The Chicken That Was an Eagle

It’s a heart-rending story about an eagle.

The eagle’s mother died while the eagle still lay unhatched inside its egg. A passing chicken farmer saw the motherless egg and brought it home. Once home, the farmer placed the egg in a chicken coop, to be hatched and raised by chickens.

Because it was raised by chickens, that eagle considered itself a chicken. It spent it’s life pecking around chicken coops for bits of grain. It never realized that it possessed an eagle’s power of flight. So much so, that when seeing soaring eagles, it would cry out “If only I'd been born an eagle.”

It’s the story of an eagle denied its power of flight.

It’s also the story of children denied their power of flight.

And yes, children possess that power.

That’s made clear by the keruvim that were perched on top of the aron in the Mishkan. We’re taught that these keruvim had wings: “And the keruvim had wings that spread upwards…that covered the cover [over the ark].”[1] We’re also taught that the keruvim were shaped like children. It’s the Gemara that notes that “in Babylon they called a child, keruv” – which suggests that keruvim looked like children.[2]

Keruvim possess wings. So children, who look like keruvim, must also possess wings. Those wings would give children the power of flight.

And children possess that power. That’s displayed in how children can fly - at least spiritually – in ways that adults can’t. It’s because, unlike adults, children aren’t fettered by life’s accumulated baggage. Not by ennui and cynicism. Not by spiritually deadening habituation. Not by the need to validate past mistakes. That frees children of so much baggage. And that lets them soar above negativism in ways that adults can’t.

That power, though, must be developed. That’s true in the world of avian flight. Mother birds must instruct their chicks in the mechanics of flight. Chicks must be taught to “stretch their wings.” To gain altitude. To navigate heights. Without those instructions, chicks won’t learn how to fly.

That power must also be developed in the world of human flight. Adults must instruct children in the mechanics of spiritual flight. Children must know about generosity of soul and spiritual fervor. They must see humankind’s emotional, intellectual, and spiritual potentialities.

But with both chicks and children, simple instruction won’t usually suffice.

Mother birds don’t just instruct their fledglings in the mechanics of flight. They also demonstrate those mechanics. They flap their wings in front of their chicks. They run until they gain altitude. And chicks learn to fly by seeing how avian flight is generated.

Human parents must do the same. They must demonstrate the mechanics of human flight. They must display real-life generosity of soul and spiritual fervors. They must display examples of our emotional, intellectual, and spiritual potentialities.

Parents must ensure that their interactions with one another are positive and complimentary. That will show children how to make marriage soar. Parents must focus on – and thereby build – their children’s strengths. That will show children that they themselves people can soar. Parents must constructively engage in community life. That will show children that community life can soar. And parents must be passionate about their learning and davening. That will show children that discourse with the divine can soar.

And if parents don’t model such positive discourse? Not with each other, not with the people around them, and not with Hashem?

What happens to children who see negative parental discourse?

Those children will still be keruvim. That, as per the Gemara that calls children keruvim,[3] seems to be an inviolable fact.

Those children, though, will probably be keruvim of a different sort.

They’ll probably be keruvim like those that appeared after Adam and Chava sinned and were expelled from Gan Eden. Keruvim appear after that expulsion. And those “keruvim and the flashing sword guarded the path back to the tree of life.”[4] Those keruvim prevented Adam and Eve from returning to the Gan Eden from where they’d been expelled.

You understand why those keruvim did that. Why they brandished “flashing swords” against their parents. Why they closed Gan Eden’s doors to Adam and Chava.

They did that because their parents’ sins caused humanity’s expulsion from Gan Eden. They did that because they were livid about what their parents caused.

This isn’t, then, just about keruvim that lived then.

This is also about keruvim now.

About our children. About how they, too, can brandish swords of disappointment.

Disappointment about poor parental relationships that weaken children’s relationship skills. Disappointment about cold Shabbos tables that don’t ignite children’s spirituality. Disappointment about parental mistakes that render children flightless.

No, my friends, let’s not have children who brandish their disappointment.

Let’s, rather, model lifestyles that let our children soar.

Once they soar, they won’t be soaring alone.

And that’s because we’ll be soaring with them.

[1] Shemos 37:9

[2] Chagigah 13b

[3] Ibid.

[4] Bereishis 3:24

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