This parsha cake is inspired by this Bird’s Nest Cake from Better Homes and Gardens and this Martha Stewart cake with a truffle egg nest. To make the cake, make brownies or chocolate cake in a bowl or round pan. Cover the cake with chocolate dipped pretzels or chow mein noodles. Put in the center truffles dipped in blue tinted chocolate or blue Jordan almonds.
I went with a very easy chocolate brownie recip that the kids mixed up themselves, but this could be a fun project if you make little nests from the chocolate pretzels or noodles by themselves and stick the Jordan almonds or jelly beans in the center. See here for what this would look like.
“If a bird’s nest happens to be before you on the way, in any tree or on the ground, with young ones or eggs, and the mother is sitting upon the young or upon the eggs, you shall not take the mother with the young. You shall send the mother away free, but the young you make take for yourself; if you do this, it will be well with you, and you will live long.”
This mitzvah to spare the mother bird and send her away before taking her eggs or her young is one of many mitzvot mentioned in Parsha Ki Teitzei.
It has been observed that the diverse mitzvot in this parsha are “focused around issues of family.” While this particular mitzvah may seem to be an exception to this overall theme, Rav Hirsch points out a connection.
Rav Hirsch explains that the phrase “if you do this, it will be well with you, and you will live long,” means that you shall do the mitzvah in the “knowledge that all your happiness, present and future, depends upon the spirit that informs the mitzvah that you are carrying out; namely, your expression of respect for the dignity of motherhood.” He notes a similar promise in reference to Kibud Av V’em (Shemoth 20:12, Devarim 5:16, commandment to honor your mother and father so that “your days may be long, and that it may go well with you . . .”) and observes that these “similarities should serve to confirm out interpretation also of the present commandment.”
It says in the Talmud (Berachot 33b): “One who says (in prayer), “Your mercy extends to a bird’s nest…” should be silenced… Since this reduces the mitzvot to humane laws, when in truth they are divine decrees.”
While this seems to indicate that we are not to infer rationales for what are supra-rational divine decrees, Maimonides and Nachmanides understand this mitzvot as having the refining function of instilling compassion. (see here and here for more in-depth discussion). Maimonides takes the position that Chazal also say that mitzvot have reasons, however inscrutable, and it is appropriate to analyze what such reasons might be. Nachmanides takes the position that the Talmud is making a completely different point: the mitzvah is not about Hashem’s compassion for birds; it is meant for our benefit, to refine us, as human beings, by teaching us to be more compassionate.
See here, for an interesting discussion, based on the Zohar, about the connection between this mitzvah and Moshiach (According to the Zohar, B’nei Yisrael are like fledglings in a nest, alone and vulnerable since the Shechinah has been driven away from its home in the Holy Temple.)