Perek Shira: The Song of the Dove
by Rabbi Shmuel Kraines
The dove says, “Like the swallow and the crane I shall chirp, I coo like a dove with my eyes raised to the heights. Hashem, take me! Secure me!” (Yeshayah 38:14)
The dove says to Hashem, “Master of the world, let my sustenance be as bitter as an olive from Your hand, rather than as sweet as honey from the hands of flesh and blood.”
The gentle dove is the most victimized of birds, and yet possesses the least ability for defending itself. Unlike other birds, which fight with their beaks and talons, the dove uses only its wings, either to fend off its attackers or to fly away. It is a symbol of the Jewish nation, since we are similarly defenseless in exile, taken advantage of by pagan nations. We possess only our wing-like mitzvahs to protect us and lift us out of harm’s reach. Thus, with its constant pitiful coo, and open-eyed, trusting gaze, the dove sings of our constant prayer to Hashem, and our unwavering trust in Him. Our very weakness compels us to rely upon Hashem — which is our greatest strength, by which we have outlived all the mighty nations of antiquity.
The dove also symbolizes our dependency upon Hashem for sustenance. When the dove brought a leaf from the bitter tasting olive tree to Noach, it was communicating that it would rather be fed the bitterest meal by Hashem’s hand, and not be forced any longer to be sustained with sickly sweet dependency from the hands of man. The choice of the olive as a symbol of bitterness also contains a deeper message. Just like the olive is hard and bitter, and when it is crushed, its bitterness is sweetened and it emits edible oil, so too, Hashem disciplines us with suffering to bring out the best from us.
On a deeper level of understanding, the dove symbolizes not only our dependency upon Hashem but also our mutual loving relationship with Him. In the same way that a pair of doves mate for life and never abandon each other, we are bonded with Hashem in an eternal wedlock.
- Sources: Rashi to Berachos 53b; Menachos 53b; Siach Yitzchak; Likutei HaGra (Ohalei Shem, Korban §13); Yalkut Shimoni (Shir HaShirim §985); see also Perek B’Shir
*In loving memory of Harav Zeev Shlomo ben Zecharia Leib