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Rabbi Moshe Pitchon

Rabbi Moshe Pitchon

Reading the TaNaKh in the 21st century

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The Nesher Metaphor

When the TaNaKh wanted to explain how Israel is to acquire the tools needed to play the role in the world it has been assigned, it used a metaphor.

Impressed with the Holy Land’s most majestic bird’s prowess in flight and solicitude as a parent, Hebrew Scriptures time and again go back to compare Israel’s development to the “nesher.”

This never out of sight bird on the mountains or the plains of Israel, stirs up his nest and hovers above it in order to teach his young how to fly.  He “spreads out his wings over the nestlings, takes up one of them, a shy or weary one, and bears it upon his pinions until it can at length dare the flight itself and follow the father in his mounting gyrations. If they flounder, he swoops down under them and bears them up on his own strong wings.”

Like a nesher who rouses his nesting,

Gliding down to his young.

So, did He spread His wings and take him,

Bear him along on His pinions; (Deut. 32: 11)

That’s how the Torah’s fifth book, Deuteronomy compares the manner in which God leds Israel safely through the desert

And so the prophet Isaiah

“Even youths grow tired and weary, and young men stumble and fall, but those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like the nesher; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint” (Isa. 40: 30-31).”

The “nesher speech” of Moses in Exodus chapter 19 offers an image of growth and maturation that is crucial to the understanding of what Israel means when it speaks about “covenant,” what it receives and thus, what it owes.

If metaphors are the tools of thought, then it can be said that throughout history and in the present, Judaism is the “nesher” leading Israel safely through the “desert” in the manner this majestic bird trains its young to fly, catching them on its back when they tire or fall.

Through the ” nesher/Judaism” Israel’s passage crossing sea and wilderness is effortless, for, in the words of Rashbam, “to arial flight there are no obstacles.”

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