Follow by Email

Thursday, 14 January 2016

Do birds fly south or north?

Daf Yomi Gittin 31


A couple of years ago, I had the honour of accompanying Prime Minister Stephen Harper on his official visit to Israel.  One of the highlights of the trip was JNF’s dedication of the bird sanctuary in the Hula Valley in the name of the prime minister.   Times like these, one realizes how miraculous Israel truly is.  It’s not just the spiritual centre of the world and the heart of the Middle East.  It also happens to be the number one migration stop for birds making their winter migration from Europe to Africa!  Each year, over five hundred million birds visit the Holy Land!  Now, I ask you: When was the last time you were in Israel?!

Rav Chanan bar Rava quoted Rav: Four winds blow each day.  The north wind blows with each of them; otherwise the world would not continue to exist even for a moment.  The south wind is the harshest; if not for the fact that the hawk holds it in place, the entire world would be destroyed because of it, as the verse in the Book of Iyov (Job) states, “By your wisdom does the hawk soar and extend its wings to the south?”

At various times during the year, we look up and think that the birds are flying to different climes merely in order to satisfy their own comfort.   But the Gemara here teaches that when the hawk flies south, it prevents the southern wind from bringing its harsh air upon the inhabitants of the earth.  Everything is by the Almighty’s design and when the birds stretch out their wings, they are actually protecting us!

Iyov (Job) lost everything he had in this world.  He lost his job.  He lost his family.  He lost his health.  Initially, he didn’t question G-d.  But then he got angry.  He was so furious with Heaven.  And patiently, Hashem explains to him that as a mortal human being, he simply cannot fathom G-d’s ways.  Just like our limited wisdom could never comprehend the true nature of bird migration – to us, it appears to be almost a random act of evolution – we don’t know why G-d sometimes appear to bring bad upon the lives of the righteous.

Philosophers have long debated whether in fact birds migrate south in the winter or north in the summer.   The truth is, they make their home in two different places.  They’re not just moving to Florida when they retire; their entire lives are built around two different homes.  Hashem’s message to Iyov was that you might think you have everything figured out in life.  You have planned the way your life should look.  But watch me transform your life, says G-d.

And indeed, once Iyov accepted that Hashem was in control, he was blessed with double throughout his life.  Double the wealth.  A beautiful new family.  Health and long life.  A life that he simply couldn’t have imagined.  But that’s the secret of bird migration – the Almighty can set a person up in a completely new set of circumstances; we are only limited by our own vision of our lives.

You may have had a plan and a vision for how your life should look.  But then the life you planned didn’t pan out as you projected.   Maybe you dreamed of the perfect family.  And then you were the victim of divorce.  Perhaps you mapped out your career.  Only to be denied entry into the colleges you were looking to get into.  Maybe you were moving up in your company.  Only to be suddenly laid off due to the economy.

Don’t lose faith in Hashem!  It might seem like the end of the line to you.  But Hashem can migrate you to a totally different station in a moment’s notice.  It may not appear to be the life you planned.  But you will see that, just like Iyov, you will be blessed with double.  Double the wealth.  Double the happiness.  Double the blessing.


Only Hashem sees the big picture.  He is about to migrate and transform your life.  May you forever maintain your faith in Heaven and soar like a hawk to your destiny!