Last Shabbat was Shabbat Shirah, the Shabbat of Song. We read the Torah story of the Jewish people crossing the Red Sea when they were escaping from slavery. They must have been so scared to see Pharoh and his army chasing them! But a miracle happened, and the water split so that the Jewish people could walk through, to freedom. They were so happy and free, so they sang.
There is a special custom to feed the birds before Shabbat Shira, but why? One reason is that we want to thank them for teaching us how beautiful it is to sing. When we hear birds singing, we feel grateful for life and for creation. Doesn’t singing make you feel happy, grateful and free?
Another reason we thank the birds is from a story about their thoughtfulness in the desert. There was not much food when the Jewish people were in the desert, so G-d sent a miracle: a soft food called mann that fell from the sky every day. Every day the people gathered one portion; but Moshe told the people that on Shabbat, the day of rest, the mann would not fall. Instead, everyone should gather two portions on Friday.
Well, a couple of trouble-makers decided to play a trick on everyone: they sneakily got up early on Shabbat morning and put mann on the ground. It was not a nice plan. They thought that the Jewish people would see the mann and stop trusting Moshe— and G-d.
The birds were awake early, saw the whole thing. and thought, “We can’t let this mean trick happen!” They worked together and quickly ate it all up, so that when the people awoke on Shabbat morning, the ground was clean just like it was promised. The birds in this story teach us that trust is precious, so we say thank you to the birds by giving them food.
Lisi Levisohn is a licensed clinical psychologist and Developmental Neuropsychologist. Outside of her professional work, Dr. Levisohn teaches Science to kindergarteners at the Melvin J. Berman Hebrew Academy and coaches Girls on the Run, a program fostering healthy social-emotional development in preteen girls.