Friday, September 29, 2006

"כנשר יעיר קנו, על-גוזליו ירחף" (Deut. 32:11)

In Haazinu, G-d compares His pastorage of Israel to the way a נשר watches over its young. Common translations of the word נשר take it to mean Eagle. However, scholars from the times of the rishonim until modern days agree that the true identity of the נשר is more likely the griffon vulture 1. The griffon vulture is actually bald with no feathers on its head. It holds the record as the highest flying bird, and better matches the scriptural description of the נשר than the eagle.

In ancient Egypt, vultures symbolized love, because they are commonly found in pairs, and mother and child are closely bonded. The vulture was mother par-excellence, and its huge wingspan (up to 8 feet!) symbolized the care and protection a parent provides its child 2. In fact, the female griffon vulture does not leave its nest until the young are grown, hovering or perched in the nest on constant guard. The father must provide food for both the mother and young during this time.

With this in mind, it is easy to understand why G-d compares his protection of the newly born Nation of Israel to the vulture's protection of its young.