Yishayahu Levitt, adapted by Rabbi Moshe Amiel
The bird and the eagle
according to a fable
Once upon a time, when the Greeks made tough demands on the Jews who lived in Judea, Yehuda the Maccabee came, together with his brothers, to their father, Matityahu the Hasmonean, they stood before him and said:
Father, how long will we have to suffer the burden of these evil Greeks? See how they are abusing us, robbing us and oppressing us as far as their evil spirit sees fit. We have no further strength to bear this terrible enslavement. We can no longer suffer this disgrace. That’s it. The time has come to rise and fight the Greeks until we are victorious.
Matityahu the Priest was quiet for a long time. And then he said after thinking deeply:
G-d will help. Be careful, don’t hurry. I have also known the terrible suffering that all the people throughout Israel are suffering. I have known of the robbery and oppression. I have known of the spilt blood of the young and old. I have known the worsening of the trampling on our dignity. However we are peace lovers. And there are none in the world who know peace and love peace and chase after peace as we have known in G-d’s holy Torah. And heaven forbid that blood will be spilt. If we rise to war, a lot of blood will be spilt. Is it appropriate for us to do this? Is it correct for us to buy our freedom at the price of the blood of many? Can we fight these cruel enemies, whose strength is great and heavy and with numerous weapons? What force do we have, we are few as compared to them. Our force is weak against them, we have laboured on the Torah unlike them....” and he continued to contemplate facing his sons. However Yehuda rose and said: Our father, we have known how great the suffering is from war, but we cannot be silent any more. We are glad to die as free men rather than live the lives of slaves. Say the word and we will rise and go forth. Matityahu looked at his courageous son with great admiration; however he answered him half-heartedly and said: Leave me and I will out into the desert. There in the tranquillity of the desert I will think about this. I will pray to G-d, and I will think about our position. I will go and I will shortly return to tell you my advice, Matityahu rose and left Modiin towards the Judean Desert. He arrived and sat on a large rock that was placed in the opening to a cave. Suddenly he heard the sound a bird. He lifted his yes and saw a small bird flying above a nest feeding her chicks. Matityahu thought in his heart: I wish that the people of Israel were like that small bird, living a life of freedom, and no-one is coming to rob her of her nest, and no-one is abusing her chicks, and she has no need to spill blood. Thus he contemplated until suddenly he was frightened by the noise of a strong whistle which filled the air alike the noise of an oncoming storm.
Matityahu lifted his eyes quickly and saw a black and large eagle descending in flight towards the bird’s nest. He could see what would happen, and saw the chicks flapping their little wings in fear, tweeting with fear and looking towards their mother crying for help. The bird did not flee.
She remained standing in her place above the nest. And aligned her beak in readiness to fight.
And Matityahu saw and his heart filled with pity, while thinking: what a poor thing the bird is, and what can she do, what strength does she have against that large black eagle? How can she use her thin beak against the tough and sharp beak of the eagle? Only a wondrous act would be able to save her and her children. And lo and behold a wonder occurred: the eagle flew quickly close to the nest and when it was very close the bird hopped up and stabbed it with all her might.
The eagle was frightened by her courage. He cried out in pain and fear and fled. And the bird returned to the nest to her scared chicks.