they’re going to become a millionaire in the next 6 months. Rarely is there any consideration into the flaws, hurdles, competition, or other facts that typically get in the way of a good dream. The lowly surroundings, terrible environment and upbringing, and lack of education are typically used as a fuel for our ambitious fire to prove everyone wrong. Our confidence is so high, we somehow forget that failure is even an option. Yet, when it comes to serving HaShem (i.e. our purpose of life), that confidence dissipates until it ceases to exist, as we all suddenly become ba’ale mum (deficient and/or deformed). Hearing Mussar about the biblical obligations such as observing Shabbat, being modest(1), watching our eyes(2) and learning Torah daily hits us like a wall at first. It really seems like a demand for an impossibility by the HaShem, may His Name be blessed. We all suddenly become expert psychologists, crying out that in the debate of Nature vs. Nurture(3), it was Nurture that won the battle. We repeat to ourselves and others how we just can’t do it, as if it were a mantra. Whether it’s because we grew up in a secular house, or were surrounded by fakers and irreligious religious Jews our whole life, we’re quick to blame our surroundings for our TeShuva disability.

“For there is no man so wholly righteous on earth that he always does good and never sins” (Kohelet 7:20)

The fact that no one is perfect is not problematic news, as it was written by King Solomon. The problem arises when we accept the sin against HaShem as normal, acceptable behavior and refuse to even consider change. Without much of a battle, the Yetzer Hara convinces us to settle for less than perfect servitude of HaShem yitbarach. How did this happen to us?The truth is that we are a product of Nurture (i.e. our environment), but the argument was not created by psychologists 150 years ago. It was spoken about in detail in our Torah by the RAMBAM(4), the Sages of the Talmud(5), King Solomon(6), Moshe Rabbeinu(7), and HaShem Himself for the last 4000 years. The key difference is that the Torah teaches us that we not only can change and overcome these obstacles, but that it’s a critical part of our purpose in life to do so. Learning Torah and fulfilling mitzvot is what we were created to do, just as the eagle was created to fly. As Moshe Rabbeinu said(9),

“'s in your mouth and your heart to perform it”

(i.e. fulfilling the Torah should be instinctual for us, since we were created to perform it). The only thing that’s holding us back from being the Chosen Ones, The Tzadik or Tzadikah that HaShem created is that we’ve been fooled into believing that we’re chickens who can’t do TeShuva. That only other special people can fly high in righteousness, but not us. This is the biggest scam of the Yetzer HaRa. The reality is that we’ve been surrounded by chickens our whole lives, in materialism and in spirituality. But, just like we don’t let them get in our way of flying successfully in materialism, it's time we become as ambitious about flying successfully in righteousness. It's time we started flying higher than ever in our servitude of HaShem, the Source of all success. One way or another HaShem commands our success in serving Him. Let's not wait for Him to force us by throwing us off of a cliff right after whispering in our ear “You’re an Eagle...Fly.”


1. Men and Women

2. i.e. brit, jealousy, desires, gezel etc.

3. The nature versus nurture debate involves whether human behaviour is determined by a person’s genes (nature) or by their environment (nurture).

4. See Hilchot Deot 6:1

5. See Pesachim 118b

6. See Proverbs 13:20

7. See Deuteronomy 10:20 (Parashat Eikev)

8. See Genesis 12:1 (Parashat Lech Lecha)

9. See Deuteronomy 30:14

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